Flash/Short Stories

One of my stories, Journeys, is published here. To see the full list of my short stories please scroll to the bottom of the page.

Journeys, published online in Every Writer magazine, December 2013

The huge sign says ‘Japanese Culture Day.’ An arrow points at an ugly building with square windows like blisters. They are greeted at the door by two smiling, bowing Japanese girls in kimonos. Alice bows back and the girls giggle. Her mother hangs back, surly, still upset.

‘Come, please.’

The girls take them down a narrow corridor, their wooden sandals clacking, into a crowded hall decorated with calligraphy-festooned hangings. Another twenty or so kimono-clad girls, slender as reeds, stand at different stalls. Alice and her mother walk to a stall where girls are demonstrating origami. The table is loaded with paper swans, cranes, roses and lilies.

‘Aren’t they beautiful mum?’

‘I suppose so,’ her mother says, glancing at them before fussing with her cardigan buttons.

They browse the raffle gifts; a red lacquered address book, floral notecards, ornate square boxes with chopsticks inside. Alice buys a ticket and then they sit down at the refreshments table. Dishes of rice crackers, spicy peanuts and shiny, bean-paste sweets sit next to steaming flasks of green and black tea. An astonishingly beautiful girl with a glossy bob presents them with handle-less, porcelain cups. Eventually her mother speaks.

‘I suppose it’s this sort of thing you’re after?’ she says.

‘I’m going to Beijing mum, not Japan.’

‘I need you – here. I’m a widow, in case you’ve forgotten.’

‘That’s not fair. It’s hard for both of us. You have so many friends. And it’s been three years now, you need to be more independent. Anyway, I’m only teaching for a year.’ Alice says nothing of all the possibilities floating like lights in the back of her mind.

Her mother wipes her eyes with a hankie. Alice grabs her hand.

‘Don’t cry mum. Let’s enjoy today.’

Two Japanese girls place two chairs and a large, upside-down cardboard box in the middle of the room. They draw two yellow stars at opposite sides of the box and a red circle in the middle. They place two paper Sumo wrestlers – vertical folds down their middles for stability – onto the circle.

‘We will try?’ one girl says to Alice.

The girl gently smacks the stars with her open palms. Alice copies her and their combined force makes the paper figures softly bounce.. People gather round, saying “ooh” as the wrestlers advance towards the circle’s edge. Alice slaps harder and her opponent’s figure falls outside the ring and the audience clap and cheer. Grinning, she looks at her mother, expecting a smile. Instead her mother sits motionless, clutching her handbag. Alice walks over to her and hugs her.

‘I’m starving mum. Let’s grab lunch.’ They walk to the exit where girls hand them bags of tiny sugar flowers tied with ribbons.

‘I’ve booked my Christmas flight you know,’ Alice says. It’s only a white lie; she will buy the ticket – soon.

‘What do you fancy mum? Chinese?’

Her mother smiles, at last, and links arms. Alice decides to believe that their fight is over.

 

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