KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 6: Fall 2016
Haibun: 683 words


by Claire Everett

Trudging home with half-a-week’s worth of shopping in my rucksack, I’m glad of these hands-free excursions after years of walking at child-speed. The trees may be in flower, but the wind has teeth and they’re on edge. Pockets come into their own now. And trips to town take an hour, rather than three, leaving me time for other, more fulfilling pursuits, like wandering the lanes at a gentler pace, poring over every new flower in the hedgerow as the seasons unfold; peering into nest and burrow, like a toddler in her first year of shoes.

a nestling
breast-up in the gutter...
blossom rain

No reason now not to choose the long-cut over the short, racing a memory over the fields. Lost in thought, for a moment I think the child coming towards me is one of my own until he greets me with a cheery “hello” and I remember where I am, nod and smile (me being a stranger and all), noting that he’s walking with purpose, that his hair is the colour of buttermilk, that his duffel coat is a size too big, and that he’s neither old enough for school, nor to be out alone. I look in both directions, expecting to see a mother in pursuit of the apple of her eye, or a father strolling along waiting for his pride and joy to catch up, but the street is quiet, the houses like a line of foot-tapping grandmothers and maiden aunts, arms folded, lips pursed, saying nothing. I’ve no choice but to follow him for my own peace of mind. I pass an old lady who asks, “Is he with you?” I shake my head, “No, he seems to be on his own, that’s what’s worrying me...” She tut-tuts and I walk on. Ahead of me, the little boy walks on, like a 21st-century gingerbread man, soon to have a gaggle of curious townsfolk following him if I’m not mistaken.

He’s preparing to cross the road. What’s that? He appears to be singing. There’s a blind corner. Maybe I should shout, but my heart’s in my throat. He looks both ways and steps out. I can’t hear any cars. Don’t shout. Let him be. He’s safely on the other side. No sign of a fox either. Time to pick up speed. I’m on his heels just as he stops, stock-still, like a sleepwalker doing his dream’s bidding.

“Hello again,” I say tentatively (me being a stranger and all), “Where are you going?”

“Mummy’s here somewhere,” he murmurs as he scans the street, eyes like drip-filled saucers just about to spill.

And then I ask the fateful question that ends with the “L” word, kicking myself the minute it leaves my lips, because now his are trembling, preparing to let loose the first protracted wail. Stranger or not, I take his hand in mine and muster a “C’mon, off we go to find Mummy!”

We’re headed for the police station when I hear something else through the wailing. There it is again, like a hammering heart. The sound of feet running away with someone. And that someone is a puce-faced young mother with a baby in a stroller and she’s going to bowl right into us if we don’t jump out of the—

“Don’t you ever do that to me again, do you hear me?”

She flings her arms around him, lifting him clean off the ground so that he hangs like a teddy who’s been loved so much and so long his stuffing is all but wrung out. Wailing even louder now, he presses his wet face against hers and she tries to scold him but she has a mouthful of buttermilk hair and then his fingers are at her lips and the don’t-you-evers turn to kisses while the baby in the stroller laughs and squeals.

And now that she’s thanked me, thanked me, thanked me, I’m heading home again, my footsteps a little lighter, if not the pack on my back.

All the time in the world.

day moon
we’re not lost until
we think we are


—Second-Place Winner, KYSO Flash HTP Writing Challenge


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