Burdening Bond

The large room suddenly seemed so small

reverberating each scrape of the broom’s bristles

that scratch like nails across a chalkboard

 as it brushes over uneven slate tiles.

Yet it escapes, hiding between the cracks

where grit gristles against my shoe’s soles.

Sore hands grip the handle,

 they burn from bleach

that competes with the potency of wet paint

as they battle to cover the sins of the short history shared.

Another room emptied.

Another room cleaned.

Another scene abandoned.

The red walls were the solid witnesses

 of contained dreams,

The keeper of secrets,

The protector again fears

The shield to hide from heartache.

But it was only a basement that kept a soul safe from the world.

Through the tiny window, emerald palms wave beside the glistening pool.

Its calm surface mirrors the cloudless cerulean winter sky.

A pool that was never used.

A pool I used to clean.

A pool I gladly abandon.

Sweat stings my eyes as I lick the glue from my lips, desperate for a drink.

But to stop would mean to linger

Not when time is so near.

It is time to move on

To shift free from this place of old pain.

The sound of approaching footfall bounces off the roof like unseen ghosts.

The wind rattles against the windows whipping feathery fronds without mercy.

A shadow stretches across the open doorway –

 the only exit now blocked.

My legs shake.

My lower belly weakens.

Fear rises like acid at the back of my tongue.

Sweat bubbles across my skin.

The pulse skips in my ears.

The heart pounds against my constricting ribcage.

My hands grip the broom like the lance of a knight about to face the dragon.

But I’m no hero…

I’m just the border who wants my bond back.


(300 words)

Functioning at a Dysfunctional Function

‘Eating meat this year, Jen?’

‘Your sister’s name is Jenny,’ Mum said, wiping palms down her apron, following Dad’s swagger from the kitchen carrying the prize turkey.

Jenny’s fingertips traced the delicate outline of the crocheted threads in Grandma’s lacework spread across the food-laden table. A silent witness to another annual passing parade of corrupt cousins, divorced aunts, and derelict uncles.

 ‘I’ll answer to both, even bitch,’ Jenny said with a grin.

Dad’s exaggerated knife blade to steel swipes stopped. ‘No swearing, young lady.’

‘Talking about age, Jenny, I’m not seeing any grandchildren or husband seated beside you. Not like your brother with his family.’

Jenny side-glanced at her bully brother, the suppressed sister-in-law and their puppet perfect children. Yes, TV lands happy families existed – and they were PC, paper-cut-out, boring. ‘I’ll eat white meat, thanks. Looks great.’

‘You’re always avoiding my question.’

‘Didn’t I answer the food question?’

‘She did,’ said Dad, dishing out slabs of hacked turkey. ‘Still with Charlie?’

Mum’s head swivelled like an owl. ‘Is this the same Charlie you mentioned last year?’

Jenny nodded, forking her food, avoiding eye contact.

‘That’s a year,’ Mum’s said with eyelids narrowing. ‘Do you think Charlie will marry you?’

Another nod. A shrug. ‘We’d like to.’ Shovelling another mouthful.

‘Slow down – don’t you get fed upstate? Or you’re going for the plate clearing record, sis.’

‘Who’s Charlie,’ demanded Mum, ‘and when will we meet him?’

‘You won’t meet him.’ Jenny sipped her water because wine for women was disallowed at her mother’s table.

‘Why not?’

‘Because Charlie’s a female.’ Jenny stood up as cutlery dropped onto everyone else’s plates. She wiped her chin on the napkin, folded it up and grinned. ‘Thanks for dinner, might see ya next year.’ And left them all to digest.