The Family Way

by HRM on October 17, 2011

Flash fiction by Lacey Haynes
Photo by L. Alexandra Kappel

Photo by L. Alexandra Kappel

It was worse than they both thought. Their matching vests, ruined. The flood had licked through the carefully stacked cardboard boxes. Their cellar now filled with water coloured by the things it had destroyed. All of Nana’s tiger portraits done in meticulous needle-point stood bloated, colour-bleeding. Brown bear, a single eyed teddy found on the property decades ago, drowned and limp.

Having lived in that house together for fifty odd years, the twins had seen their share of weather. But even the ice storm of ’79, fallen power lines having decapitated baby Jesus in the manger out front (the little head found later in the gummy mouth of the neighbourhood mutt) couldn’t compete. This weather was different because it had moved inside. It veined its way into their foundation, seeped straight through like ghost does a wall. And now – lord help them – the vests were ruined. Their His and Hers patchwork vests that Mumsy had made when she became fascinated by deconstruction. She had never had an interest in anything before, but for about seven weeks in ’63 she tore clothing apart and reassembled it. Leather patches scattered about their home, their lives existing under a layer of skin. Shortly after Daddy had left for the ground she became obsessed: first his old jackets and leather riders, then pieces from Goodwill. Anything made of tanned skin, she would cut and stitch and try to make new again.

Now the vests hung like swollen animal tongues from a soggy brown box. This was the last straw. The twins had seen their share of troubles: their messy history started in this very house one hundred years ago. Mumsy and Daddy both born under this very roof. Now ankle deep in murky flood water, the eldest pulled each vest gingerly from its sloppy grave. Dripping with colour and stretching grotesquely, the vests became beastly, but neither hesitated to pull the sleeveless treasures on over their house clothes. Mumsy had made them big, so they’d always fit. Fit right until the end.

Hanging from the beams above were two ropes, just like before. Daddy first, then Mumsy a few years later. The twins smiled tight encouragements to one another. The youngest, she smiled at brown bear too, as he floated face down in the flood water. They each stepped onto their own chairs, their bodies heavy in the skins of animals who had come and gone before. The ropes were thick and prickly on their His and Hers necks. When each stepped forward it was an echo, but with no little ones to pack away the bones this time. Their feet first churned lazily, kicking up colours and memories in the stagnant water, before finally coming to rest in the family way.

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