Short Fiction ~ Rachel J Fenton
(Honourable Mention, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition -6)
My neighbour waits for her husband by the tree at the end of their drive. They have no car. She has parked herself there. My neighbour is about seventy, is making art out of stillness, but has a level of fitness I am enviable of in my thirties. My neighbour’s husband is maybe a decade older than her, has a physical inability to look anywhere other than at the leaves she is pointing to.
The tree is the same as those growing in their other neighbour’s property, on their left; there’s no other living thing in my neighbour’s back yard. Mine, on the other hand, is a right meadow of wildflowers: scarlet pimpernel, herb Robert, daisies, black medic, birdsfoot trefoil, vetch, and purple clover, like dropped candies in the overgrown grass, though I don’t need to know their names to know they don’t belong here, were brought over with people like me then left to grow wild. I like the vetch with its curling tendrils like beautiful miniature stairwells. I notice beautiful differences in all the leaves. But I have no trees.
My neighbour’s husband is almost at the end of their drive. My neighbour is still pointing to the leaves and is now shouting. Her husband shakes his head, turns, and walks back to the house. When he has gone inside, my neighbour takes hold of the tree and shakes it, shakes, shakes, shakes it with all her might, then assumes a calm pose. Her husband returns a minute later, wearing a hat. The hat has ear flaps, thick and fleecy, that remind me of my ex-husband’s dog. My ex-dog. No one who happened upon this scene would believe my neighbour is capable of hating a tree, except me.
My neighbour points to the leaves now all over the drive. Her husband nods and walks on. My neighbour bends, picks up the leaves one by one, walks to the fence separating our properties and drops them on my side.
Rachel J Fenton is a working-class writer from the north of England, now living in Aotearoa New Zealand. She won the University of Plymouth Short Fiction Competition, came second in the Dundee International Book Prize, has been shortlisted for the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and was recently nominated for the Best Small Fictions Anthology.