As she walked slowly out of the doctor’s room

As she walked slowly out of the doctor’s room, a shadow shaded across her face. It matched the patch in her chest.

She did not want to tell them the news, share the picture buried deep in her bag. Deep in her heart she knew that she should but she was afraid that their hearts would break. Tomorrow. Tomorrow she would.

For today she would keep her silence, and smile, and nod, and cough quietly into a handkerchief. For today, today, they did not need to know.

But they knew. Of course they knew. They knew it sharply deep inside of them, it cut them sharp and deep inside of them, they felt the broken glass in her breathing in their hearts.

But for today she would not tell them.

Mother Jarvie pushed her bicycle

Mother Jarvie pushed her bicycle along the street that was now part strand; she could not have pedalled through the sheets of sand the night’s storms had lifted across the road, shingle spattering and cracking the windows of the fisherfolk’s cottages. The road was ridged with grey-gold sand, as if the beach were edging away from the roiling sea.

She pushed on, her thoughts lost in the sea, in the past, in the howling of the long ago storm when her Peter had been dragged to the seabed, dragged down and bounced against the sand and slicing sharp rock and spat out peaceful, drained, to the waiting beach one Sunday morning. When they slowly lifted the weed from across his thin white face, she fainted dead.

She pushed on. The sea would not stop her, the sand it had thrown would not stop her. Her arms burned, her back ached, pain filled her head from jaw to crown but on she pushed. People watched in silence from behind loose windows, sheltered from the constant wind. The sky was black.

She pushed on, in her basket the scraps of bread she would throw to the sea so it would never again take a young one. She pushed on.

First published
23 January 2015

Sam died just outside the ladies’ changing rooms

Sam died just outside the ladies’ changing rooms, sitting on one of those padded plastic benches where the bored husbands wait to say everything looks lovely. He was watching a woman walk by carrying champagne flutes and a Christmas sweater when the pain started and his heart stopped. None of the men noticed anything different until Felicity emerged in her potential party dress and, smiling apologetically at those who had survived him, gave the slumping Sam a poke.

The commotion in the department store exploded then soon calmed; they almost seemed used to it. Inside Felicity’s head the commotion lasted much, much longer. Hours later she found herself sitting on the edge of her bed, her sensible coat draped around her bare shoulders. She shrugged it off. Somehow she was still wearing the sparkling black party dress. She stood and looked at herself in the mirror, turned one shoulder and reached round to pull down the zip. It had jammed. She almost, almost, called out for Sam then cried as if she would never stop.

Breath whistled

How can I ever know if people see their deaths in me, he asked.
A look at the back of the eye, the crook of an eyebrow, a flattening of ears, the whistle breath of fear. All these are clues, I said.
He sighed. I have seen all of those, he replied.
I heard my own breath whistle and closed my eyes.
No, open them, he said softly. You must see this to the end.

Originally published on Paragraph Planet on Friday 13 June 2014

When a good person leaves us

When a good person leaves us, we cry for the person and for the ideas, the ideas we fear may fade without their light. And we cry for ourselves, so deeply for ourselves, we cry for how we might have been and how we will have been. 

Family and love was all that ever made us cry; then friends departing and friends letting us down. Reasons for tears grow with us. Tears sting and fists rub eyes.

But a good person leaving us brings the deepest tears, the tears that shudder from the deepest place, the place we did not know existed and did not want to exist. 

Then hope? Perhaps. 

Ring, ring

Ring, ring. Stevie wasn’t thinking about the money any more; he’d even stopped fretting how such a good idea could have gone so bad. He was meant to be away somewhere, just him and Marcie. Ring, ring.

Not hung up on a meat hook wanting it all to stop.

Ring, ring. He was dying to hear that old-school tone on his phone again but there was silence. Five minutes until the man came back. And then nothing. Ring, ring. 06 November 2013