|A Smile From Mr. Manners
By Celia Bryce
|Simon knows all about
Mister Manners. Mister Manners is invisible but hes the one who invented please
and thank you. The one who invented being nice to everyone and not being nasty and
everything. Oh he knows all about Mister Manners.
Its what grandma told him when there was just Simon to tell. Now its all different. Now theres Rosie too.
Mister Manners, says grandma, lives inside everyones head. And when hes awake in your head you say please and thank you and dont get mad at people and dont say rude words or nasty things. When Mister Manners is awake you dont take things that dont belong to you and you are nice to everyone.
Sometimes Simon wishes Mister Manners would just go to sleep. Or move into someone elses head. Because now Rosie has arrived and he has to say please and thank you and think nice thoughts about her. Mister Manners keeps telling him to. So does grandma and mammy and daddy. Everyone.
And because he doesnt want to and he doesnt like Rosie Simon feels empty and a little bit sad.
Rosie used to be just a bump in his mammys tummy and that was all right. And now she isnt a bump but a special unit in a care incubator or something and has all sorts of things happening to her. And tubes coming out of her and everything and hes not even seen her yet. Hes not allowed. So how can he like her?
Anyway, she came too early. Simon wonders what Mister Manners would say about that.
Today mammys at the hospital again and so is daddy and grandma keeps wiping her eyes with a hanky and sometimes forgets that Simons there and sometimes doesnt answer his questions. Or forgets where they are in the book. Sometimes she just closes her eyes and looks asleep. Like now. And its all quiet. Just the clock ticking and the fridge humming.
Simons allowed to play in the garden on his own now that hes big, as long as he doesnt go in the shed. But the sheds got a nest in it and grandmas forgotten to put the padlock on and the doors open and a cat might have got in. So really hell have to go in and check. Even though Mister Manners is telling him not to because of the sharp things.
The sharp things are why hes not allowed in the shed without grandma. But Simon promises Mister Manners that he wont touch the sharp things. He wont even look at them. Hell just check that a cat isnt in. Because there might be birds in the nest already. Grandma says you just never can trust cats when it comes to birds. And Simon reckons that means nests too.
Mister Manners keep telling him not to go in but grandmas asleep and forgotten about his story and there might be a cat. And mammy and daddy are with Rosie and Rosies got an incubator. And the incubators in a hospital and its a long way away. And anyway it isnt fair.
The nest is just on the ledge above the window. Grandma told him all about nests when he was only little and didnt know about things.
What does it do? hed asked
It doesnt do anything but its where a mammy bird lays her eggs. And she has to keep them nice and warm until theyre ready to hatch. Until theyre big enough.
Whats hatch grandma?
And so she showed him an egg from the box in the fridge and there was a picture on the top of it.
Does a lion live inside the egg?
Simon was pleased hed said that because then grandma just laughed and laughed and said shed have to sit down for five minutes.
No, pet. The pictures on it to say its a nice egg to eat. But inside the little eggs in a nest are baby birds living and growing. And the egg shells keep the baby birds safe and the mammy bird sits on the eggs to keep them warm and then the baby birds come out. Thats what hatching is.
But then it got all mixed up because Simon wanted to know about the egg in the fridge and why wasnt there a baby bird in that one and why didnt they eat eggs from a nest? Then grandma gave him some chocolate and said she never really liked eggs much and shed read him a story now.
The sheds a bit dark but Simons not frightened of the dark now thats hes big. But he doesnt like it when theres no noise. He doesnt like it when everythings quiet. Which is what happens when grandma goes to sleep.
And the shed is quiet but theres something making a noise from where the nest is. And he stares and stares and he thinks he can see the birds head. And that must mean shes got some eggs in there. Because thats what you get in nests.
Simon wishes he could see the eggs. But its very high up and theres nothing to stand on except the stool. And he just wishes Mister Manners would go to sleep because now hes telling him not to climb up on the stool.
Its then that he hears something else in the shed and he turns to find grandma standing there, all quiet but looking vexed. His heart begins to thump in his chest. And Mister Manners is telling him, told you so.
Simon, grandma says. What are you doing in here? Havent you been told not to go into the shed?
He nods and looks at the colour of his shoes.
I turn my head for a minute and what happens? Youre in the shed.
Simon cant look at grandmas face.
Well, what have you got to say for yourself?
He has nothing to say for himself.
I thought I could trust you, Simon, but obviously not.
And thats when all of a sudden Simons sorry for being naughty. Sorry for going into the shed even though there might have been a cat in. Sorry for making grandma angry. And he wants his mammy and daddy to come and take him home and not to be with Rosie all the time. And he wants them now.
And all of this makes him cry.
Now, now, says grandma. Come on. And she scoops him up in her arms even though hes big now and gives him a big tight cuddle. Ill make us a nice drink of juice and well have a biscuit as long as you promise never to go in there again.
Simon nods and thats good enough for grandma because she smiles at him and her face creases up like a piece of soft cloth. Then grandmas face changes again.
But Im wondering, was the door open? Simon nods. Oh dear I must have forgotten to lock it last night. That was very silly of me. Ill have to promise not to forget to lock it otherwise I wont get juice and biscuit will I?
Simon looks into grandmas face and shes looking back at him and then theyre both smiling and its all right again.
I thought a cat might be in. Getting the nest, he says. Grandma nods as they go back into the house.
Yes, a cat might have got in. Silly me. But the nests empty so it wouldnt have mattered too much.
Simons mouth falls open and he shakes his head. Theres a bird in. I saw it.
Is there really?
Simon nods again feeling very proud that hes discovered something to make grandma look amazed. She might have some eggs mightnt she? he goes on.
Well if she has we mustnt disturb her.
Because she has to keep them warm, and if she gets disturbed shell abandon them and that would be a shame.
Grandma sits him down at the table and finds the juice from the fridge and pours him some. She pulls the biscuit tin from the shelf and opens it. Simon chooses one and begins to eat it.
If the bird abandons the eggs it means she flies away and doesnt come back and then the eggs wont hatch.
Simon thinks about all of this and he munches his biscuit. He wouldnt want the mammy bird to abandon the nest.
Suddenly he remembers mammy telling him something about Rosie. He remembers her nice face close up to his, almost touching, and whispering into this ear.
You see, pet, Rosies very small and she has to be kept warm until shes bigger. Thats what the incubators for. And mammy has to be there because she needs mammys milk to get bigger. And then she can come out of the incubator and come home. We can all come home and be together again.
It had all sounded so nice and mammy had hugged him very close when shed said that and laid her head on his and it was all so warm and lovely that when she finally let go of him he felt cold. And then he was in the car and going to grandmas and everyone was hugging everyone else and that was when he decided he didnt like Rosie.
Simon finished his biscuit and licked his fingers and thought about the bird on the nest keeping the eggs warm and somehow in his head he could imagine Rosie being an egg and mammy being the bird.
Is the nest like a incubator grandma?
Grandma looks at him. Well now arent you a clever boy. I never thought of it like that but yes. Thats exactly it.
And the eggs are like Rosie.
Grandmas eyes look suddenly shiny. Yes, pet. Theyre all just tiny little things, keeping warm while they get big enough to hatch out.
And will Rosie hatch out?
He looks straight at grandma waiting for an answer and grandma takes the lid off the biscuit tin again, lets him choose another one. She puts the lid back on and looks at it for a long time. The picture on the tin is a dog with big brown eyes and a patch over one of them.
As long as she keeps warm and keeps getting bigger, then yes. And grandmas eyes are very shiny now and she gets her hanky out and wipes them. Oh, dear all this talk and the dinner to get on.
When the telephone rings Simons putting the butter on his bread and getting it right to the edges so it looks nice. But he can still hear grandmas voice.
Oh love, shes saying and shes crying. Oh, love.
Simon leaves the bread and goes to where grandmas standing in the hall. He leans up against her and she puts her arm around him. Theres a big mirror on the wall and he looks at himself and grandma in it. Grandma has dark curly hair and her dress is blue and she has her pinny on. Hes got his red shorts and stripey T shirt and hes got yellow curly hair. Grandma calls him her angel.
Its funny to watch grandma in the mirror, her lips moving against the phone and her eyes all wet and everything spilling down her cheeks. It looks silvery in the mirror.
And the phone goes down and grandma pulls him in so close his nose feels all squashed.
Have you got a headache grandma?
She was always having headaches, Simon knew. Ever since Rosie came too early and since mammy and daddy left him here with her. She had headaches which made her eyes shine and her cheeks wet.
No, pet lamb. I havent
Who was on the phone grandma?
It was your mammy and she was telling me that your little sister, your Rosie, is coming out of the incubator. Now isnt that wonderful?
Is she hatching out? Can I go and see her hatch out. He jumps around the hall.
Daddys coming to pick us both up after dinner and we can go and see her. Now what a treat!
And can she come home?
Suddenly Simons body feels full of lemonade bubbles and Mister Manners must be covered in them. He begins to laugh. And its funny how all of a sudden it feels nice to laugh
No, pet, not straight away. I mean once the birds in the nest hatch out they cant fly straight away. The mammy bird has to feed all the little birds till they get their feathers .
And grandma keeps on explaining about things but Simons head is filling up with pictures of Rosie in a nice warm nest, all cuddled up with mammy and this time he doesnt mind.
and when she gets bigger she can come home, Youll see, grandmas saying.
Rosie will come flying through the air, thinks Simon and mammy too and daddy and though he knows they arent really birds the picture makes him smile and think nice thoughts.
And Mister Manners? Oh, he likes the picture too.
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