My mother made me in Beginners’ Pottery, a local Adult Education evening class. First prepare the clay, teacher instructed, squish out air bubbles and remove any impurities or bits, otherwise your babies may explode. Mum processed clay until she found a large grog particle. Dug it out: a perfect little heart. Thought shame to chuck it, so at the last minute she pushed it back into me. An act of creative disobedience she now regrets. You burst in the kiln, ruined the whole batch. And you’ve been like that ever since.
Mum: you were always running away, but I knew you’d come back. No need to bother the police.
I don’t recall ever leaving home. Maybe she’s confusing me with the wild boy down the road who threw bricks at windows. Do you mean Steve, I ask.
Yes, him too. And sure enough, after a day or two you’d creep out from under the bed. Me: but weren’t you worried in case I’d been abducted? Mum: no, I was afraid you’d never leave home for good. I’d be one of those mothers whose kids ruin their whole lives.
Mum kept disappearing into walls or floating through the ceiling. But came back again. She changed the sheet and duvet while I stood by shivering. Put her cool hand on my forehead, said hmm. Sang weird but entrancing songs about faraway lands. Brought trays decorated with a flower, a folded napkin. Tried to tempt my appetite. Anything you want from the shops?
After a week I tottered downstairs. Mum was in the conservatory, smoking. Oh it’s you, is it. Got bored? Lazy cow.
Mum, I pleaded, sing to me.
Piss off. You know I can’t sing.
Auntie Lynne was like Mum except taller, because of her high heels. And kind and good. The air around her glowed gold. Your auntie’s a goddess, Mum said. Could you zap that fly, I asked. Oh no, said Auntie Lynne, I’d never hurt a fellow creature.
I cornered her in the kitchen. If you’re a goddess, why are you here on earth? I’m here to tell you what you need to know. Me and your mum, as kids we didn’t have an easy time. In and out of foster homes. Stuff happened. So if she’s not always… you know. She can’t help it.
Frances Gapper’s flash fiction has been published in Meniscus, Cafe Irreal, Wigleaf, The Ilanot Review, The Citron Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Splonk, Spelk, Spontaneity and Silver Apples.
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