Tale #54: The Search For Lost Things

A couple lived together for many years, and many things went unspoken of between them. Eventually what was left unsaid was left forgotten.

At first this loss seemed inconsequential to them both and they carried on together as if nothing was any different. In this way even more years passed, and although something between them had changed they could not say what.

One day the thought of it returned, as if a fish had risen out of the murk and broken the serene surface for a much needed gulp of air. It did not surface for long enough to allow them to see its true shape, yet the ripples spread out across the lake of their minds and could not be denied.

The desire to reclaim what had been long forgotten, and longer lost, eventually consumed them. In their frenzied search they tore the house apart. They tore their friends apart, and their family too. They tore apart their past and their future, their happiness, their hope.

And there it was at last, in amongst the rubble and the blood of their shredded hearts. A crystal barb glinting in the firelight. Tiny and fragile. Huge, all encompassing.

One of them looked at it and turned away. He said, “Is that all it was? That tiny sliver of a thing? No wonder we let it go and left it where it lay.

“And now we’ve found it, what good will it do us? What benefit will it bring? We should have left it where it was. And we should bury it now, as deep as we can, and carry on again as if it had never been found.”

But the other kept her eyes upon it and did not look away. Could not look away.

Would not look away.

He saw the tears in her eyes Trying not to see what those tears reflected back at him, he said, “Was it worth it, all this destruction, all this fury and despair? Was it worth it, for something so small, from so long ago?”

“The truth is worth whatever it costs,” she said, and reached down and picked the bones out of the ruins of her old heart.

“But we were happy,” he said.

“Yet all of it was a lie,” she said.

And she put the forgotten things back where they belonged and made herself whole again.



1. Written in June 2016

Tale #53: A Finger For A Favour

There was an old woman who lived in the house that stood, thin and forgotten, between the hospital grounds and the churchyard.

If, between the wedding and the birth, you wished, perhaps, for a girl, or wanted, maybe, a boy, the old woman would grant you this favour, for a price. Place your finger in her mouth, push it between her lips, let it rest on her tongue. Close your eyes, count to three. Wish, wish, wish. And try not to scream, try never to cry.

Be good, she said. Be good, as her dry tongue rasped away the blood, as her red lips kissed the wound better, as the burning wax she dripped from her fingers cauterised it closed. Be good now, my daughter, until the birth, and your favour shall be granted.

And so for three months, for six, for nine long months, you were good, you were good, you were so, so good. But were you good enough? Only your child would show, only you would know.

Later, if, between the morgue and the graveyard, you wanted to secure a place in heaven for some dear departed soul, she would grant you this wish, too, for a price. Always for a price. Place your hand in her mouth, push it between her wide red salivating lips, let it rest on that panting hungry tongue. Close your eyes, count to three. Wish wish, wish. And try not to fall, try never to faint.

Be good, she said. Be good, as the blood ran across her lips and dripped, dripped, dripped, from the bottom of her chin. Be good now, my daughter, and hope.

And so you stand by the graveside, handless, and hopeful. Close your eyes. Hope. Hope. Until death, hope.



1. Written on October 2nd, 2018

Tale #52: The Silk Gloves

There was an old lady who lived in the woods, in a cottage by the river where the wild roses grow, their stems as white as bone.

Inside she would sit at her wheel and spin strands of her hair into silk. And with this silk she would weave gloves, each as thin as a veil and as soft as skin.

From the towns, on the nights before their weddings, young women would come. They made their way, as quiet as they could, by the light of the moon, through the woods and down, down, down, to the cottage by the river where the wild roses grow, their stems as white as bone, their thorns as thick as fingernails.

A knock on the door, and the old lady would say “Come in”. Held out hands offered payment, and the old lady would take her cut.

The gloves the women wore as they made their way back home, and for the rest of their married lives. Their thumbs the old lady planted in her garden by the river where the wild roses grow, the stems as white as bone, the thorns as pale as fingernails, the roses as red as a scream.



1. Written on September 7th, 2017
2. The line “where the wild roses grow” is from Where The Wild Roses Grow, by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue (obviously)

The Tree

The tree was rotten, dying. Sometime in the autumn beetles had nested beneath the bark, and from there an infection had spread that poisoned the sap. It was only with the onset of the spring, when the leaves sprouted brown, and fell dead to the ground in the first wind, that we had any indication of a problem. Of course, by then, it was too late.

The same was true of our marriage, and I left soon after Easter.



1. Written on May 1st, 2019