Orange Juice

By Valerie Hutchinson

Nearly half a century’s reading later I am intrigued by life writing; what curious, sad, funny, shifting things families are - hurrah for the treasure trove of memory which yields tantalising clues to who we were and who we are.

One evening freedom reigned.
Parents out. But our TV viewing was
shattered.  My little sister Katie appeared
in her blue fuzzy hat worn for bed, to
ward off nocturnal tangles, (it didn’t work),
mournful, bubbles issuing from her mouth.  

Let’s ask the neighbours, we older sisters agreed.
My soft slippers spilled over the pebble path.  
I asked for help with the bubble storm, returning
with Fay and Mike and warm concern.
Katie sat on Fay’s knee as fat tears mingled with
bubbles in a bowl beneath Katie’s chin.

Fay calmly relayed their phone number as Mike,
Napoleon aficionado, recalled ancient battle dates
but not personal details when questioned by 999.
With shaky voice, his trembling hand replaced the
receiver.  The cavalry was on its way.
‘Want one?’ he offered my big sister a cigarette.

The door-bell severed rattling nerves.  
Mike, grinning, jumped to answer.  
Strange blue lights blinked in the hall.
Aliens invaded in black boots and silver
buttoned jackets, carrying strange shiny cases
containing what?   

Mum and Dad returned.
‘Why’s Katie sucking a lollipop?’ Mum whispered.
‘Watch where you keep your shampoo love,’ the
aliens chided Mum, snapping their cases shut.
They ruffled Katie’s blue head, then blue lights,
boots and silver cases vanished.

‘Take that muck off your toe nails and that bloody
thing out of your mouth!’ Dad thundered at my older sister.      
Mike grinned nervously white teeth flashing.
The egg cup, containing Mum’s orange hair
thickening lotion, (It didn’t work) or orange juice,
Katie thought, disappeared as swiftly as the aliens,

Katie clutched two more lollipops, the aliens’
departing gifts.  We sisters sat stunned not by
the medical alert but ‘bloody’, never before heard
from my father’s lips.