CORKBOARD MONOLOGUE By Andrew Openshaw

So, I heard this scream; “Donald!” I whispered to myself Oh fuck, what have I done now? Waited a moment… Then the cry came again, shaking the whole house, followed this time with “Get yourself down here!”

So, I paused my game of Sonic and went downstairs. She was sat on the big sofa. I could tell straight away she’d been crying, like. I said, “What’s up Ma?”

She said, “Sit down” and pointed at Da’s chair next to the stereo. For the few seconds that it took me to find my seat, I began to reassure myself you know, as you do. There’s been some upsetting news or something. Maybe Granny’s passed away, or Da’s lost his job. Both alternatives, in retrospect, would have been better than the news she did deliver.

“Donald,” spoken now through gritted teeth. “Could you please explain to me what the bloody hell this is?” She reached behind the sofa and brought it out. The life drained out of me. There was a buzzing sound in my ears, my heart sank into my stomach, I knew my cheeks had gone bright red.

I said, “Where’d you find that?” knowing full well she’d been under my bed. My attempt to sound all innocent like, falling flat on its arse.

She said, “You know full well, young man, where I found it.”

Bloody hell, when she’s calling you ‘young man’ you know you’re in serious bother.

She continued, “I want to know what it is?’

I searched my brain for a way out but found none. My eyes welled up and it all came out. “It’s my titty corkboard”, I said. “It’s where I put all my favourite titties, you know, that I find in the paper and stuff.”

She let out an almighty choking wail, buried her head in her hands and began sobbing. “My son”, she whined. “A bloody pervert. As if things aren’t bad enough as they are.”

This last bit didn’t make any sense at the time, but I didn’t linger on it. I just ran upstairs to my room.

I slept well, considering. I sat in bed for ages trying to build up the courage to go down and face them all. I heard Da come back late last night. This was Saturday, so the whole family was in. Eventually, I did. “Morning”, I said without looking up. I sat down at the table and grabbed the Sugar Puffs.

Da was standing, head buried in the paper. Ma was washing dishes. I glanced up from ma bowl and saw Kayleigh glaring back at me. That’s my older sister. She’d obviously found out. She said, “Ma, can we not make it eat in another room? It’s making me feel sick, looking at it.”

Without turning around, Ma shouted “Shut up Kayleigh!”

“You’re grounded son” said Da, from behind his paper.

“Ah, for fuck’s sake”, I mumbled, mouth half full of cereal.

Ma spun around, finger in my face. “Don’t you dare swear at your Da like that. Pervert!” Specks of spit flew from her mouth onto my face. I dropped my spoon and reached up to wipe them away. Ma slapped my hand down. “Take your breakfast upstairs. I don’t want to look at you!”

I just left my bowl and ran to my room. Played Sonic all day, with the sound down.

Over the next week I didn’t talk much to anyone; just went to school, came home, went to my room with my dinner. Kayleigh had made a big sign for her door that said NO PERVERTS in big red capital letters.

The atmosphere in the house was horrible. Every night I could hear Ma crying.

Da came back from work early on Wednesday. I crept to the top of the stairs so I could hear them talking. “Don’t worry Sheila”, Da said. “We’ll get through this; worse things could have happened.”

I thought bloody right they could. It’s only a bloody titty corkboard for Christ sake. It’s not like I’ve gone and stolen Jenny from next door’s knickers off the line. I’ve always resisted the temptation to do that. Cos, I know it’s wrong. I like to think of the titty corkboard more as a work of art, personally.

Anyway, earlier this evening, me and Kayleigh were summoned downstairs for a family meeting. Ma and Da were sat next to each other at the kitchen table. We sat opposite. Ma started. “A couple of weeks ago, I had some bad news. I need to tell you this now, cos I’m going to be away from home for a wee while.” She started sobbing.

Da put his arm around her to console her. Me and Kayleigh sat in silence, fiddling with our hands. Da continued, “Kayleigh. Donald. Your Ma’s got cancer. In her right breast. She needs to have what’s called a Mastectomy.”

“What that?” Kayleigh blurted out.

“It’s an operation to remove the breast” da answered. “And all of the cancer with it.” Ma started really crying now and Kayleigh started up too. I just sat in stunned silence, too scared to look up.

Eventually, the crying and sobbing died down. I glanced up and saw that Da had a wee smile on his face. I thought funny time to bloody smiling eh Da? Then he just went ahead and said it. “Maybe when Ma’s had the operation, Donald can have the breast to add to his corkboard.” The buzzing came back in my head; Kayleigh and Ma both lifted their heads off the table and stared at Da. We all just stared at Da. Then Ma started laughing. Soon, all three of them were laughing. I couldn’t take it, so I ran back to my room. Slammed the door.

I’ve been here for an hour or so now and had a bit of time to think. Breaking the awkwardness like that was all you could do really. Fair play to Da for having the guts. It was so good to see Ma smiling again. It’s been weeks since she has. Aye, it was all at my expense like, but I don’t care anymore. We’re a family and we’ll get through this together, whatever it takes.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’d quite like to get back to my game of Sonic. I’ve got a big battle with Dr. Robotnik coming up, so I need my full concentration.