Angela Readman for National Flash Fiction Day

 

 

 

So, You Think Your Mother is a Gorgon?

You suspect it when she looks at you and you freeze, unable to apologise, or leave. The words you could say are stones in your mouth, falling down your throat.

Observe her carefully to know for sure. Certainty can take years. Does your mother stare outside, look at the floor when the postman arrives? She answers the door in a bathrobe, hood pulled low. When’s the last time she met your eye? There’s a chance she’s afraid.

Consider the bathroom drawer, rattling with lipstick, powder, foundations. She stares into the mirror for so long some nights when she pulls away she looks surprised that she can. Does she lack the ability to leave the house without putting on her face, plastering it on? Has she been known to say, ‘Wearing sunglasses saves lives?’

There’s a chance she’s a gorgon. Look at how she moves, slowly, dragging herself off the couch, slanket stapled to the hip. Think about it, how often have you seen her legs bare? When’s the last time she danced? Count her shoes, pair after pair, bought, left in the box in the wardrobe, waiting to go some place nice. For some, some place nice never comes. There’s a reason she’s never had a pedicure. Are you sure of her feet?

Look at your father, when did you last see him shift? Does your mother dust around him, posted in front of the TV? Watch the way she sidles up to his cool open palm, curls hers into his like a sock rolled into a ball, and slinks off. Have you ever seen him slap her behind? Grab her, suddenly, kiss her for no reason, waltz in B&Q? Does he resemble a garden gnome?

There has to be a reason for so many concrete statues in her small garden: hedgehogs, spaniels, ducks, turtles, and so many boys. Notice how she lingers, watering the lawn, strokes the chests of stone men, a finger groove worn over their still hearts. Look away as she peels moss off speechless lips, tender as uncovering a kiss lost in thought.

This can happen to the best of us, don’t judge. There’s a chance your mother’s in recovery, know the signs. Has she suddenly,quit her landscape features business? Ditched her snakeskin crafts Etsy store? There are always curlers in her hair, always. Study her hands, the scales falling like rain, bites on her fingertips healing a little each day.

Look at her Things To Do List stuck the fridge 1) Try not to be a gorgon today. Observe the tattoo on her wrist of the face of her youth, the red bar across it like a No Smoking Sign. She stares at it, rips up old photographs and says: That’s not who I am now.

It is a battle keep gorganism bay, learn the signs, let her invite the guy from the reptile store over for dinner, struggle to understand his jokes. She is learning to laugh likes someone with instructions. The candle is lit on the table, spits. She listens to the soft hiss, fidgets with the wax.

You will find her in the kitchen clearing the plates, alone, clumps of spaghetti in her hand, fingers swirling, swirling the lengths. Tell her you understand.

 

 

 

Angela Readman‘s stories have been winners of The National Flash Fiction Day Competition and The Costa Short Story Award. Her debut collection, Don’t Try This at Home was recently published by And Other Stories. It won a Saboteur Award in 2015.

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