Authors: Edyth; Bulbring
I SPEND THE first morning of my Christmas holidays scraping vomit off my bedroom carpet. I use an egg lifter, which makes it easier to get at the bits of pineapple and mushroom. Mom appears at the door. Every one of her thirty-five years hangs in the saggy bags under her bloodshot eyes.
“Aw, dolling. What can I say? There was something wrong with the pizza. I just couldn't keep it down,” she says, looking at the red stains on the carpet.
There was nothing wrong with the pizza. It must've been the bottle of vodka that she downed to help it on its way. I tell her she's a pathetic mess and wave her out of my room. I'll bring her some tea and fried eggs when I'm done.
“You're a doll,” Mom says and stumbles out.
I'm not a doll at all. Just used to it all. It doesn't help getting too uptight.
All my friends â well the only two that I have â complain about their parents a lot. The mothers are always on their cases about their messy rooms, their school marks, etcetera, etcetera. Just boring and ugly.
And the fathers. Well, that's another story. My friends find them totally embarrassing. They're loud and make stupid remarks. Just plain gross.
I think they're okay to have just two gross, stupid fathers between them. I've had five on my own and I'm only fourteen years old. My real dad ducked two hours after I was born. I could trip over him in the street and I wouldn't recognise him. Since then, there's been Paul, Winston, Guido, and the last one was Wally. And he was a complete one!
He left last week. Correction: Mom chucked him out, like she did all the others. I wonder who cheated on who. I don't think it was Mom this time. Oh well, what goes around comes around.
She's been behaving like a complete nutcase since Wally left. Off work for six days and drinking like a thirsty whale. It's back to rehab for Mom. I don't know why she doesn't buy shares in that clinic. She's their most loyal customer. Correction: Mom is the Dunkeld West Drankwinkel's best customer.
When she goes into the bottle store, Mr Khumalo always says, “You're my best customer, Mrs Double-Yoo.”
And Ms Wellbeloved â that's Mom â goes, “And you're my favourite shop manager, Mr Kay.” And they laugh together like old alkies.
I take Mom some breakfast and find her on the phone. It must be Grummer. Mom always gets that face when she's talking to her mother: all cringing and defiant.
“Don't be like that, Moo. I can't help it. It's in the genes,” she says. “Blame your father for my disease â¦ Yes, it
a disease, Moo, and you've got to respect that. Stop moaning at me like I actually have a choice in this.”
The phone is under her chin and she's plucking her eyebrows as she talks. That's also in the genes, courtesy of Grummer and her crowd; we're a very hairy family. If Mom doesn't deal with her brows on a weekly basis she gets a uni-brow, like a long hairy caterpillar above her eyes. Argggh!
My legs are so hairy they're like permanent yeti boots all the way up to my knees. Mom says she'll take me for a wax when she can get it together. Until then, I wear pants, even in summer. I hate hair: it's so untidy.
Mom dabs some spit on her puffy brow and says to Grummer, “I'm checking in to that place tomorrow and I'll be there for four weeks â¦ What do you mean it's such short notice and you hardly know her? She's your grandchild for heavensakes. You get to spend some quality time with her.”
Mom stabs the duvet with her tweezers as she makes her points. “I'll put her on the plane from Johannesburg tomorrow and you can meet her in Cape Town. The two of you can spend a lovely holiday together and I'll be out of rehab by the time she comes back.”
Mom's forehead stays unwrinkled as she listens to Grummer on the other side of the phone. But I know she's getting mad. That's the good thing with Botox: most people can't tell when you're annoyed. Mom gets her injections every three months. Her brow is as smooth as a baby's bum.
“Nothing's really changed, Moo, so stop panicking. It's just that I won't be spending the holiday with you. Get on with the garden like you planned â¦ Jesus, Moo, it's not like I've ever asked you for much. For once in your life help me out here â¦ Sorry, I didn't mean to take your Lord's name in vain â¦ Gimme a break man, Moo â¦” And she rolls her eyes at me.
There's a long silence as Mom and Grummer chew on their anger. I leave the room and go and make some green tea. When I go back to Mom's room, she's finished talking to Grummer and is tucking in to the greasy eggs. There's yolk on her chin. Sis! She's beyond disgusting.
“It's all settled: Moo and you will spend the holidays together without me. I know it's not ideal and all, but I can't help it.”
Talk about an understatement! I hardly know my grandmother. In fact, I've seen her like seven times in my life and half of those were when I was a baby. Then Mom and Grummer fell out and there haven't been any visits for five years.
Trust Mom to mess it all up. The plan had been to go to Mom's new holiday house in some trendy dorp near Cape Town for four weeks. The house is one of Mom's investments. For a complete loser she's rolling in cash. She owns an advertising agency.
It's useful that she's the boss and has a hot-shot Number Two to do all the work 'cos she takes so much time off being a drunk. She sometimes says, “God, I'm going to get fired! No, I'm not, I'm the boss.” And then she laughs like a complete idiot. She can be so not funny.
I dunno why she invited Grummer along on holiday. Maybe it's 'cos Grandpa died six months ago and Mom's feeling bad about being such a lousy daughter. I suppose if I didn't make it to my dad's funeral I would also feel like a cow. Well, maybe not.
“I know you don't like gardening,” Mom says to me while lighting a cigarette, “but Moo will be busy with that. I'm sure you'll find something else to do.”
Yeah, like what? I pass her the ashtray. Mom ignores my hand and flicks ash into her eggs. How, I ask myself for the millionth time, how could I be related to this woman?
“Hell, Bea, don't look at me like that. Fix Moo up with another husband. Pull her a new man. Get her off my back. Find her someone just like your boring grandpa who'll keep her away from us for the next twenty years. Make it a project.” She stubs her ciggie out into my teacup.
I'VE GOT A zillion things to do today. Before I went to bed last night I made a “To Do” list on my cellphone. I make lists a lot. If I don't, my tummy feels like it's talking Chinese.
My “To Do” list looks like this:
1. Book flight to Cape Town
2. Inform Grummer about flight arrangements
3. Book taxis for Mom and me
4. Shop for holiday necessities
5. Pack for Mom and me
6. Empty fridge and put out garbage
7. Lock up and put on security alarm
Mom's still sleeping. She cleaned out the booze in the house last night (one of the rehab rules) and ended up drinking a lot of it.
“Such a terrible, shocking, miserable waste to pour it all down the drain,” she protested when I got up to lock the doors and turn off the lights around about midnight. I left her talking to the toilet seat and went back to bed.
It's now 6:00 a.m. GMT. The clock by Mom's bed says eight o'clock. She and the rest of the country live in South African time, which is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time now it's summer. What losers!
I ignore Mom's wet snores and action my “To Do” list after a breakfast of green tea and eight wedges of grapefruit.
I get my laptop, go online and book my ticket to Cape Town using Mom's credit card. I text Grummer the flight number and arrival time. I send my school photo to her cellphone so she can recognise me. I book a taxi for three hours before my flight. We can do Mom first and then I can go off to the airport. I smother my face in sunscreen, put on my shades (black) and walk the three blocks to the mall. I hate shopping, but I have a whole list of things I need to get. My shopping list looks like this:
1. green tea (with fruit infusion)
2. sunscreen (factor 50
3. sun hat (black)
4. hairbands (black)
5. pants (black)
6. memory stick for laptop (black)
The shop assistant at the clothing store won't leave me alone in the changing room. I've taken seven pairs of pants and nothing will fit. I can't bear the lights and the mirrors. I close my eyes while I take off the pants and look away while I pull on the next pair.
“We have a forty per cent discount on teenage bras,” the old bag says, sticking her face around the curtain. She looks at my chest like a housewife assessing fresh bread.
I want to impale myself on the clothes hanger. I don't wear a bra; I never want to get breasts. If I ever grow a pair like Mom's I'll kill myself. I hate breasts. They're so untidy.
I buy three pairs of pants on Mom's account and finish up the rest of the shop at the supermarket.
Mom's shuffling around in the kitchen when I get home. “I hate myself. I hate my life. I'm such a useless mother. You must hate me. You'd be better off without a mother like me,” she says, spreading butter onto burnt toast.
Affirmative. I say nothing and clean up the kitchen and dump all the food from the fridge into the bin. While Mom showers, I complete my “To Do” list.
The taxi's hooting outside and I put on all the downstairs lights and turn on the alarm.
“We can text each other all the time. They give you your cellphone back after one week. And I'll be online then too, so email me everything that's happening. It'll be like we're pen pals,” Mom says.
Yeah, like really, what
this woman smoking?
In the taxi, Mom holds my hand tightly. My palm starts to sweat. I try to take my hand away, but she holds on.
“I promise this is the last time. It won't happen again. I swear to you, things will be different in four weeks,” Mom says.
The situation's becoming so totally embarrassing. I wish Mom would learn some new lines.
Mom and me give each other awkward hugs outside the gates of Promises Rehab Clinic.
“You're my girl. You'll always be my girl,” Mom says, looking all crazy.
Yeah, whatever. I tell her I can't book her in â I have a plane to catch. I leave her chatting up the security guard.
On the plane, I sit next to another kid, who picks his nose all the way to Cape Town. Really digs in there. It's a totally awesome performance.
The air hostess gives him this really lame entertainment pack and asks what we want to drink.
“Virgin Mary,” I say. She looks at me weirdly.
I spell it out for her: tomato juice, no vodka, no ice. Tabasco and salt and pepper and a slice of lemon on the side. What kind of training do these people have? She finally gets it.
I give the “chicken or beef?” a miss. The kid next to me takes a break from his nasal excavation and tucks in to the beef. He picks out the pieces of meat with his fingers, avoiding the peas. I try to forget that I saw where he'd recently put his fingers. Eeeeuuuuw!
I arrive to the sound of my name being broadcast across the arrivals hall: “Could Beatrice Wellbeloved please come to the information counter in arrivals. Her grandmother is waiting for her.” This is repeated about a million times until I think I'm in one of those freaky time loops from a science fiction movie. After collecting my luggage, I sprint over to the information counter.
“Grummer?” I say.
The woman standing in front of me has a pink circle on each of her cheeks and looks like she's having a hernia.
“Beatrice! Beatrice! Thank God I've found you.” And she really looks like she's thanking God 'cos she's rubbing a gold cross around her neck.
Grummer's been waiting for me for five hours. She couldn't get hold of Mom and never got my text message and photo on her cellphone. She tells me she doesn't know what a text message is. I'm dealing with a complete techno retard here.
We get into her car â a real dinosaur from the dark seventies â and for the next hour Grummer tells me again and again about how she waited and waited for me at the airport and how she waited and waited.
The next four weeks with Grummer are going to be very long.
Roll on holiday from hell!