Saturday 24 June 2023

'Wombat in August' by S A Greene

She was standing under a yew, just beyond a small cluster of aunts. The hot dry air was wobbling but I know a wombat when I see one. She was fanning herself with a straw hat trimmed with blue-and-yellow plastic pansies. Someone put a hand on my arm and said they were sorry, and when my eyes cleared the wombat was gone.

I asked my mother if she’d invited her to the funeral. Don’t be ridiculous, Katherine. Your father didn’t socialise with wombats!

On my birthday three weeks later my mother said it wasn’t appropriate to celebrate. I didn’t want to, anyway. I went to Dad’s grave and sat down and talked to him, but it felt silly so I stopped. The grass pricked the backs of my legs, and I drew them up to my face and sniffed my knee skin, remembering Dad’s gardening jumpers, how they’d still held his scent of coffee and bonfires when I sniffed them in his wardrobe before my mother cleared them out.

The stillness was broken by a flash of blue-and-yellow disappearing into the trees. Pansies were Dad’s favourite flowers. He said they looked like cross old men wearing babies’ bonnets. That wombat must have known Dad somehow.

I’m going to visit Dad’s grave every day this summer, no matter what my mother says. The wombat’s bound to come back. She’ll come lolloping over from the shadows, give me a big wombat-toothed grin and put her paw around my back, and if tears come I won’t have to keep them inside my eyes and they’ll splash onto our legs and make rivers that flow beyond the yews, out of the cemetery gates and all the way back to when Dad was fine, and I’ll know I’m not being childish or selfish at all.

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