A skein distrupted

A Skein Disrupted by

When a goose is injured or sick and needs to leave the skein; the V, like outstretched arms reaching across the sky, another two accompany it. It’s evolution, something hardwired. A way to ensure no goose is ever left alone.

If two, not three, return, the flock honk in mourning.

As children, hand in hand, Katie and I would pick out the smaller moorhens and ducks. Give our share of stale bread to them. Meanwhile, Mum would coo at the geese with their long silky necks, bulging with our uneaten crusts, their beaks full of ridges and menace. Wingspans as wide as we were tall.

‘They’re social creatures. Smart too. You know they use stars as a map? To guide themselves home.’ She told us stories of Canada and her own migration. Of snow geese and winters we couldn’t even try to imagine.

Katie would shriek. Sometimes because a peck veered too close. Sometimes at the idea of snow drifts and days so dark they were indistinct from the night.

But that was a lifetime ago. Geese can live to twenty-four, but most don’t.


Mum squeezes my hand, skin soft as feathers. Her face cracked eggshell. Her black coat a dowdy plumage. We’re nestled in the crowd, a gaggle of guests clucking around us. I stare at the cemetery gates, desperate to take flight. I look at Mum, know I can’t leave her.

Inside my pocket, I play with a bobble. Taken on that last day in the hospital, slid gently out of limp hair where it pulled too tight, looked so uncomfortable. I curl the thin elastic round my fingers, twisting until it imprints. Leaving my skin full of canyons. I look anywhere but down.

Anywhere but Katie’s final roost.





Martha Lane is a writer by the sea. Her work has appeared in Perhappened Mag, Northern Gravy, Free Flash Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, and Reflex Press among others. Balancing too many projects is her natural state. 



Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash




Read more work by Martha Lane in the Free Flash Fiction Library


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