‘Shambles is as shambles does…’ he muttered to himself as he hirpled along the road, his shoes scuffing softly on the cobbles. ‘Just what my mother used to say….’
Sauntering past in the other direction, happily linked on the arm of her lover, Susie turned and very obviously watched the old man, as he clattered into the doorway of the newsagent and in under the jangling bell. She was having one of those days when she saw everything: the curve of his lean jaw above the twist of his scarf and his unfastened coat; the pallor of his cheeks; the way his hair, obviously unbrushed today, twisted affectionately at the back of his head. Absently, she wondered if he had eaten yet this morning.
‘Wait a minute, Alice, will you?’ she queried, giving her arm an affectionate squeeze. She turned and followed the man into the shop, aware that she was being even odder than usual today. If everyone indulged their hunches, the world would be a peculiar place….it was peculiar enough, and she hardly needed to draw attention to herself, but still.
Susie took in the slightly dusty air, the rack of newspapers and the colourful array of crisps packets and fizzy bottles near the exit. But her attention was focussed on the old man, carefully clutching a small carton of milk and rooting in his pockets for change, while the shop-keeper waited, watching a screen pinned somewhere overhead. Absently he took the pound coin held aloft in icy fingers and proffered change. The old man’s head was bent slightly forward, as if the weight of the world had warped it. Susie approached the till.
‘Are you all right?’
The old man blinked myopically.
‘Yes, thank you’ he answered, slowly and with great dignity. ‘I’m fine, thank you, young lady.’
Susie wanted to ask him if he had had breakfast, if he was eating properly. She had an absurd longing to go round to his place and make a pot of soup, switch on the radio and fill his kitchen with the clatter of domestic noise, but instead, she just smiled and said, ‘That’s fine, then. Take care of yourself.’
‘The name’s Thomas, and I live up there – …’ he pointed absently, ‘Up the hill a bit. I like to come out for my morning walk every morning. My sister tells me it does me good, though I sometimes wonder.’
‘Ena takes care of me.’
‘I’m very glad.’ Impulsively she gave the old man’s hand a squeeze. ‘I’ll see you again.’
February 11, 2015
Fran Macilvey acceptance, change, family, grief, growing up Flash Fiction & Short Stories 2 Comments
‘Careful now, we don’t want to drop her, do we?’
Her dark anxiety faded as a dazed, fretful bundle nudged and stretched. A fist found and grasped Helen’s finger like a lifeline, so tight, Helen knew she could never let go, and her heart contracted lovingly. Creased lines in the tiny face would gradually relax as the days slowly widened. Eyes open, Cassie gazed longingly into her mother’s eyes.
‘She looks like her Dad, see?’ and Helen began to cry.
‘Yes, she does…’
The pain of loss stretched her chest and caught her breath. Ordinarily, she took condolences politely, with a hint of a tear and a rueful smile, ‘Yes, Jonathan was a special man….very special…’. At night, the covers over that cavern slipping, she fell and could not breathe. While their babe slept, heaving sobs gripped her throat. She welcomed them, let them wash her grief, clear the stains of loss, the waste of his stinking sickness, and the happy times before he died and left her alone.
It got easier. Cassie smiled so brightly, and her golden hair, at first so sparse and fine, grew over her crown into thick, shiny tresses.
At nine months, Cassie played and cooed on her mat, flicking the crinkly cow’s tail and pressing the buzzy bee’s wings. Cassie lifted her chin to Mum sprinkling glitter, blissful blue eyes catching sparkles.
Doorbell. Letter. Who writes letters these days?
Thank you for being so brave.
With all my love, always,