Ian Hicken – Iris, eyes and ayes

Siblings Pauline, Patricia, Pam, Peter and Lance sat in silence around the kitchen table. Peter pulled at his expandable gold coloured watch strap, twanging it gently on his wrist. Lance kept his gaze firmly on the dripping tap as it plopped endlessly into a cup of ever weakening cold tea left in the sink. Pam sat motionless with pen in hand, ready to make yet another list or take notes. Pauline continued with her muffled sobbing, occasionally wiping away a tear with a crumpled sheet of patterned kitchen roll. The urn sat in the middle of the table surrounded by five cups of lukewarm coffee, a packet of dark chocolate hobnobs and a glossy brochure titled ‘Treasure Forever’.

The silence was broken as Pauline banged her hand on the table which startled Pam and scared the cat that was circling chair legs for attention. “Well, I think it’s a great idea, much better than scattering Mother’s ashes on the beach. A friend of mine at work scattered his Dad in Malham and the wind turned direction, and they all got a dusting and a lung full. Half of him ended up back in Leeds.”

“Eww,” squealed Pam.

Patricia sat upright, cleared her throat and took a sip of cold coffee. “Well to be honest Pauline, the thought of turning Mother into a ring or a necklace makes my stomach turn. I mean, she was more charity shop than Cartier, and was never one to be showy.” She reached for the brochure and flicked through the glossy pages, stopping periodically to admire the fine diamond gemstones manufactured from a loved one’s ashes. “I mean they do look lovely, but the thought of having Mother constantly around my neck is off-putting. I’m not been funny but for years she’s always been on my back, don’t do this, don’t do that, dump him, marry him, I’ve felt suffocated all my life, I’m not sure how I’d feel about her being with me twenty-four seven.”

“Better that than a lung full with your Asthma,” Lance quipped.

Peter suggested that they needed to know more about the process and the costs. He was concerned that there wasn’t enough material, a.k.a ashes, to make five diamonds and was worried that Mother could end up with strangers if either one of them ever sold or pawned their gem. “I wouldn’t be happy if bits of Mother ended up on eBay.”

Lance took the brochure. Popping on his glasses that were suspended on a cord around his neck, he began to read out loud. “It says, and I quote, here at Treasure Forever, we aim to personalise your grieving experience by providing a range of add-ons such as colour matching your loved one’s eyes, cut and polishing the diamond so it radiates the love and for an extra two hundred and fifty quid, they can engrave Mother’s name on the facetted face of the stone. Costs can be spread over a payment plan and a variable APR.”

“Mother’s eyes went almost grey towards the end, then there was the jaundice,” Lance reminded them. “Don’t you think it would be a bit incongruous to have the name Iris engraved on a diamond that is the same colour as Mother’s eyes?”

“Mother’s eyes were blue, not grey, they were the same colour as that Marks and Spencer’s blouse she wore for our Sharon’s wedding.” Pam declared. “I can remember…”

Patricia interrupted “I don’t think so Pam, Mother’s eyes were more on the greeny-blue side, greener than blue I would say.”

“No, you are both wrong.” Pauline flicked through the photo gallery on her phone in an attempt to shed some light on the eye colour dispute.

“According to the brochure,” Lance continued, blue and green diamonds are very on-trend. I’d stick with grey, that’d be my preference.”

“Isn’t this all a bit academic at this point?” asked Peter. “I mean, what are Lance and I supposed to do with a diamond, I mean I never wear jewellery and you know how Mother never had much time for my Sally, so there is no way she’d wear it?”

“I’d prefer a paperweight or a photo frame, I’d get more use out of that, and besides they’re a damn site cheaper than compressing Mother into a gemstone.” Lance continued to flick through the ‘Treasure Forever’ brochure. “You can even have the ashes incorporated into drinking glasses.”

“Eww,” squealed Pam once again.

The kitchen fell silent as a pensive mood overcame the five siblings.

Pam took the brochure and commenced jotting down figures on her notepad. The cat who was irritated by being ignored, jumped on the table and made a bee-line for the urn in an attempt to rub its chin for a self-satisfying scratch and a bit of attention.

Peter pushed the cat from the table onto the floor and reminded them all that they still had a decision to make about its future which was probably a damn sight more important than deciding on whether Mother would be better as a diamond or a set of sherry glasses.

“I’ve done the sums,” declared Pam. “Five, point ten-carat diamonds in blue would work out at twelve thousand, seven hundred and fifty pounds excluding VAT, in green, slightly cheaper at eleven thousand plus VAT and they don’t do grey.”

“Bloody hell, how much?” proclaimed Peter and Lance in unison.

Or we could have a set of sherry glasses and photo frame each for a total of three thousand, four hundred or a paperweight and a set of cufflinks for you boys at around the same price.” Pam continued to do the math.

“Does anyone know of anybody who has had this done?” Asked Peter. “I mean they could tell you anything and use anyone’s remains, we’d never know.”

Pauline agreed and suggested that she was never too sure it was even Mother in the Urn as she was a large lady and there seemed such a small amount of ashes considering.

Patricia felt it was an awful lot of money to pay out for something she would neither wear nor use. Pam, although keen on Mother being turned into a sparkling blue diamond felt nauseous at the thought of downing a dry sherry from a glass containing Mother. Pauline was beginning to change her mind about the whole idea as growing doubts about the completeness and authenticity of Mother’s ashes preyed on her mind. Peter and Lance felt strongly that the money would be better used for a week away for them all in Skegness and to scatter Mother on a still day.

The five siblings pondered their dilemma. What to do? A diamond, a set of sherry glasses, cufflinks, photo frames or paperweights?

“I think a vote is in order,” announced Pam. “All those in favour of treasure forever say aye.” Silence. Pauline opened her mouth but nothing came out, the tears flowed once again.

“All those in favour of a family week in Skegness and for scattering Mother on the beach say aye….”

“On a still day,” Lance reminded them.

A series of ayes slowly went around the table, some more audible than others. The cat meowed, Pam made notes, Peter and Lance dipped into the dark chocolate hobnobs, Patricia cleared the cups and Pauline pulled Mother’s Urn up close for a hug. “Skegness it is Mother, you always enjoyed yourself at Skegness besides,” leaning in and whispering, “your eyes were hazel, and you’ll always be a diamond to me.”

Published by Ian

Music maker and story teller.

14 thoughts on “Ian Hicken – Iris, eyes and ayes

  1. Ian,
    What fun! I love black humour when it is done well and this certainly was. I found that I was reading faster, just to get to the next bit! More please.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a zany story, but, surprisingly, not entirely taken from Ian’s unbridled imagination. There ARE companies that offer ashes to diamonds.
    The URN comes as a surprise, The unemotional discussion of the siblings is tongue in cheek, the Leeds incident is hilarious.
    Part of the suspense is the cup of tea in the sink and, of course, what the siblings will agree on. The cat is a must for a cat loving author. It fits in nicely in the otherwise static situation.
    The homophonous title is a beauty. I also like the author’s use of alliteration (Pauline put, Peter pushed), but he steers clear of overdoing it, so sibling n° 5 is Lance.
    There are more ‘diamonds’ to be discovered in the story, every time I read it again.


  3. Great, slightly macabre story! Excellent intro setting the scene. Some nice touches throughout too. The cat, the playing with different colours or the unfinished drinks. The different characters come across very well too. As Manfred says, there are more details that come out on a second reading.
    Just a couple of things that weren’t too clear:
    The silence was broken as Pauline banged her hand on the table which startled Pam and scared the cat that was circling chair legs for attention.
    This sentence needs a comma or even better 2 sentences I would say.
    and for an extra two hundred and fifty quid,
    This comes within the company quote but should be signalled as Lance’s comment I think.
    Probably nitpicking points but they are things that seem to interrupt the flow.


  4. Really enjoyed this story and the ending. I could picture the siblings, arguing about the true colour of their mother’s eyes and I particularly loved the ending, when one of the daughters hugs the urn, believing that only she knew the real colour. I reckon the siblings made the right decision in the end. I’ve heard about turning your loved ones into diamonds… just as Peter in the story I feel a bit unsure about the whole idea. And yes, you probably wouldn’t want your diamond of a mum, dad or spouse to end up on ebay eventually.


  5. I like the idea of eye colour for a story, especially after someone’s death, because we all see other people’s eyes differently. So the family’s discussion has a ring of truth about it.

    There are several phrases in the conversation that stick in my memory and will continue to do so, for example ‘ever weakening cold tea’, ‘a lung full of ashes’ (or ‘a lungful of ashes’?) and ‘bits of Mother on eBay’. I also like the use of the word ‘considering’ after Pauline has suggested that the amount of ashes is small, given Mother’s size – though I would’ve liked a comma before ‘considering’.

    The cat makes an appearance more than half way through, which is a pity, because I love the idea of the cat playing a role in the decision, as in ‘The cat meowed’. Brilliant!

    I think the family came to a wise decision. I released my mother’s ashes into her favourite little river running off Dartmoor – an option I much preferred to a friend of mine’s. She had an artist paint a portrait of her husband with his ashes mixed into the paint. I think Pam would’ve squealed again.


  6. I agree with Alan, some of the phrases are memorable and very funny. My favourite is “bits of Mother on eBay”.

    It would make a fabulous ‘Talking Heads’ type play for tv. Eminent northern actors – Lancashire, Horrocks, Froggatt for the sisters, Bean and Kay for the brothers and of course Wentworth for the cat (but don’t tell Gawber!)

    A great read Ian, thanks.


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