Chapter 1

Written by: Joe Labrum

It isn’t that the news is shocking, Phil’s aging mother has ailed for some time. And the recent episode made it clear that she probably will not see another Christmas. What disturbs Phil is the cold, “matter of fact” way she delivers the news. The absence of feeling in her voice, dismissing the very humanity of this woman who nurtured and cared for him from  birth, hurt him. He turns away to hide the tears filling his eyes and they stand in awkward silence, each in their own thoughts. Finally the stalemate is broken. Mary takes another beer from the fridge and returns to the excitement of the back yard.

Why couldn’t she hand me the phone? Phil thought as he punches in his brother’s number. The humiliation of the way his wife makes him feel small, passes. The sarcasm he could easily ignore when it is only an occasional outburst but it is now a daily abuse that he feels powerless to stop.

“Hello, comes the familiar voice on the other end of the connection.

“Mike, are you okay? Do you need me to come over?”

“Oh Phil, nice of you to call, Mike says, his voice controlled. “You apparently got the message. I wasn’t sure if she would relay it to you.”

“I was standing next to her when you told her. She just hung up the phone and told me, ’mother is dead’.”

“I’m sorry… No, Phil, I’m fine. Mum’s passing was peaceful and we expected it. It does, however, sound like you need to talk to someone. Would you like to come over?”

Since a boy, Phil turned to his older brother for comfort, reassurance, validation, the friendship his social ineptness made so hard to establish. The insecurity in Phil’s voice evaporates as they talk. He arranges to stop by the first of the week and they ring off. Phil begins wiping cake crumbs and remains of pizza crust from the counter tops. He lets his eyes drift over the happy excitement of the party outside but the images do not register until his wife comes into view. He abandons the idea of going out. The thought of talking to anyone,especially Mary, makes him too uncomfortable. So, he retreats.

In the past three months since he lost his job with First Security Bank, Phil has retreated from life. Although they both shared in the decision of him leaving the corporate world, actually the decision was made for them by Phil’s inability to find another position after the manner of his termination raised questions about his judgement, not to mention his integrity. After attempting to answer the probing questions for a couple of months,he just couldn’t force himself to go for another embarrassing interview. Being a house-husband is not a role Phil enjoys or is good at. It is a compromise.

“Can I help?” Phil stops wiping and looks up at the sound of the friendly voice. Sybil’s strikingly attractive mother stands in the doorway.





That is a great contribution to a family drama with a lot of dynamics in it.
Love the ending and the possibilities it opens. Great writing.
You know Joe, I read this and it was not so much the plot or who is speaking or what or where the characters are. What strikes me as I read this is the 'maturity' of it. Without having the name of the author on it anyone would know it was written by someone who has tasted life and 'been there and done it.' I can see you drawing from personal experiences, something done so well by older writers. It is a striking piece of emotional life and a joy to read. I do hope you will write an entire serial on your own. This is so good.