The mole traps haven’t sprung. The wishbone handles of grey metal stick up from the ground like tuning forks. If I’d caught, the handles would be angled wide apart – V for victory, or fuck off, depending which way you look. I seldom trap one, but it makes me look busy.
Another Sunday, another Sunday roast. A ceremonial carve up. Do you take these legs and breasts as your lawfully stuffed lunch? Soon she’ll start banging the saucepans on the hob and peeling vegetables. The needle will start after breakfast. Could be anything. How long to cook the meat is our Sunday family favourite. Last week I did the cooking.
“It’s running with blood,” she said and didn’t touch it.
We used to yell but it skidded out of control. Rattled the kids. A bit of pushing that’s all, a slammed door, a smashed plate.
Yesterday she said, “Don’t roll your eyes at me. You’re beginning to look like your father.”
I said, “Control your temper. You’re beginning to sound like your mother.”
My father’s got his anxiety. Her mother’s dead.
To find the mole runs I prod the grass with a screwdriver then dig round holes into them with a trowel. I set the traps on a hair-trigger and lower them in. Lay on a lid of turf, plug the gaps with dead leaves to stop daylight or draughts. The moles sense both. Noses like radar dishes.
“Mum says lunch is ready. Can you come and cut the meat.” Our youngest enjoys running errands for his mother. I follow him as he runs back up the path from the toolshed.
Chicken’s on the table. The sharpening steel, carving knife and fork laid out like an amputation.
“This bird doesn’t smell right,” I say.
“In what way?” she says.
“Smells like shit. Literally like shit. Excrement.” I prize apart its back end and bring out a smear of brown on the knife.
“Smell that,” I say.
“I can smell it from here.” She takes the carving fork from my hand, spears the meat and dumps it in the bin.
“Just roast potatoes and veg today. The chicken is shit,” she says to the kids.
Back outside a trap’s been sprung. I pull the dead animal from the earth, its neck broken, a lick of blood oozes from its mouth. I take the mole to the fence and spike its corpse onto the barbed wire. By morning all trace of it will be gone.
Steven John’s writing has appeared in Riggwelter, Spelk, Fictive Dream, Cabinet of Heed, EllipsisZine, Ghost Parachute and Best Microfiction 2019. He’s won Bath Ad Hoc Fiction a record six times and has been nominated for BIFFY 2019. He lives in The Cotswolds, England. Steven is Fiction & Special Features Editor at www.newflashfictionreview.com @StevenJohnWrite www.stevenjohnwriter.com
Two Indian waiters in snug tuxedos
sit on steps a few doors down from
their deserted restaurant—I just passed it—
sharing a smoke and quiet talk, talk that could
be about the coming end of their run there,
about what other jobs might appear, about
whom they should call or visit:
a strategy session.
Yet so spare and emphatic is their conversation,
its silences inhabited by blue clouds of smoke,
that between their middle-aged declarations
of determination they each may be feeling
an unsparing circle closing in; feeling the
dread approach of the night they fear most:
the night they take their tuxedos off and
never have cause to put them back on—
no more trips to the dry cleaners, no more
updating the bow tie; instead, back to wearing
the loose, patterned shirtsleeves of cab drivers
pulling 12-hour shifts spelled only when parked
to eat curry out of plastic containers from the Bengali deli;
hours logged making drop-offs at trendy, Pan-Asian restaurants
whose young, stylishly dressed doormen—the age of
their own sons?—come right to the cab to open then—
after the fares step out—turn away while
slamming the door.
Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com
If I had a white horse
with a mane you imagine
a horse should have when
riding it into the sheen
of what’s left of the moon
after a storm had taken
to it with electric carving
knives & a boom box
I would then ride into
my father’s building & say
Good boy Outlaw Boxcar
as that’s the kind of name
you give a horse when
you’re making amends
for being a punk instead
of a responsible son
& you take the fire stairs
five at a time the sound
of Boxcar’s iron shoes
on the cement like a tap
dancing competition broad-
cast into a tiled bathroom
& when you dismount
outside your fathers office
& knock like a gentleman
& say Dad it’s me I’m here
to be the son you never had
but wanted the corridor
going on into dark wood
& shadow then your father
is there filling the frame
of the door with a breaking
smile as he offers Boxcar
a palmful of coffee sugar
crystals then rubs his nose
& looks at me like a father
who knows his son has
come not home but into
the world of men You are
welcome here anytime
he says and then as if
an afterthought had set
off a roadside device
in his ear And next time
take the lift it’s big enough
for a clopper with a flame
for a mane and a son
with a horse-sized heart.
Anthony Lawrence has published sixteen books of poems, the most recent being ‘Headwaters’ (Pitt Street Poetry, 2016), which won the 2017 Prime Ministers Award for Poetry. He teaches Writing Poetry and Creative Writing at Griffith university, Queensland, and lives on Moreton Bay.