Quota of Speech

Peg is 15, skinny and pale. She believes that everyone is born with their own quotas- that every person is already programmed with how many coke's they'll drink, or how many people they will kiss. One stormy Thursday, Peg makes a discovery.

A storm was brewing outside. Through the small window of the cramped attic room, I could just make out my mother with a mouth full of clothes pegs and an armfull of laundry. I watched her totter towards the door, clothes drifting free off the load that she clutched, dancing on the wind.

Clouds seethed in the sky, a grey mass of emotions. Mother dumped the last armfull of damp clothes into the kitchen, and tucked her hair behind her ears. It was sad really, that the grey of old age had crept up on my mother, quite unexpectedly, too. It seeped into her golden hair and leeched colour from her face, stole flexibilty from her limbs and the smile from her life.

Thoughts of old age swirling through my mind, I made my way downstairs.

Mother was slumped at the table, watching the clouds as they brewed. Strands of silvery hair were plastered against her neck, as was the bland beige dress she wore.

The heat sapped energy out of everyone, especially my mother. 'I'll never get used to it,' she had announced stubbornly when we first arrived in Cornwall on a blistering August day. Born and bred in northen Canada, heat was not something that came naturally to my mother. 'It'll be the death of me, I swear it.'

Father had only laughed. If only he could see her now, and maybe he would have thought twice about it.

I used to think that Father would never run out of laughs. Everything amused him, from toddlers playing in puddles to watching people fall over on those irritating television programs. Only when he caught cancer that I realised.

I realised that the number of laughs Father laughed was set. He would never laugh more than the amount decided for him when he was born.

Laughing became a thing I refused to do. I failed to find amusment in anything. Sure, there were people who teased me, pulled at the corners of my mouth, tried to make me giggle.

Didn't they get a dissapointment.

Mother heard me enter the kitchen. She looked up, and sniffed. 'The laundry needs putting in the bathroom to air. Be a darling and take it up, will you?'

I shrugged, and dropped into a chair.

'If your father was here, you'd be bounding up those stairs in no time.' She stared into my face for a moment, eyes sad. 'Whatever happened to you, Peggy?' It came out as a whisper.

Resisting the urge to shrug again, I tried to hold her stare. Mother placed a hand on my sallow cheek. 'So severe. Isn't there anything happy in your life anymore, darling?' Tears welled in the corners of her eyes.

Didn't she understand? I'd run out. My quota of happiness ran out an age ago. A bird puffed out his chest and began to sing.

Tears flowed down my mothers cheeks. 'I want you to be happy again, Peggy. Find something within you. Go on a trip. Visit some friends. Find peace.'

I stared at the floor.

'Talk to me, chickadee.'

I opened my mouth. 'I'm okay, Mam.' My lips formed the words, but no sound came out.


I tried to speak. Reassure my mother, so old, so grey.

Realisation. Life was unfair to me. My quota of speech had run out.

Mother stared and stared, tears dropping into her lap, forgotton. 'Go, Peg. Find peace.' 

The End

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