7.06 / June 2012


listen to this story

I was born a mother of three children on an island in the north. Every day I put one on my back and two in their stroller and went out to the coffee shop. I felt our bodies move forward; we lifted our faces and breathed cold air as the wheels turned under our weight. She was beautiful and stoic in her white hat with her babies all around her. We never mentioned that we watched her through the window glass, the absence in her wake; a silence grew and then our eyes drifted back to our books. No one had known her in that country as a child; no one knew her history, her parentage; had watched her skin her knees, be gathered by friends in packs, grow wiser with age. One day she emerged, taller than anyone had imagined, from her whitewashed house with blue shutters, her babies in her arms. They were all small then, light enough to carry at once, their mitted feet dangling loose by her thighs. “You never learned to be all right,” he said, “to see the separations between yourself and others.” Like me, he meant, as he had experienced her contiguity, her children she never let out of her sight, him who she followed and touched too until he needed to be just himself. Every day, the sun sent its first light over her doorstep, the door opened, the stroller appeared, children nestled in bright blankets, the handlebar gripped in her hands, the straps of the backpack crossed over her chest, the baby’s head crowned above hers, the blue door closed and locked with her gold key, along the shell path and onto the sidewalk, past one, two, three houses to the corner, past the hat shop, the cycle shop, the B&B, the new book shop, the used book shop, the outdoor clothing shop, the art shop and now the fur shop, waiting to cross the street altogether. We admire the whole arrangement. The whites and blacks and grays go by in shapes and we come near and then closer and then we are there.

J.R. Fenn writes to the screams of seagulls in southwest England, where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Plymouth University. Her work has appeared in The Other Room, Short, Fast, and Deadly, and Neon.
7.06 / June 2012