Competition Six Shortlisted: Palimpsest by

Everything is fading, fast. The sunlight is weak and doesn’t quite reach the back of the room; instead, it gathers near the window and around the dining table – a square of rich, deep russet wood, so frequently polished over the years that it’s almost possible to see shallow dips like well-scrubbed steps where each person sat and ate, or worked, did homework, drank tea. It’s almost possible to see those people too, in this empty room, though she can picture them perfectly, each in place.


Her son and her daughter – now grown, with both tables and children of their own – blossom through the years in her thoughts; a collage of their favourite meals through the years. Her husband, gone ahead, she pictured lovingly. She had cooked to fill them all with more than merely food.


So many of her hours had been spent standing in the kitchen. She would never again flip through the recipes in her head or in her books. It had been a chore, and a puzzle, and a delight.


The table is a palimpsest of daily life: erased and rewritten daily, and now finished with forever. She doesn’t mind that neither of her children had wanted it – it wasn’t the wood and nails and varnish that had ever been important.


She would love to pass her hands over that table again, but touch is not a thing possible in her current state. She senses that things are ending, as the light retreats back to wherever light comes from, and thoughts begin to fade – of all those meals she had cooked, all that time spent together – all those hours collapse down into each other, so that any one in that stream of memories could be now, or then, or any other time.



Fiona McKay lives and writes beside the sea in Dublin, Ireland. She started writing Flash fiction this year and is also querying a novel. Words in various places, now or soon, including: FlashFlood Journal, Sledgehammer Lit, Tl;dr Anthology, Reflex Fiction, Retreat West, Cranked Anvil Anthology, Janus Literary, EllipsisZine, Scrawl Place. 

Tweets at @fionaemckayryan


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 



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