Short Fiction by J M Jackson
She wasn’t normally out driving on a Sunday morning. Today was an exception. Her week had been long, tiring. Her eldest daughter was in hospital undergoing radiotherapy for alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.
She had been travelling in daily to be with her ten-year-old. Combine this with her status as a single parent and having a two-year-old to look after, she reluctantly admitted to herself that she had become distinctly frayed. In fact, she was not far away from unravelling completely. She tried not to dwell on this.
She eased off the accelerator and began courting the brake pedal while a behemothic lorry hurtled towards her on the other side of the road. She was not worried for herself. She was too tired to worry about herself.
It was the little girl that worried her. The little girl playing on the pavement by the side of the road on her own, the little girl far too young to be left unattended, the little girl blissfully unaware of the colossal damage that a hurtling lorry would exert upon on a fragile human frame.
The woman could not come to terms with the horrific potentiality before her. Was she about to see something that would obliterate her sanity? Or had that already happened? She was tired, her thoughts blurred.
The lorry rumbled past. The child remained unscathed. The woman was relieved and shaking.
She stopped her car, alighted, and asked the child where her parents were. In the house, she replied, pointing back up towards the house nearest to them.
The woman took the girl by the hand and strode toward the front door with the girl in tow.
Door reached. Doorbell rung. Silence endured. Impatience building. Doorbell rung again. Scuffling overheard. Door opened. The mother had been sleeping. The child had escaped. Somehow.
The woman became angry at the young mother. Why would you let your daughter run out to the road, she shouted as if to a petulant child.
Well, how did she get out, the mother replied through a sleepy and baffled fog.
How should I know, retorted the woman. They faced off like a proud mother hen and a bedraggled pigeon. The pigeon began cooing at her daughter all the while ignoring the fuming mother hen.
The rescuer stormed off, angry at the young mother’s lack of remorse. She reached the end of the path, looked towards her car and froze. She had abandoned it in the middle of the road, leaving the driver’s door open.
She hadn’t thought of parking up on the pavement or closing her door or even putting the hazard lights on. She just hadn’t thought.
Another car had stopped behind hers and a tall middle-aged gentleman was peering into the back seat. A distant scream emanated from the abandoned vehicle and her memory returned like lightning.
Her ten-month-old daughter, still strapped into her baby seat, was clearly distressed. The man turned towards the returning mother and their eyes met.
She felt her talons shrink and her plumage waste away. She had become the pigeon.