She came out there.
The woman looked at the house.
I saw her from my window. It was dark but there was a big moon and she was wearing her long white nightgown.
–She went into the garage?
-Yes, and the little girl pushed off the ground with her foot, pulling back on the chains, the swing going, the rusted chains squeaking.
The too dark garage, afraid to turn the light on, afraid to wake them, and so she stumbled, even though she knew where it was—exactly where it was, that which she had come for, and would not put off, not anymore.
–Did you see her come out of the garage?
The girl looked, the squeak of the chains slowing.
She looked at the woman. She had something in her hand, but I couldn’t see what it was.
In the dark, she reached the workbench and placed a pitcher of lemonade and ice on it. She bent down and looked beneath the bench, her hand searching, and then finding a dusty, heavy jug. She struggled to lift it and bent over more, using both hands to place it on the bench.
The swing was hardly moving now, just drifting, slowly, back-and-forth, as if there was a big moon up there, that very same moon, and it was dark, and it was quiet, and she was alone and waiting, and she’d say, Momma.
She looked at the woman, at her long hair. Her nice clothes.
She looked at the house.
–I think Daddie’s upset because he was supposed to be watching her.
–Is that what he said?
-No, but I know he was.
-Because he left his job so he could.
–He was a teacher?
-Yes, the only one and he taught us all.
-Who’s the teacher now?
-It’s a lady, but I don’t go, so I don’t know. My daddie teaches me here.
-Yes, mostly, but not every day.
-Was your daddie sleeping when your momma went outside?
-He didn’t wake up until we heard her fall in the hallway.
-She left the garage?
-Yes, but she was in there for a long time.
Sitting on the high wooden stool, her legs crossed, she sipped her mixed drink of lemonade and antifreeze. And in the dim blue light of the moon slipping through the side door window, she stared into the darkness of new hope, and she began to hum, ‘You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.’ And she hummed on, her foot tapping on, the music in her head—playing on, and she forced down another sip.
-I should get supper going.
-I can give you a hand.
-That’s all right.
-No, I’d like too, if that’s all right?
-Did your daddie talk to you about your momma?
-Not too much. Would you like a cup of tea?
-Yes, please. Thank you.
-You’re welcome. He just said, did I know she died of a broken heart?
-A broken heart?
-Yes, that’s what he said. Because the world made her sad.
-That’s okay. But it wasn’t just the world that made her sad.
-No. She told me why.
-Yes. She said, sometimes she got sad because another world, not this one, another one, would come and settle upon her. But I wasn’t to worry because it would never come for me. She said she just knew, and I would be okay. She promised.
-She said that?
-Do you worry about that?
She looked at the woman: the state-sponsored woman.
She heard her name, but she wasn’t there, she was on her swing.
Under a big moon.
That very same moon.
In the dark, in the quiet, waiting.
That calling. That pulling. The chains squeaking.
About the author: Christian Fennell’s short stories have appeared in a number of literary magazines and collected works, including: Wilderness House Literary Review, Spark: A Creative Anthology, Carnival Magazine, Tincture, Liars’ League London, Liquid Imagination, and Kingston University of London: Words, Pauses, Noises, among others. His short story, ‘Under the Midnight Sun’, was an Eric Hoffer Award, 2015 Best New Writing, finalist. He is currently working on two novels and a collection of short stories. Christian was a columnist and the Fiction Editor at the Prague Revue.
Our literary Editor Katy Darby also is part of Liars’ League, a monthly live fiction event where writers write, actors read, audiences listen and everybody wins. Videos and MP3s can be found at liarsleague.com.
Illustration by Mahsa Dehghani