GOOSEBERRY PIE LIT MAGAZINE

Cut-through

by Jude Higgins

Time is the station clock at midnight when there are no taxis outside. Time is your wrist watch as you look at it, wondering if it’s too late to phone your father for a lift and whether he is sober enough to drive. Time is the measure of your steps as you walk out from the station into the summer night, the sound of a barn owl shifting you back years to the one you saw in broad daylight perched on a wire, days before your mother died and your father went on a bender. Time slows while you remember and cry but speeds up because your watch says half an hour has passed while your feet follow a cut-through down the green lane used for centuries by drovers, milkmaids, drunks and felons, lonely people who all had loving parents once. Time won’t stop when it feels as if you, an only daughter, have been walking forever along the ancient path under a starry night, getting no nearer to your old home where your father still lives alone since your mother died, in a house furnished as if it’s in a 1990s time warp. You look up to the heavens for guidance but don’t recall the names of the constellations your father told you when you were a girl, holding your hand in his on another warm summer’s night and you wonder if he still stays up until the birds sing, whether he’s looking at his watch too, drinking yet another whisky, counting up the thousands of cigarettes he’s smoked since he was eighteen, lifting up the packet on the table with its warning on the back, wheezing hard, yet deciding he can still finish the rest — maybe the last ones he’ll ever smoke — before you arrive, when he’ll tell you what he said he must tell you when he phoned up earlier asked you to please come, said he was sorry and hoped it wasn’t too late.

__________

Jude Higgins’ flashfiction is published in many lovely places. She founded Bath Flash Fiction Award and directs Flash Fiction Festivals U.K. and Ad Hoc Fiction. @judehwriter

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