'Nail Trimmings' by Shirley Golden
Dana can’t cry, not in front of everyone. Bradley breaks down, and leans against his wife for support. Dana holds onto the front row pew as the coffin appears. The service wasn’t her idea. She’d have preferred a woodland clearing, surrounded by oak and beech trees, where the whisper of a breeze rustled through new shoots, and enlivened carpets of bluebells.
She stands to sing, ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’. She mouths the words, never comfortable with singing out loud, and listens to the rain, lashing against the stained glass. She checks her watch – it is a tick because there’s no need to retrieve her mother’s one o’clock pills from their box. Her fingers twitch.
Bradley said she looked tired and asked about the Will. He used to phone once a week. Their mother would wait for his Sunday night call, while Dana ran her bath, or made sure she had the right sized clippers for toenails. The rest of her evening consisted of drying, cutting and plucking. Her mother endured it, reeling off Bradley’s achievements, which chiefly involved material acquisitions.
Dana had fallen, years before, for an entrepreneurial man. But she had not featured as a part of his long-term plans.
Her mother referred to Dana’s artwork as ‘her little hobby’. At first, Dana took it as an expression of interest. But her mother would glance at Dana’s pieces, and speak of her own schooling, and of how she won a trophy once for a painting of a forest.
So, Dana went back to cutting and plucking in silence.
Later, their mother lost track of things; she’d sit by the phone every day in expectation of Bradley’s call. Dana tried to persuade her to carry a mobile device in her pocket, but her mother didn’t trust that.
Dana cooked meals that were barely touched, ran baths that went cold, and she cut and plucked.
She kept the nail trimmings, and stained them, creating a page of bone-thin crocus petals, yellow centred with a faint purple flush.
She intends to hang the piece on an east facing wall. Not immediately, but after the funeral when she is settled in a place of her own; once everyone else has forgotten.