The Writers Bureau Short Story Competition 2019
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Runner-up of the Flash Fiction Competition 2019

Ruth Irons

3rd Prize

Ruth Clarke-Irons

Ruth is an actor-musician and stay-at-home mum who has recently turned to writing as a creative outlet. She is new to the writing competition scene but is very much enjoying penning short stories. Ruth lives in Kingston-Upon-Thames with her husband and two daughters.


Where You Are Sleeping

What dead woman needs a bouquet of flowers every day? Carnations, roses, lavender, lilies, daffodils (his favourite), chrysanthemums. All from our garden at least, so it’s not that it’s a waste of money. Just a waste. Of what? Time I suppose. Effort. Not to mention flowers. I know he’s grieving, but what would his mother say about it? ‘Buck up, love.’ I can still hear that soft Yorkshire lilt. We didn’t always see eye to eye but I did enjoy her turn of phrase. And in this instance I would agree. Buck up.

The pathway slopes gently up from the carpark, but it’s deceptive – takes the puff out of you. By the time you get to the graves you need to lean on Mary Fortescue 1864-1921 to get your breath back.

Chris is taking it the hardest. Amy and Lauren seem to have coped well. Expected it, come to terms with it. But Chris had been in denial all through the illness. I keep trying to talk to him but he won’t hear it. There’s never really a good time either. He's been keeping himself so busy since the funeral. He’s found a couple of new hobbies. Collecting vinyl records I can understand. He’s always loved music (mainly classical, especially Rachmaninov). Soap carving. Now that one came out of the blue. Although we did visit that little shop in Dorking and he was fascinated so perhaps I should have seen it coming. But between the records and the soap there doesn’t seem to be time to really try and get through to him. I don’t want to taint his new pursuits in any way – poison the very medicine that’s healing him. Or at least the balm that’s soothing him. So now here we are again. Him laying flowers (peonies today), fiddling conscientiously with the stems, his mind in another place. Me watching and sighing. His mother used to run her thumb over his cheek like he was a child and call him ‘dolly daydream.’ They were close. I get it.

I gently suggested cremation then scattering the ashes might be best, but his mother had never agreed with cremation. Made her ‘feel funny.’ And of course those sorts of things stick when you hear them your whole life. So here we are again. At the grave.

There’s a poem I once read (by Pablo something) about someone dying: My feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but I shall go on living. There’s no telling him though. Wears his heart on his sleeve and always has. And we were married forty-three years so it’s not that I want him to forget me. Just... go on living.



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