Codes to Live By by Jude Higgins

We’re communicating in semaphore now. Out on the lake with our red and yellow flags in separate little row boats. It takes most of the morning to spell out everything.

I suggest we vary things with morse code, but you interpret my message as ‘varying things with  Norse Odes’. Why you think poems about the Norse gods will help, I don’t know. Nevertheless, we may have summoned up Thor,  because it thunders and we return home  to avoid being struck by lightning.

After the storm goes, we stand at opposite sides of the garden and get out our flags again. You sign to me that folk isolated in faraway mountains learned to communicate by whistling urgent news  across great distances. I sign back to remind you I can’t whistle.  I suck in air instead of blowing it out. Also I have no head for heights. If you want to live in the mountains, you can go it alone.

You drop everything and rush out in a huff. I tow our rowboats to a nearby hill and make a bonfire, but I only know the smoke signal for ‘Help.’  Then I have to fend off a party of Boy Scouts who run up the hill to rescue me. They’re disappointed when they discover there’s nothing wrong.

The boy scouts eat their sandwiches when the sun comes out and one of them spots the steady wink of a mirror in the distance. ‘I love you’  he translates, blushing through his pimples. He’s not old enough to have uttered those words out loud before. The other boys giggle and say it must be the girl at school he fancies, messaging him. He turns bright red.  I remember when I used to blush and  giggle. So long ago.

I drive home. You’ve bought flowers. We talk.


Jude Higgins is a writer, tutor and writing events organiser. She has been published widely in literary magazines and anthologies. Her chapbook The Chemist’s House was published by V.Press in 2017. She runs Bath Flash Fiction Award and directs the indie press Ad Hoc Fiction and Flash Fiction Festivals, UK. judehiggins.com. @judehwriter

Photograph by Ankit Sinha