The Ice-Pop Farewell
Because, Mum said, before I asked. I asked anyway.
Why is the furniture out in the drive?
She swept past me, snapping her fingers, tutting, her heels clicking on the concrete floor. The rugs were in the drive, too.
I followed her.
I’m saving your father the trouble, she said, straightening up from hauling out the contents of a cupboard. She loaded my arms with all the unnameable objects that lurk at the back of kitchen drawers and never get used.
What’s this? I asked, holding up a metal spike. What’s it for?
It’s a spike, she said, for spiking.
Mum was full of certainty, even when she didn’t know the answer.
Put it in there. She pointed to the galvanised wheelbarrow that already held household linen and the cat litter tray. I placed my mysterious kitchen utensils carefully, unloading my strange cargo as though it was spiders, scorpions, and instruments of torture. Mum swept past again, carrying an armful of books, and grabbed my dangerous freight, chucking it into the chaos of the barrow. Some of it landed in the cat shit.
She wheeled the barrow to the end of the drive and tipped everything out against the previous heap. It looked liked the bonfire to end the world. I started to cry. She gave me a lift back in the barrow, padding the base with an old towel. I still cried, though.
She left me in the kitchen with a handful of ice pops. Everything else from the freezer went frosty arse-over-tit into the barrow. Dad said arse-over-tit, but I wasn’t allowed to. The ice pops stanched my tears and turned them into an ice cream headache.
We drove away. Looking back through the rear window, twisting my neck against the ache in my head and the fear, I read out the sign she’d propped against the heap. Free to good homes.
Why? I asked again.
Because, she said grimly, pressing her foot to the floor.
The cat mewed, and I held my sticky fingers to its carry case. Its tongue rasped away my father, forever.
This flash was inspired by a photograph of a wheelbarrow I saw on the hottest day of the year in Brighton. As so often happens to me with flash fiction, the whole text came in about twenty minutes. Often I will puzzle over a picture or an overheard comment for weeks, only to have an entire story about it arrive, like a bullet train, at the most inconvenient time. I am not complaining, though. My muse regularly whacks me upside the head with huge chunks of narrative and although writing it down can be embarrassing if the story ‘arrives’ in public, I’d rather that than a mean muse who trickled stuff out parsimoniously.
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