Dear Gertie

This is a short interior monologue I submitted in my second year. I got the idea from some postcards we looked at in a seminar. There’s not much to say about it, really…

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Dear Gertie

“Dear Gertie.” What to talk about first? “I do wish you wouldn’t use such a sarcastic tone of voice in your letters.” Yes I must mention that, it was positively beastly for her to write to her own mother in that tone, that postcard was practically greasy with insincerity. She needs to change her attitude and her tone is just the place she should start, never mind what the doctor says. I’m glad I didn’t show it to the children, what would they think? Convalescing indeed. Leaving them here so she can holiday by the sea, it’s deplorable, she needs to sort out her priorities.

I must be sure to mention the children and how we’re struggling. That should bring her to her senses. I do hope I can look after them alright, and keep them out of Henry’s way. He does hate it when they misbehave. Should I mention him? No, he doesn’t like to be bothered with such things, I’ll not. Oh my, so much to do! I don’t know when I’ll get the time to fix Molly’s dress, and she can’t very well wear the same thing two days in a row, can she? What would Henry say if he saw that? It doesn’t bear thinking about. I must make that point about the children properly. She should be feeling horribly guilty, and that’ll be good for her; it’ll help give her perspective, that’s what she needs.

Dear me, my whole life I’ve spent following my responsibilities and she can’t bring herself to do it for more than a week before it’s back to the liquor store with her. Laziness I call it. Well, it’s my responsibility to put her right, to give her some perspective. Dear Henry is far too forgiving; he can’t bring himself to criticize her.

Speaking of which, what time is it? ‘Mary, go and check on the master, see if he wants anything. You know how he enjoys some tea around eleven o’clock.’ Now Mary seems a nice girl, not one to shirk responsibility. You can’t tell for sure until you’ve tested them, though. I’ll leave a coin under the desk. If she doesn’t find it she’s not doing her job properly, if she takes it she’s dishonest. Henry seems to like her though; she is quite pretty. Perhaps too pretty.

Oh my, there’s Mrs Greenwell.  Seems her daughter ran away with a rich lord, absolutely‒

Hmm? That’s funny. Is my eyesight going? No, nonsense. Mother lived to ninety and had perfect vision right up until the end. It’s these windows, the window-cleaner must be getting lazy. Deplorable. Workmen all seem to be getting lazier these days, I don’t know what things are coming to. Well, I’ll not pay him until he does a proper job; that should restore some perspective to him. We’re not a charity. I hope Henry doesn’t notice, he hates to be bothered with such things and he does get very upset at laziness. It’s a marvel how he’s put up with Gertie. I must put her right or he’ll go out of his mind with worry.

I’ll tell her that no-one is fooled by her letter. So sarcastic! Better not to have sent anything at all. The children will be so upset not to hear anything from their own mother and it’ll be her fault. Pretending to be in hospital, and sending a postcard like she’s on holiday! She must think we’re fools. Well, these postcards should put her thoughts right, particularly this one of Saint Martin. Henry said he’s the patron saint of alcoholics and wine-makers. Now there’s a conflict of interest. Never mind, I’m sure he’ll help.

At least she’s doing something about her problem. How to phrase that? ‘I must say I’m pleased…’ Well, yes I suppose I must. I hope that doesn’t sound insincere. She won’t admit it, proud child, but she’ll get some comfort from my praise.

Oops, I’ve run out of space, I’ll have to use another postcard. Which one? This one has the Houses of Parliament on it. That should keep her mind on responsibility. She can look at these postcards instead of gazing out to sea all day. I’m sure looking at the sea can’t be good for her; the liquid will remind her of drink. I’ll put that in. And what about sailors? They’re always by the sea. I hope she isn’t influenced by their habits, drinking on her own is one thing but in public is something worse entirely. Word gets around; sailors are terrible for their gossip. And they travel. What if her Aunt Deirdre in Bristol found out?

I should remind her of her past failures, maybe then she’ll take this opportunity seriously. That time I found her in the garden shed! It was a deplorable shame I had to fire that excellent gardener for leaving it unlocked.

Now, what advice can I give her? ‘Idleness leads to mischief’; that should stop her spending all her time in bed. ‘Willpower’! Henry always says that, I knew I could fit him in somehow. I should use some of my mother’s advice, ‘The devil lies in the bottle’. She was a wise lady, even towards the end, when she would only eat carrots and jam, she always knew what the proper perspective was.

Oh, I’ve run out of space again. Good job I have spares. This one with a farmer won’t do, there’s a pub called The Ploughman just a mile down the road. Ah, this one with a dried-up well on it. I like the symbolism. I must mention the children again. I’ll tell her they send their love. They would of course, they do love their mother poor things. If only they knew she cared more about drink than them.

“Mr Stevens from‒” oh bother I hadn’t meant to write that. Too late now. “…from the Merchant’s Arms said hello for you but I’m sure you don’t want anything to do with him.” Maybe I should underline that last bit. To think she used to visit a public house! On her own! Absolutely deplorable behaviour, deplorable almost isn’t a strong enough word. I mustn’t tell Henry.

Well, that’s it done. If that doesn’t set her right, nothing will. I’ll send another letter soon; she’ll need reminding again or she’ll slip back into her nasty habits.

This coin should do. I’ll put it under the carpet here,

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About lemonmachine

I am Kieren McCallum, a third-year English Literature student at UEA, Norwich. View all posts by lemonmachine

3 responses to “Dear Gertie

  • Martin Palmer

    Can I ask more about the postcard thing? Were they written on to begin with, was it the pictures that stimulated the writing, or was it the theme of postcards in general?

    Either way, nice piece. You fit in such a lot of detail and vibrancy of character… I think it’s hard to get such a well-rounded piece with a monologue, but you’ve managed it! Glad to find this blog.

    • lemonmachine

      Thanks very much, glad you like it! The postcards were written with fairly mundane stuff. One of them was from a woman convalescing in some beach resort and it sounded a bit insincere, hence the character of Gertie. I think another one had a picture of a saint’s statue on the front. Good places to find inspiration if you’re looking for some!

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