The End

Competition Six Highly Commended: The End by

It could have happened when I was writing in a ledger or hoovering that sneaky cranny on the stairs but it actually happened just after I had done a diagonal stitch using satin silk.

I had thought you would have needed help with the blister foil, the protection all are afforded at one time. I thought I had another year, maybe two, before the steamy mirror of youth moved to unblur itself.

“It’s not moving, Mummy. Is there something we can do?”

Your voice was unchanged, still as mellifluous as a wind chime. Your face, too perfect to be a pin-cushion for the horrors of this world. I should have been preparing, you had shown signs, like when you completed that paint by numbers for children aged 7-10 years.

I felt flustered and glanced outside to see the sun had face-planted on the ground. Last week you told me pollen never deteriorates and butterflies taste with their feet.

I saw it then in your tremulous hands, a lukewarm bird’s body, simple and clear in its need of comfort. It took me too long to reply because of the carpenter hammering in my head.

It takes 72 muscles to speak one word.

“Can we name him? I would like that.”

I saw understanding dropping, slow and steady like droplets from a dripping faucet.

We buried him together. You didn’t baulk at the dirt beneath your fingernails.

That evening, I watched your hands in the shape of an arrow above the burial mound. The sun was back and it covered you in gold leaf, buffed your back to a shine and bounced over the hedge. I observed as you tilted your face towards the sky, your awareness as round and free-standing as the hay bale I caught you napping against last summer.




Catherine O’Brien is an Irish writer of poems, flash fiction and short stories. She writes bi-lingually in both English and Irish. Her work has appeared in print and online in many fine publications. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature. Her work is forthcoming in Janus Literary, Flash Boulevard, Loft Books and more. You can find her on Twitter @abairrud2021


“Queen of the Hay Bales” by Geoff Livingston is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0



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