Life in progress


#JusJoJan prompt the 5th – “Gurgle”

(FICTION) (Thanks to Di at for the idea for the story.)


When Petra had first heard about “Mother,” she imagined a big, furry Newfoundland dog, such was the atmosphere of this strange house she’d been hired to work in. But no—“Mother” was indeed a woman, the mother of the lady of the house. Not knowing her employer’s maiden name, she couldn’t call “Mother” anything else. And “Mother” didn’t seem to mind.

Petra walked down the hall and knocked on “Mother’s” bedroom door. She hated when it was closed—she never knew what she’d find “Mother” doing when she walked in. One time she’d been staring into a crystal ball she’d set in the middle of her massive bed, mumbling at it in what sounded like backwards English. Another time, Petra had opened the door to catch “Mother” scrambling to hide someone under the bed, even though she’d called out to Petra to come in.

“Mother” had hiked up the straps of her bra (she wasn’t wearing a blouse) and asked Petra, “What do you want?” as she gathered up a deck of cards from the bed. Petra suspected “Mother” had been playing strip poker with whomever she had hidden.

“You called me, ‘Mother,’” Petra had said.

Which was what she said when she walked in tonight. “Mother” was in bed, her bedcovers clutched in both hands all the way up under her chin, her teeth in a small pink pot on the antique nightstand.

“I need a bottle of wine,” “Mother” croaked. “My wine. Not that cheap crap my good-for-nothing son-in-law buys.”

“Yes, ‘Mother,’” Petra said as she turned to go.

“And don’t bother with a glass. I’ll drink it straight out of the bottle.” Without her teeth in, the word “straight” came out “schtraight.”

“Yes, ‘Mother,” Petra repeated. She left the door open a little as she retreated, wondering as she descended the stairs why they didn’t just give “Mother” a cell phone so they didn’t have to keep going up to see what she wanted.

Downstairs, the party was still humming away. Petra avoided the guests by ducking between them with her eyes down. She ran into Geeves again on her way through the kitchen to the wine cellar.

“How did you find ‘Mother’?” he asked.

“Toothless and wineless,” Petra answered.

Geeves sniffed at her and off he went again.

Petra hated the wine cellar. Lit with only one bare lightbulb, the corners smelled of black, oily dust, and it was quiet enough to hear the mice scurrying around.

She hurried down the wooden stairs and turned down the corridor whose walls were lined with bottles in ceiling-high racks, to the back corner where they kept “Mother’s” wine. Only the rack was empty.

A gurgling sound came from the far corner of the cellar.

(To be continued on Thursday.)

(Di’s prompt was “Petra as a name, wine cellar as a setting, and ‘getting caught’ as your what if. “)

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