Highly Commended in the winter TSS Flash Fiction 400 competition 2018
Tomorrow my mother dies.
Around half ten in the morning she will slip as she climbs out of the bath. When we find her the look on her face will be one of embarrassment. Fancy letting the back of her skull split open like that on an ornamental seashell.
The day after that my dad will crack himself. Though he and my mother are long divorced, he’ll find himself at the end of another telephone conversation straining to pass on the necessary details to old friends, themselves in disbelief. He will slump down the wall and cry for all the things he might have said to make things better between them. He’ll phone me up when I’m opening a bottle of wine and ask if I mind him coming over for a couple of drinks.
A week tomorrow we’ll bury my mother. I’ll worry my wife who silently wonders when it is I’m going to cry. That moment will be when I notice that I have forgotten to put my watch on and I’ll think about time and things ending and I’ll realise I have not been listening to the vicar at the graveside and I am standing there with a handful of dirt not knowing quite what to do with myself.
Five years from now, five years give or take a day, I’ll be sitting in a cafe not far from Covent Garden. I’ll be stuck on a crossword clue. I’ll remember all the times we sat together in my mum’s kitchen straining to think of the main character’s surname in Heart of Darkness or the capital of Taiwan. I’ll picture everything about that moment. I’ll smell the coffee bubbling in the machine. I’ll hear the radio playing in the garden where my nephew is building a rockery around the family pet we have just buried together. I’ll feel the last surviving cat of my childhood pass by me, its tail flirting with my legs underneath the kitchen table.
Tonight, I am alone. It’s cold out, I’ve disconnected the phone. I can’t sleep much these last few nights. I feel there’s something I must be doing, some place I must be but here.
Paul Jenkins is a part time writer and full time dreamer living in South Wales. A contributing editor to the recent “24 Stories” collection for the PTSD-related treatment of those affected by Grenfell, he has written for various publications including The Guardian and Buzz magazine. When he isn’t reading, writing or drinking he can usually be found being angry and sweary on Twitter @fourfoot