Quieter than what?
Quieter than what? Five letters, begins with t.
Quieter than a mouse; it should begin with an m.
But I'm sure that latent is right. Mmm, quieter than. . .?
Quieter than the cold drifting of snowflakes. Quieter than an incompatible couple at the dinner table. Quieter than years of distilled anger and frustration. Five letters is surely not enough, thought Mabel. Her sister Edith had attempted the crossword every Sunday and after fifty years you would think she would have been more able. But Mabel does able, not Edith.
Mabel slowly unwound herself from her chair and held the doorframe to steady herself. With vague surprise she noticed the oily smudges where her fat fingers had pressed this same spot many times in the past months. Why is it that you can look at the same spot for weeks and not see the slow accumulation of personal contact and then one day there it is, a soft greasy smudge.
Turning her back on her sister, Mabel made her way to the kitchen sink to rinse the breakfast things. Plates, teacups and saucers; the pattern of pink cabbage roses was faded but she still loved it. Cutlery. Looking out of the kitchen window she noticed the wilting impatiens. There was still time to water them before the heat totally finished them. Hanging the tea towel behind the door with neat satisfaction, Mabel turned to the laundry and then hesitated. Looking back over her shoulder she waited a moment for her brain to re-engage and reveal to her what she was about to do.
You've forgotten again haven't you.
I have not. I was just thinking what to do for dinner.
Pah. You have no idea, have you.
How's that crossword coming along?
I've had enough for now. I'm off.
Off with the pixies. Off with the fairies. Off over the wall and up the garden path. The garden, that's right. Mabel reached for her straw hat and gardening gloves and lurched down the back steps to deal with the sad impatiens. After a brutal pruning she sprayed the limp stems, flooding the path beneath her feet. With a start, Mabel heard the doorbell ring.
Discarding the still dripping hose, Mabel made her way back up the stairs. She stood in the entrance hall, pulling off her gloves and hat, sighing deeply in annoyance. She recognized the blurred images of her brother's slouch and her niece's eagerness.
Morning. Come in, come in.
Hi Aunty Mabel, Dad and I thought we'd drop in for a cuppa. How have you been?
Fine, just fine, how are you both. I'll put the kettle on.
Thanks. Dad and I were just admiring the roses. That red one is huge, how old would it be now?
I'm not sure love.
I remember, we bought it for you just after Aunty Edith passed on, it must be nearly five years old by now.
Five years? Are you sure it's been that long?
This story was the second place winner of the Magic Casements 2006 Flash Fiction competition. First published in our Infinitas Newsletter, May 2006 .
Copyright © 2006 Kathryn Adams.
This page last updated 16th September 2008.