by Matthew Roy Davey
a glass of Ribena
None of my friends were out on the green, not Red Emily (with whom I once took a romantic dip in a drip tray that my father had used to collect oil from under the car), not Adopted Paul (whom I prayed every night would be reunited with his mother though mine said he was perfectly happy with his new one), not Stuttering Rick (whose sister we delighted in tormenting by holding the handlebars of her tricycle to stop her moving – how she would scream!) , not even Edward the Biter (who wasn’t even my friend, for obvious reasons).
I sat at the end of the garden path where it joined the path that bordered the green, pushing a couple of Matchbox cars to and fro. There were houses backing on to the open space on all three of the large sides and the fourth was just a gap that opened onto the main road, still a very quiet thoroughfare. A couple of girls cycled up and stopped.
“What are you playing?”
Long hair, long legs, they were much older than me, no stabilisers.
They smiled and leaned over their handlebars.
“Who’s in the cars?”
I leaned over and touched the spokes of one of the bikes, running my fingers up the tense strands of metal.
“You’ll get dirty fingers,” said the girl looking down at me. Her hair hung loose about her freckled face. I intertwined my fingers, pulling slightly, feeling their strength.
“Why do wheels have these?”
“Because. Take your fingers out. You’re going to break them if you pull.”
I looked up and smiled.
“No I won’t.”
I kept yanking at the spokes, harder now so that the wheel started turning towards me. She pulled the handlebars, trying to dislodge my hands so I held on tighter.
“Stop it,” the other girl said softly.
I laughed, thinking they’d laugh too.
The girl reached down and began prizing my fingers off the wires but at soon as she’d got one off and had moved onto another I put the first one back.
“Stop it,” she said, gritting her teeth and, grabbing a fistful of fingers, wrenched them off, bending them back against the hand. The pain shot up my arm and tears came immediately with a wail of shock. They had seemed so nice.
“I’m telling Mummy!”
The girls pushed off, wide eyed and pale, until they had enough momentum when they began to pedal as fast as they could. I raced down the garden path, determined to see justice.
Inside my mother kissed my hand as I hiccupped my story.
“They wanted your fingers out of their wheels, love. If they’d moved their bikes your fingers would have been caught. That would have really hurt.”
I stopped crying for a moment - the realisation that she wasn’t going to fight for me, to tell the girls off, to avenge my pain, far more hurtful than the soreness in my fingers. I took a deep breath and began to cry even louder.
About the author
Matthew was winner of The Observer short story competition 2003 and winner of the Dark Tales competition (August 2013) and has been long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction award (Spring and Autumn 2017), Reflex Flash Fiction competition (Spring 2017) and Retreat West Quarterly Competition (Summer 2018). His story ‘Waving at Trains’ has been translated into Mandarin and Slovenian and been published in anthologies by Vintage and Cambridge University Press. Recently he has been published by Everyday Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Odd Magazine and Flash: The International Short-Story Magazine. He has recently been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
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