This flash fiction was originally published in In The Red 11 (LJMU, 2013, and it was the thing that inspired me to start my novel, The House and A Home.
I am in a church at the funeral of my late wife. About sixty seconds ago, a giant rat smashed through the stained-glass window of Isaiah and I don’t know why. I know why she’s dead, but not why the giant rat is here. Maybe it’s the open casket.
I am on the front row and I am not sad. No one knows, but under my suit and my shirt is a jolly dinosaur tie, as close to my heart as it can be. The tie has eight yellow Parasaurolophuses down the middle, and they are all smiling, so I think that my happiness is clear.
My mother in-law, Petunia, is sat next to me and we are witnessing an eight foot long vermin dismember our priest. The other attendees have left their pews, but that is ok, because they are not family. I’d like to stay till the end of the service as a token of my respect.
I exchange glances with Petunia and she looks the same as she did before the rat arrived. Patient.
‘Aren’t you scared? You can leave if you’d like.’
‘No, I’ll stay. We’re family and you owe it to her.’ She looks at me like I’ve killed her daughter, which would be an appropriate look, then focuses on the rat again, who by this point has separated the priest in two. His intestine taut across the rat’s chest as it pulls the two bits further apart.
I am trying to ignore the details. It is gruesome and meaty and there is not as much blood as I would have thought, but the real striking thing is the length of the rat’s arm span.
‘Did you know rats could move their arms that far apart, Petunia?’
‘I was thinking the same thing. Perhaps it isn’t a big rat. Is there anything else it could be? You know about animals, don’t you?’
‘I don’t know about animals, Petunia, I know about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs aren’t animals anymore because they’re extinct.’
‘Well, it’s certainly not a dinosaur.’ I laugh. That was quite a good joke, for Petunia.
The rat has nearly finished the priest. There is one arm left and also his gold cross, but I don’t think the rat will eat that.
There is a pause in our conversation that seems longer than it should be as I realise where this is going, probably at the same time she does.
‘You’ve always liked dinosaurs. I remember that you had a dinosaur tie – eight Dilophosaurii down the middle, all smiling – lovely tie.’
There is no point correcting her. The rat drops the priest’s bone-dry humerus, I imagine that clergymen aren’t filling. ‘Yes, it was my favourite tie.’
I killed my wife. I didn’t want to, but she lost my tie two weeks ago. Without the smiling Parasaurolophuses I couldn’t be happy, which meant that she wasn’t happy either. We weren’t happy, so I had to get to the root of the problem, and she lost it.
There is now some water coming out of Petunia’s face that slightly distorts her look of patience. ‘Do you think she deserved to die?’
‘You have to understand that it was my favourite tie.’ There is water on my face now, too. And the rat is shadowing us and I am fat and she is old, so I know that I’ll be first.
I undo my jacket and slip my fingers in between the buttons of my shirt and feel where my tie is not. I will be eaten without my tie, but it is still as close to my heart as it can be.