HUMOUR: There Was an Old Lady Who Lived in a Brain – Riley J. Froud

He had kept his mother alive in his thoughts.  Too alive, perhaps.  No, not perhaps, he thought.  Definitely.  She kept berating him.

“Oi!” she cried.  “You be careful about what you are thinking about your poor old mum.  I can see them you know, the words you think.  They float right past me in this brain of yours – and I can read, you know.  How would you like living in here like some germ or something?  Have you seen the dust on these blood vessels, young man?”

No mum, of course I can’t see my own blood vessels.  He thought his reply.  When she had first started talking to him, he had spoken aloud but he has since learned that that made him looks nuts, so he’s taken to thinking his replies instead.  She berated him for that too.

“Well they are a mess, I can tell you.  Is that how I raised you?  Is it?”

He sighed a weary, tired sigh.  No mum, that’s not how you raised me.

“No, you’re right.  That’s not how I raised you.  All this dust will do your allergies no good, mark my words.”

No mum.

“Half of the stuff in this brain of yours you don’t even use any more!  You might as well get rid of it!”

Get rid of my brain, mum?

“Well you don’t use it like you bloody well should.  What have I told you, ey?  What have I told you about using your brain?”

He was staring dully into space, mouth hanging open and big droopy bags under his eyes.  He had been like that since she’d re-awoken or resurrected, or whatever she’d done in his brain.

You told me I could do anything if I just used my brain.

“That’s right, that’s what I said.  But you haven’t used it have you?  And now look at you, sat in the psych ward.  I’ve got a right mind to package it up and send it to the poor kids in the third world countries.”

What do they want with my brain, mum?  They want food and clean water, not a real life horror movie.

“Don’t you speak to your mother like that!  They could use it plenty I’ll have you know.  I could just push the useless parts out of your ears, hope they land on the pavement for someone who wants it to find.”

Please don’t push my brain out of my ears mum, he moaned in his thoughts whilst staring, blank and exhausted, at the clinical white-washed walls.  He was slumped in his chair in the hallway of the hospital, waiting for the doctor to come out again.


Mrs Pillock, mother of Brian Pillock, had died three years ago.  Three long years.  She had moved into his head almost straight away – or at least, straight after they had buried her.  Being the kindly soul that she was, she hadn’t started nagging him until a good week after the funeral.  Giving him a chance to get over her death, she thought, before telling him where he was going wrong in life.

“Brian Pillock!” She had said, rather sternly, when she had first spoke from inside his brain.  “This is the third night in a row that you’ve been up past midnight!  On a work night too!  Get to bed this instant!”

“Christ mum!” Brian exclaimed as he jumped a good foot off the sofa.  “I’m a 42 year old man.  I’ll go to bed when I want.”

“You may be 42 my boy, but you’re not too old for a slap!”

“But mum…” Brian started before realising that he was talking to his dead mother.

“And stop talking aloud.  Don’t you realise how nuts you look?”

“What?  But?  What are you doing here mum?  Where are you, even?  This is just weird.”

“Weird indeed.  Talking to your old mum is weird now, is it?  Is that why you never visited me when I was still alive?  Ey?”

“That’s exactly it though mum.  You’re dead.”

“Yes.  Well.  I’m only dead in the real world.  I’m living in your head now, and I’m here for good.  I can look after you better from here – I can stop you from getting into trouble when you are only thinking about it!”


“Mr Pillock?” the nurse called.  “The doctor will see you now, if you would like to come through.”

“For God’s sake mother!  Just leave my brain alone will yo…” Brian looked up to see the nurse’s startled and somewhat scared expression.  “Oh.  Sorry.  I…just…um…this way, is it?”

“Look what you’ve done now Brian,” Mrs Pillock berated.  “You’ve frightened that poor nurse.  How will you ever find a wife if you go around treating young women like that?”

Brian groaned and allowed his drooping eyelids to close for just a moment of despair.  Please mother, just be quiet whilst I get through this.  Mrs Pillock humphed.

“Ah, Mr Pillock,” the doctor began as Brian shuffled into the room.  “Good to see you again,” he said entirely unconvincingly.

“Hi.”  No matter how animated Brian felt when arguing with his mother, he just couldn’t muster up any energy in the real world.  He flopped down into his seat.

“So as you know, Brian, we’ve run a series of tests.  We’ve come to the conclusion that the loss of your mother has had such a profound effect on you that you’ve actually gone mad and you are suffering from delusions.”  The professionalism of doctors these days is outstanding.

“They aren’t delusions, doctor.  My dead mother is living in my head.”

“I’m not a zombie, Brian!  Don’t imply that I’m a zombie!  I may be living in your brain but I don’t want to eat it!”  Mrs Pillock was not amused.

“No Mu…sorry.”  No mum, you’re not a zombie.  Brian sighed the biggest sigh he could.

“Well regardless of what you believe, Mr Pillock, you must agree that I’m the professional here, and you are the fruit loop.  I’m going to prescribe you some pills. They will make your delusions disappear.”

“You mean, she’ll be quiet?”  This news made him the perkiest he had been in three torturous years.

“She’ll be gone, Mr Pillock.  For good this time.”

“No!  Brian, no!  Don’t let them kill me, please Brian.  Not your dear old mum.  I can’t go through death again.  Don’t let them do it to me Brian, please.”  Mrs Pillock begged for her second life.

“Is that, like, murder, doctor?”

“No, Mr Pillock.  You cannot murder someone who is already dead.”

“Yes Brian! It is murder.  Don’t murder your mum.  I love you, I only want the best for you.  Don’t you love me too?”

“It seems a bit like murder to me, doctor.”

“Don’t you want her gone, Mr Pillock?”

“I want her to be quiet.  I want her to stop nagging.  I don’t want to murder her.”

“I’ll be quiet from now on, Brian.  I promise I’ll be quiet.  Just don’t kill me!”

“This is the only way, I’m afraid, Brian.”

Brian’s brow furrowed with deep thought.  Could he really carry on with his mother living in his brain?


Later that night, Brian shuffled his way upstairs to bed.  As tired as he was, he relished in the peace and quiet that he had had all afternoon.  She had only said one thing, one tiny thing, in the taxi on the way home.

“Thank you for not killing me,” she whispered.

“You’re welcome mum,” he whispered back.

As he brushed his teeth and put on his pyjamas, he was looking forward to the first good night’s sleep in years.  That’s when he heard it.

“I’ve just got to say this one thing, Brian, and then I promise I’ll be quiet.  Did you really brush your teeth for two minutes, because you know that two minutes is advised?”

Plonking down onto the bed, he fell back and groaned in misery.

To read more by Riley J. Froud, visit her website where she posts short stories, reviews, and general bookish nonsense.  Or if you really want a laugh, you could always buy her book.  


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