The Widow's Tale - A new short story

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The Widow's Tale - A new short story

Postby tomandlu » Mon Mar 14, 2016 6:48 am UTC

I finished a short story over the weekend - a sort of fairy tale I suppose.

If you're interested, there's a pdf at, and here are the first few paragraphs:

The Widow’s Tale

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” ~ Corinthians 13.1

I hadn’t noticed him at the funeral, or at the house afterwards, but others had. ‘Skulking around,’ was how one of the twins had described him, although now of course she doesn’t remember him at all.

His absence from my recollection of that day is not, I suppose, that surprising. I had been in the front row in the church, counting the broken panes in the stained glass and watching a minute spider make its way across a prayer book. Anything but look at my daughter’s coffin.

I doubt he’d have stepped inside a church anyway. Not welcome. I know he was there for the burial because of the adders’ teeth, but I never saw him, peculiar as he was – a bone-thin crow with a bone-white face in a ragged black coat. Perhaps he was like a shadow without an owner, insignificant until noticed, but after that you wouldn’t dare look away.

So, the service, the graveyard, a clod of wet earth on a trowel handed to me like a gift, the heavy clump as it fell onto the dark wood, and then the walk back along the lanes to the house, eyes straight ahead as I passed the silly little shrine that had sprung up outside it – damp messages and dead flowers and a teddy bear that wasn’t even hers – and then inside to take the cling-film off the sandwiches and open the wine. The rest of that afternoon I can only remember in fragments. I remember watching my daughters move amongst the guests, tearful and poised and theatrically solemn. I remember a motorbike going past and everyone shuffling nervously and either falling silent or talking too much, too loudly. I remember looking at the photograph of my husband on the mantelpiece and thinking “well, this is just getting silly,” just to see what a joke tasted like, and remembered something from the bible about a mouthful of ashes. I remember people trying to say the right thing to me, and saying the wrong thing because what else was there?

“We’re going to ask the council to put up a sign.”

“A sign?” For a moment I thought she meant a memorial.

“About speeding.”

“But he wasn’t speeding,” I said, more confused than anything. “I wish he had been.” Now it was her turn to look confused. “Then he wouldn’t have hit her,” I added, worried that she’d misunderstood me. “The timing would have been all wrong.”

She looked a bit thrown by this, and decided to change the subject. “It must be nice to think she’s so close,” she said nervously. “You’re very lucky.” Then she clasped her hands to her face, and I wondered for a moment if I’d hit her. I didn’t think so. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered, and I tried to laugh to show that it really didn’t matter, and I remember something breaking inside me, a cog, a spring, something slipping loose, and I needed my daughter to be alive so badly, I needed to smell her and hear her and shout at her for taking her sisters’ clothes and makeup, and none of those things would ever happen again, and I couldn’t see how it was possible to bear it for a moment longer or why I would want to.
How can I think my way out of the problem when the problem is the way I think?

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