Once, in a department store, I pulled on my mother’s arm and it came off, like she was one of the mannequins. This was an early introduction to the idea that parts of my mother were destined to come off without warning.
I was only a little older when both her legs came off at a summer garden party where she had been drinking wine for some hours. “Your mother has had a bit too much sun,” my father explained to us, as he carried her inside like a rag doll, with shiny buttons for eyes.
The next thing to go was her heart. She lost it to Mike, the husband of her colleague at the school where she taught. There was a lot of shouting in our house that week and, soon after, she left for Canada with Mike.
Over the years, postcards would arrive with pictures of grizzly bears and Mounties, telling us things we didn’t want to know, like Mike found a job, and Mike built a treehouse for their new kids and Mike saw a grizzly bear in the garden.
One day a postcard arrived telling us the doctors had found something and they were going to remove some more parts from her, and then the postcards stopped.
A couple of months back I googled her number and called it. It was her voice that answered, but it wasn’t her and she didn’t know who I was. An older male voice came on.
‘You’ll have to leave it there, Sport,’ it said. ‘Too much gone.’
The next postcard was in unfamiliar writing and said she had died. It gave the date of the funeral, which had already passed. On the front was a picture of a grizzly bear rearing up on two legs, and for a moment I wondered if it was the one Mike saw.
Tim Craig lives in London. His short-short stories have appeared in many fine litmags and also the annual Best Microfiction Anthology. He is a previous winner of the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction and has been placed or commended four times in the Bath Flash Fiction Award. @timkcraig