An occasional series of flash, or sudden, or short-short fictions

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Lizzy and Bel

It was something to do with numbers. The folded sheet looked like a tissue rather than a swan, as they had said it would. The sandwich was being made. Cheese, she hoped.
Lizzy was no help. She lay there on the bed, gazing. Her eyes did not blink. She did not offer suggestions. Bel unfolded the sheet and noticed that one of the creases looked like the lines on the palm of her hand. Soft, fuzzy. She had trouble in getting the edges of the paper to come together straight. She had to fold it again. The paper was square, now, but not sharp. The edge felt like cloth.
She waited for the call. Lizzy rested on the bed in her patterned green skin. Diamonds. If she turned the folded sheet, it looked like a diamond. Perhaps that was what it was after all. She could colour it in. But diamonds were clear. How can you colour in clear?
Four sides. Bel counted with her fingers. If she unfolded it, the sheet still had four sides. Shouldn’t there be more? But the two lines on the paper were a cross. She preferred the paper folded, so she carefully made it into a diamond again, the edges straight. After her sandwich, she would colour in the diamond with crayons. Blue.
Her Daddy called Bel. Her sandwich was ready. She was glad. Lizzy stayed on the bed. She didn’t mind.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Alice and George

She could hear the wet, blocked breath as it fought its way from George’s ruined lungs. In the bed, his white face, as if carved from soap, sunken, sharp, he wheezed out each agonising draught. She smoothed his face with a damp flannel, a beard forming once again on his cheeks like the sweepings on a cotton-mill floor. She’d have to root out his shaving kit, again.

Little George and Stanley played quietly in the corner of the room, mindful of their father. They had built a fort from the wooden blocks the Lieutenant’s wife had given them, and their lead soldiers fought over this tiny field. The Army had taken care of them all right, and Alice was grateful. She knew, though, that once George died, as he would soon enough, they’d be turned out, just as she and her father had been when times were hard at the mill. If George dies, she thought; when he dies; if he dies, we’ll need somewhere to go. Tramping to find work wouldn’t be easy with two young boys.

George coughed under the blankets, the starched white sheet rotten with spittle from his broken lungs. He’d lain under gas, in France, and breathed in his death. After two months, she knew that, now, her George, not this wheezing mannequin, was never coming home.

She touched his forehead. She still loved him; and when he was lucid, which was not often, her blood beat like the shuttle of a loom, and she dared hope that the fever was broken, and he’d be well. But all too soon, he sank back into his twilight, and one day, he’d never rise to the surface again. That day might have already come, and gone.

There was the pension, yes. There was that. There was that.