An artwork in three panels
Practising Flower Arranging on New Year’s Morning, Utagawa Kunisada, 1786-1865
This morning when I walked Jimmy to school, I ruffled his hair and told him he’d end up with a bald head like me. All the men in our family go the same way. He’s got a lovely cheeky face, my boy, and I said even if someday he didn’t have hair, the girls would love him. But they’d hurt him too. Girls always do. The bakery is stifling – I’m cutting three strands of dough to make up the milk loaves and wondering what it would be like to have a daughter with long hair to plait. The wife said, if we ever did, she’d hand over that job to me, because I have the knack. Makes me smile to know I’m good for something.
In Arithmetic, Jimmy Jones sat behind me and yanked my plaits twelve times while we said our tables. I would have set my brother on him at playtime but Miss told us he went home because his dad had died.Wanda Thomas said her mother, who helps in the bakery, told her Mr Jones was plaiting a milk loaf when he had a heart attack and his face fell into the dough.Jimmy didn’t come back to school for a while and when he did, he was too thin and had a bald spot on his head.
Susie was sitting in front of me in class while we recited our tables and I tugged her plaits in time to the counting. Afterwards, she said her brother would get me at playtime. But when I was drinking my milk, the headmaster called me into his study and said Dad had died. He patted my head and told me he was very sorry. His hand felt all wrong. That morning on the way to school, Dad had messed with my hair. I pull it around myself now, exactly like he did, but Mum says I’ve got to stop, it won’t bring him back. When they found him, Dad’s face was covered in dough. I didn’t eat bread for weeks – not until Susie shared her sandwiches with me and squeezed my hand so hard it made me cry.
Jude Higgins is published in Flash Frontier, New Jones Street, The Nottingham Review, The Blue Fifth Review, The New Flash Fiction Review, NFFD anthologies among other places. She has won or been placed in several flash fiction competitions. Her debut flash fiction pamphlet, ‘The Chemist’s House’,was published by V.Press in 2017. She organises Bath Flash Fiction Award and directs Flash Fiction Festivals UK.
Twitter: @judehwriter / Web: judehiggins.com
Features & Fiction Editor – Steven John