Not in this family 

Gayle held the pot to her abdomen as she stood in the middle of the front garden.

“How about here, Sophie? What do you think?”

Sophie contorted her mouth and looked down at the gravel space that was plugged with tufts of grass. Then she shrugged.

“Okay.”

“I think this is a good spot,” added Gayle. “It’ll get plenty of light.” She bent down slowly, her hands trembling a little under the weight. But she managed to set the plant down and then straighten up. Only then did she realise she had broken a sweat across her forehead.

“Mum,” uttered Jane, by her side. “You should’ve just let me…”

Gayle hissed and backhanded the air as if preventing the words from ever arriving. Jane shrunk and Gayle had to bite down on the scorn that threatened to leave her lips. Was she ever going to toughen up?

Gayle returned her attention to Sophie.

“You must remember to water it everyday, especially when it’s hot. Then, one day it will grow into a bright, yellow sunflower.”

“Say thank you, Grandma,” murmured Jane.

“Thank you,” replied Sophie, twisting on the ball of her foot and breaking into a grin.

Gayle looked at her fresh, sun-blushed face and then to the gap in her lower front teeth, which Sophie tongued habitually as if it was the source of some new and delightful flavour.

Jane smiled back, feeling satisfied. It seemed the spirit had merely skipped a generation.

“Well, it should brighten things up a bit,” said Jane, with a sigh.

Her gaze wandered upwards to the gritty facade of the new house and suddenly, Gayle wanted to tell her how it was so much more. How the flower was a symbol of hope, of a new beginning and soon, how it would be something to remember her by once the thing or things, growing inside her, took hold.

But she didn’t, of course. It wasn’t the way. Not in this family. She could only give her doe-eyed daughter a hard look as she turned to her, side on.

“Cup of tea?”

“Thought you’d never ask.”

Beneath a concrete sky

“Maybe we should call the police.”

Steve shuffled down the steep incline, heart pumping while a river churned black below.

“I just want to see.”

He reached the gravel bank and looked carefully about. Up ahead, the canal swerved between graffiti covered columns, meeting with a shaft of sunlight that found its way beneath the concrete sky.

It fell just short of a figure that was slumped on the floor.

Josh said something else, but the sound didn’t penetrate. Steve’s mind was racing, in competition with his heartbeat. He took a step in the dirt.

Written for The Drabble.

Why

 

file1331246481918

 

“Why?” screams Charlie. “Why?” His little voice wavers into falsetto tones as he swings his bag against a parked car.
“Because I already bought you one, now come on!” She senses eyes on her, but they’re nothing new, like a lifetime of mosquitoes.

Charlie’s wailing seems to take the capacity out of his legs, so she drags his flaying body along behind the pushchair. Meanwhile, Hayley starts to mimic her brother and the noise jabs. “Shutup, both of you!”

The sun is heating up the hard ground and sweat breaks out in the creases of her body. Strangely, the chorus of yelling from behind the gates is a comfort, absorbing her own wretched voice. She watches Charlie traipse into the melee of children with a gaze that’s already fading.

Back home, busted toys and unopened bills pave the way to the kitchen. She finds a half-pack and lights one up, sucking hard at it like its fresh air while she checks her phone for anything. In the background, Hayley is screeching again, but its her own whys that reverberate the loudest against the flaking walls.

The morning crowd

A short-short about the early morning grind.

The stars gaze down at me, merciless and piercing. ‘What the hell are you doing up?” they say. “We haven’t finished our shift yet.’

Don’t I know it, I think back at them, and squint through the damp at the orange readout. 15 minutes.

A schoolboy type is standing there, collar and shoes beneath an anorak. He half-turns at my arrival, letting his peripheral do the work. Probably wondering if it’s still early enough for weirdos.

Another passenger arrives, shorter, rougher. He occupies himself with a tangle of headphones before the guitar riffs of Hotel California fill his ears. 9 minutes.

A girl in a fur-lined hood makes us four and we drill the empty road with our willpower. It conjures up nothing. Then the readout resets itself and suddenly its 2 minutes. Anticipation sets in.

When the bus finally arrives, we stumble on in single file, the driver as grim as the hour. Upstairs is all two-day stubble, black woolly hats and jackets up to the chin. I fit right in.

We lurch away and my eyes wander to finger marks, smeared across the window from the night before. Behind them, shop fronts float by, the night shift workers silhouetted against pale lighting while they mingle with lorry drivers. Up the front of the bus, the glow of brake lights is like a furnace, stoked by offerings from the daily grind.

Then a few stops along, he appears. Something about his demeanour isn’t right. His movements are too energetic and he’s blabbering away on the phone like its Friday afternoon.

Groans pass along the deck as he takes a seat. I get to work, fixing him with my best glare while others turn their heads and throw a mean glance, but he appears invulnerable. Even Hotel California has noticed from two seats back as he removes his headphones and stares incredulously at the back of the man’s neatly cropped hair. He clocks me and we shake heads in unison.

Then a lad with 5am eyes glaring out of a grey hood launches across the aisle and lamps the guy on the chin. A chorus of approval erupts from the passengers. The man recoils in his seat, before scurrying down the stairs and we all press our faces to the windows to see his freshly-pressed figure disappear into the black of the morning. 5am eyes flashes a murky grin while the driver gives it a couple of hoots. The rest of us look around at each other, snarling with satisfaction. That one needed nipping in the bud.

Picking up a trail

_MG_0609-2

Jack sniffed the dirt. Someone had been here. There were traces of urine, possibly excrement too. He went to investigate further, but something was holding him back. Damn lead was always pulling Jack off the case.