Not long after we agreed to separate and you’d already packed up half your things, we found ourselves stuck because of the lockdown. Remember that? Remember how the wind howled for two days straight and blew all the walnuts from the trees? How we heard them pelting the fence, pummeling the lawn, cracking on the deck? How we spent the better part of a whole day collecting the stone fruit from the wet lawn and autumn leaves? It took so much longer than we expected. But what else did we have to do?
Secretly, I reveled in the time outdoors, the time to achieve something, the time to do something in concert with you. It felt so different from being cooped up inside where all we seemed to do was sigh and move into separate rooms.
So there we were, the two of us stooped over, sweeping the yard like spoonbills sweep the estuary. Back and forth, filling our hands before filling our buckets. And while our backs were killing us, our hands got a sort of massage from the wrinkled shells swirling in our palms.
After we’d picked them all up, we sat on the deck and each held a couple, moved them around like Chinese medicine balls. Feeling familiar and warm. The rhythm comforting. And we saw each other again. I mean, we really saw each other. For the first time in months. Like when we were young and we could look into each other’s eyes forever without saying a word.
Then you grabbed the mallet and smashed one. Broke the spell. Offered me half.
first appeared in Flash Frontier, June 2020. Short-listed for the NZ National Flash Fiction Day competition 2020 and selected as a spotlight story in the Best Small Fictions Anthology 2021.