Harborne High Street

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December 1, 2015 by The Citron Review

by Nod Ghosh

 

My mother’s blood types as B positive, and she lives up to her group. I rub her shoulders ever so gently. I am scared of breaking her fragile body.

I don’t want to leave you, I say. I try not to make my voice small, like a child’s.

Be positive. She smiles as she says it. I hesitate at her bedside. I’ll be up and about before you know it. Her movements are slow and mechanical after surgery. Her hair is matted around the incision point. The bag of fluid on a stand refracts window-light like a jewel.

There’s no need to stay. Go back home your work your children. Be careful on the road.

She holds my hands in her bruised ones. My mother sees major danger on minor roads. I fail to see the arteriole in her head that throbs with the excitement of blood. She warns me, her eyes chameleon-like with concern: It’s dangerous out there. There’s sleet and the rain. Drive carefully.

I tell her to recover quickly, as if she can will the body parts to knit together faster by thinking about it.

We have a plan, I say. Remember you asked me to take you to the second-hand shops on Harborne High Street?

I don’t look back when I leave. I never do. I don’t know if she is smiling or not. Alcohol hand-cleanser, sharp as gin, evaporates without comment.

I plan my next visit to the rhythm of windscreen wipers. Somewhere between an overdue report and next Tuesday, I’ll come again.

I’m putting my youngest to bed when the phone rings. Mother has bled into her brain. She is not expected to live. A thought reverberates as I fill the dishwasher. The second-hand shops on Harborne High Street. It was the last thing I said to her. My fingers knit around the cutlery like hungry snakes. A plate slips and breaks in two. Something nags from within. I should be by her side, but there’s nothing I can do. There’s rain in the air, wine in my veins. I don’t rush back to her ventilated body that night. There’s little point. The blood has already done its damage, her less than positive blood. Tomorrow, I whisper to myself.

The hospital tang hits me like an over-ripe blanket. I meet the others in the relatives’ room. We approach her bedside, a ring of semi-orphaned siblings. I touch the shadow of a tear that seeps from her unseeing eye, and place a second-hand book from Harborne High Street on her bedside.

 

Nod Ghosh graduated from the Hagley Writers’ Institute, New Zealand in 2014. Short stories or poems have been accepted in various NZ and overseas publications. Nod‘s work appears in anthologies Love on the Road 2015 (Liberties Press) and Landmarks (U.K. 2015 National Flash-Fiction Day publication). Further details can be found at http://www.nodghosh.com/

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