A work of flash fiction where nature’s delights transport a disheartened soul to a sanctuary of content….
by: Dan Keeble
Young Joe strolled past the mirror shop on the corner and thought about what to say when she opened the door. What do nervous people say when they turn up desperate and without warning again? He was overthinking, as always. But that’s what Aquarians do.
“Oh,” Joe’s aunt managed through pinched cheeks.
Joe settled for the usual. “I’ve come to see you, Aunt Doll.”
She sighed. “Well, you’d better come in then.”
Even a lukewarm welcome was preferable to life at home. They climbed the over-polished stairs to their half of the terraced house.
“How’s your mum?” she asked. The usual question brought the usual response.
As if Joe would clean and say otherwise: Well Aunt Doll, actually she was in tears again last night after spending four hours screaming at my dad until she collapsed exhausted into a chair after getting no response from him. Then, when she recovered, she used every swear word she could think of to describe him to us. When she became hysterical and got her words muddled, I laughed and she knocked me off my chair with a hand across the back of my head. Would you like to see the bruise and bump behind my ear where her wedding ring caught me?
It was safer to stick with the usual.
Before they reached the top, Joe heard a familiar sizzle, gross but comforting.
“Did you spit on the range again, you dirty sod Bill?” Sod was her limit of coarse acceptability when keeping up appearances.
“Joe’s come to see you.”
“Hello Uncle Bill.”
“Get the boy a biscuit, Doll.”
Joe sat opposite Uncle Bill on the other side of a well-blackened range. “She’s a miserable cow, Joe. I love winding her up. How’s your mum?”
“She’s okay. Can we see the budgies, Uncle Bill?”
They sat in the warm sunlight at the top of the wide, grey weather-worn steps that led down to the garden. At the end stood a full-width cedar-clad aviary. Claws of a dozen budgerigars clung to chicken wire, displaying green and blue plumages.
Uncle Bill rolled tobacco. Joe sipped his tea and dunked his chocolate digestive, another thing taught him to annoy Aunt Doll.
Sitting at the top of the steps, and listening to Uncle Bill’s soothing resonant timbre, Joe was transported to a sanctuary of contentment. The budgies chirped and flapped from perch to perch. A cockerel crowed somewhere nearby. Joe sat in euphoric silence overlooking normal neighbourhood gardens. Grown-ups chatted across fences. Children laughed and squealed. The smell of grilled bacon, mixed with the music of Family Favourites, rising from many homes filling him with joy. There was nowhere else on earth that he would rather be. Despite what he hoped for and imagined, adopting him would never happen. Uncle Bill and Aunt Doll were aware of his terrible home life, yet there was nothing they were likely to do to change it. In a strange way, he was resigned to accept their haven as the next best thing.
Joe put a finger through the wire mesh of the aviary and let the budgies nibble at it. He marvelled at how so many creatures huddled together could live in such relative peace.
Dan Keeble hails from the furthest point East in the UK, and has enjoyed many successes with online and print publications of poetry, short stories, humour, and more serious articles. He has appeared in Fiction on the Web, Everyday Fiction, Turnpike Magazine, Scribble, Flash Fiction Magazine, Agape Review, and many others on a long journey to a stubby pencil.