Mary was alone in the house and sitting at the table trying to write a letter to an old school friend. Her husband, a taxi driver, was out working the night shift.
As it was Friday night her two teenage children, a son and a daughter, were out too.
“Look,” her daughter said before leaving, “We are sorry Nan is in hospital, but we have to go. We’ve planned this for weeks and I think Nan would say ,’Go out and have fun’. So, we’ll have fun.” She grabbed her little bag, swung it around and moved to the door.
From outside one could hear the horn of the car as her brother was eager to get away. “I’m coming,” the daughter shouted and slammed the fly screen at the front door. Mary heard the car taking off with its wheels spinning in the driveway. Then – all was quiet.
Mary tried to collect her thoughts. She wanted to write to her friend, that Mum was in hospital for tests and observation. “Nothing to worry about,” the young doctor had told her, “You probably have her back in a few days, as good as gold.”
Mary had stayed with her mum at the hospital for a few hours but had to go home as her husband needed her help to get ready for work. That’s how it is, in a traditional family. “You go,” her mum had said, “I’ll be okay. Nothing wrong with me those doctors here can’t fix.” She waved with her hands as if shooing away chooks.
“I’ll see you before lunch tomorrow, Mum,” Mary told her and with that walked out of the ward and along the long hall way to the hospital entrance.
“Dear Debbie,” she started to write to her friend who lived now in faraway Townsville, “I know how fond you were of Mum and she is still fond of you….”. She stopped writing as she heard the fly screen creaking at the front door. They lived in an old house with a hallway running through the middle of it. Mary had to get up from the kitchen table and walk to the hall way. The sun had set hours ago and it was close to midnight. The front door was open and in the dim porch light she saw a shadowy figure who she thought was a woman.
“Mum?” Mary asked as she walked to the door where the woman was standing, holding the screen door. “Mum, what are you doing here? Did they chuck you out?”
“Mary, darling, I came to say ‘Good bye’.” Mary looked puzzled at her mother and just wanted do say something to her when she heard the phone ring in the kitchen. “Come in, Mum, I’ll make us a cuppa” Mary said, turned around and walked quickly to the kitchen. It was most likely her husband to tell her, that he is coming home. Nobody else would ring that late.
She lifted the receiver and said, “Yes Ted?”
“Sorry Mrs Miller, this is the hospital and I have to inform you, that your Mum has passed away a few minutes ago.”
“There must be a misunderstanding,” Mary said confused. “You don’t know were she is, do you? She just turned up at my front door. Is that how you take care of old people?”
Mary turned to the door with one hand still holding the receiver, “Mum, tell those nurses at the hospital that you are alive and kicking. They think you are dead.”
She looked along the hallway but could not see her mum. She dropped the receiver which fell, with a thud against the wall and was then swinging like a pendulum.
“Mum?” Mary was calling out in panic as she ran along the hallway looking into the other rooms. Nothing! She was nowhere to be seen. A terrible fright over manned her. She went back to the kitchen and grabbed the receiver with her shaking hand, “Did you just say, my Mum had passed away?”
“Yes, Mrs Miller, that is what I said. And we are terribly sorry it all went so quickly. If you could come in, the doctor will explain everything to you.”
Mary was in shock. Could not understand what had been happening. After a few minutes of recovery she went to the phone and rang the taxi company to ask her husband to come home. It did not take long before Mary heard him pulling into the driveway. On the way to the hospital she told him what had happened that evening.
She was still shaking.