by Emma Naismith
The following piece is the flash fiction winner of F(r)iction’s Spring 2018 Literary Contest.
We share the venison steak around the time the scar turns from pink to white. Red in the middle, cuts like butter, tastes like iron and salt.
Its head and antlers watch over us from above David’s bed. The floodlight of his bus turned the deer monochrome on the road. White tail, black face, white antlers, black hooves, white snow, black eyes. Under a halo of its own steam.
It blinked as I walked down the aisle, hand over hand on the cold bus railing until I leaned forward and touched David’s arm. And then jumped back at the warm blood. Then brushed fur and glass from his woollen company jacket.
David blames the mesmerising effect of the headlights on the trees. Sweeping through the forest as he threaded the bus around the road’s crinkly turns. Picking out lichen and bark on the skinny white birch, silvering pine and juniper. Catching crystals of ice clinging to the tarmac like iron filings on a magnet. He never had time to stop.
He wants it to live on.
I touch his scar. Read him like Braille. Later, when he is sleeping, I am sure the deer’s eyes are moist in the moonlight.
When the scar is just a translucent streak on his forehead, he has to leave. Works seasons offshore. Promises me he’ll be back next winter.
The first soft bump appears just above Ebba’s hairline when she is fourteen. It takes six weeks for the right one to swell up. I stroke the velvety knurls as we snuggle on the sofa watching Saturday night television.
At sixteen, they protrude six mossy inches. She won’t let me touch them anymore.
But I am happy he lives on.
Emma Naismith is a Scot living in Sweden. She writes stories from a red house on the edge of a forest north of Stockholm. Some of them have been published in The Island Review, Dactyl, Valve, and one was long listed for the BBC’s Radio 4’s Opening Lines. She also translates and volunteers with Berättarministeriet—an organization promoting creative writing for school groups and integration.