The Truth about Men
The power cuts out. Ma lights some candles off the gas ring and slams chips into the oven. I’m so disappointed the nurse outfit I got for my birthday split its sides, I’ve been wearing the hat for a week.
The radio crackles. Just before it dies, it says the body of a 22-year-old nurse was discovered in Leeds. Ma flicks the hat off my head and pours stout.
‘I need to tell you the truth about men,’ she says. The hat doesn’t resemble a paper boat on the blue lino.
Our faces hang in the night window like plates.
The shop empties when the woman comes in. Her daughter’s killer’s in jail, but she isn’t. Today, she carries a petition to stop prisoners having televisions.
I have a shopping list and instructions from Ma to not come back without bacon, but the butcher’s distracted. Trying not to look at the woman who wants to leave her petition on his counter.
‘I’m sorry, I can’t,’ he says. When the Missing poster was up, sales went down by 29%.
‘But look.’ She waves a picture of her daughter. Not in uniform, but at six, cycling towards the looks on our faces.
The apprentice ushers me aside in Boots, explaining he can’t develop all the photos because of decency. I wonder if he means the one where I’m joking around, flashing my Wonderbra, but his voice is a churchyard.
One picture included a murder victim’s gravestone in the background.
‘Out of respect, we don’t…’ he says. We don’t mention her name, but I give him my number.
We drive to a country pub, oily yellow flowers flying by. I once got a test question wrong rather than write ‘rape fields.’ I think of this and place one hand on his bony knee.
Angela Readman’s stories have won The Costa Short Story Award, The Mslexia Competition and The Anton Chekov Award for short fiction. Her collection, Don’t Try This at Home was shortlisted for The Edge Hill, and won The Rubery Book Award. Her novel Something like Breathing was released in January 2019. She also writes poetry, her latest collection The Book of Tides is out with Nine Arches.
Steven John, Features Editor