The following piece received 2nd Place in our 2013 Hallow/Hallowed Flash Fiction Contest.
Da says as how things’ll be different and we’ll have to get used to it and we’ll need to help out. That’s what being a family’s all about, he says. Then his voice shrinks small as a hiss-spit-holy-whisper and he says we is to tell no one. On no account, he says. If anyone asks, we’s to say she’s been sick and now she’s better and nothing more than that.
When Mam comes home from the hospital we tell her as how we’ve missed her, just like Da told us to say, and Prune makes a cup of tea for Mam and I plump up the cushions on her favourite seat.
She smiles and it’s a little like Mam’s smile, the one she had before, except now she’s smaller than our Mam, and skin and bone she is, and something missing. She don’t take us into her arms for hugging like before. She says sorry, and how she’s dog tired, and maybe she’ll close her eyes for just a minute and we’re not to let her sleep past five o’clock.
Prune pours the tea she made for Mam down the sink and we sit on the sofa, sitting like we do in church, our backs straight and our prayer-hands clasped in our laps, and we watch her sleep, a silver spittle thread unspooling from her open mouth. And we look for a space in her clothes, just on the left side, a sag in the front of her dress.
Later, Da brings things in for tea – battered fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, and though we do not turn it on, we sit in front of the tele and we sit in eating-silence which is not the same as church-quiet. ‘Sgood, Da says with his mouth full and it’s an effort to say anything and we can see that.
When Mam goes to her bed early, Da has to wash our faces and he has to tell us a story and put the light out and wish us sweet dreams. But we don’t sleep, and we don’t dream, not Prune and not me. We lie still as the Lady Alice Feld who sleeps in the church and she is cut out of stone and a dog that’s like no dog I ever saw sleeps at her stone feet. And we listen for our Da climbing into bed with our Mam and the sound of him finding her in the dark and the sound of the bed shifting and Mam moaning and Da making a noise like the horse blowing air. And we strain our ears to hear, knowing if he finds her then there’ll be smiles over breakfast and Da kissing Mam and touching her diddies through her clothes when he thinks we’re not looking. But she’s got only one diddy now and tonight Da sleeps in his chair downstairs. And maybe that’s his way of getting used to it, and that’s how it’ll be different from now on.
Douglas Bruton throws words together. Sometimes they make sense and sometimes they even make stories. He sends those thrown-together words out to nice places and every now and then that makes sense, too. He thinks he is a writer, but that’s just more words that he throws about. He has been published in many nice places, including The Eildon Tree, Transmission, The Blood Orange Review, The Vestal Review, Storyglossia, Ranfurly Review, The Smoking Poet, Interpreter’s House, and Flash Magazine. And now he is published in Cease, Cows and so just maybe he is a writer after all.
Lead image: “In the fell clutch of circumstance” (via Flickr user 4thfullmoon)
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Thank you granpiesbiscuit. It’s great to be read, and even better to have one’s work liked. Thank you very much.
A remarkable writer! An excellent story!
Oh, and thanks to Stephen Graham Jones for saying such nice things about how hard the judging was.
Thank you, clodaghobrien, for liking my story. Congrats to the winner of the comp and to everyone else who did so well. And to Cease Cows.
Thanks for the exceptional story, Douglas!
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