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"Mags is standing by the sink, looking out of the window. There's a cloud in the shape of a boat over there. Above the gasometer. And three little ones like monkey's heads with sticking out ears...."

the box
fiction by vanessa gebbie


Mags is sitting in her kitchenette, twenty three floors up. The window's locked. Has been since Bobby could walk. She'd like to open the window, now, but she's lost the key. Thinks it's probably in the toy box but she won't look there. Not now.

Bobby's in the kitchenette with her. Only he's in a white box on the table, where the bloke in the black suit put him. Two blokes carried him up all those stairs. Mags wondered if she ought to give them a tip.

“Where'd you want him?” one bloke said, backing into the flat. He smelled of cigarettes. Mags hoped that he didn't smoke near Bobby. Sets off the asthma.

She'd said, “In the kitchen, please,” like she said to anyone who delivered anything. Then she thought it was wrong to have Bobby on the table because the blue Formica top is chipped. But she didn't like to ask. And the bloke said, “Can I use the loo, love?” and she hadn't wanted anyone to use the loo.

“The lift isn't working,” he said, like it explained it.

“Never does,” Mags said.

Mags is standing by the sink, looking out of the window. There's a cloud in the shape of a boat over there. Above the gasometer. And three little ones like monkey's heads with sticking out ears. She didn't even wipe the table.

It's hot today. The horizon is blurry, even the high-rises four miles away, wavering like they are made of jelly. Mags doesn't want to turn round.

She cleared the living room earlier, found some building bricks stuffed down the settee cushions. Put them in a black bin bag. She wonders if Pete will come to the funeral. He's sent flowers, the bloke said. White crysanths spelling out SON in big letters. It was too big to bring up, so they've kept it down in the works, whatever it's called. Mags hasn't decided what flowers to put from her, yet. Maybe just a few roses?

Mags watches the boat-cloud. If she was on that, looking back, and if the flats weren't made of stone, and if she could make them melt away into a skeleton, Bobby would be floating miles up in the air in a sort of white spider's web of steel girders. And if you took the steel girders away, Bobby would be floating miles up in his white box. She wonders if he's hungry.

(illustration: john richen)


Vanessa Gebbie is a journalist who writes short and very short and extremely short fiction. Published in numerous magazines, success in the odd competition. She teaches writing as therapy in a drugs rehab.

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©2007 Vanessa Gebbie • Smokebox
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