Two Stories

Martha Lane

This is a story about making popcorn

I had a silicone contraption for the microwave. But it, or the machine, bust. A kilo of kernels mocks me for surrendering to whiny cries at the shop. He wanted pop-pop, he wanted pop-pop, he wanted, he wanted.

He wants.

I want to stop making it in a pan, bopping belligerent fingers away.

‘Hot,’ I snap.

The golden pebbles burst, bright white clouds. Cumulus climbing, rising. Rolling.

The boy’s hunger is climbing. Howls rising, he’s rolling.

I consider burning his precious treat.

But I want peace.

I offer him the bowl, a ceasefire.

‘Pop-pop drop.’

It’s seconds before white clouds clutter a linoleum sky.

Birds? Here, sir. Bees? Here.

Abigail’s tooth came out in the night. She’d spent all morning waggling her slimy pink tongue through the gap. Showing anyone who couldn’t think of an excuse to get away fast enough. Moving up and down the queue like a flamingo, parading. The teacher blows his whistle, and we bustle into the classroom. Fold ourselves into the seats. Human origami.

Abigail stays standing, thrusts her gums in the teacher’s face.

“Have you been kissing boys, Abigail?”

She flushes. Her giggles ripple through the room. I concentrate on my shoes, look at where I’ve picked the stitching away, so only a shadow flower remains. Elbows dig and lips smack until the teacher calls for quiet.

Abigail flutters to her seat. Even toothless, she is very pretty. In the corner of my workbook a swarm of bees appear, stings glinting. I try not to think about Abigail kissing boys as I dig my pencil deep into the paper, wondering how hard I’ll have to push to make it crumble into dust.

Martha Lane writes in short bursts between wrangling two small children. They are an inspiration and hinderance in equal measure. Her flash has been published by perhappened mag, Bandit and Reflex Fiction, among others. She’s incredibly bored of lockdown. She tweets (@poor_and_clean).