Miscarriage A German Shepherd has his head and front paws in your hutch, lifted off the lid to climb in and almost had you. I had woken from a dream; thought I’d heard someone knocking the fence in. Outside the bedroom window, the dog stares when I scream ‘Oh,’ as if I’ve discovered my baby dead in my uterus. Gormless, until I add, ‘Out, out, out,’ and run to the back door, chase wolf away from rabbit skin. My bark is worse than my bite. I shout for its owners to keep their dog under control and carry you, close to my chest, to the fence to tell them what their dog has almost done. But they stare blankly then the mother says, ‘He hardly ever gets out.’ Mynah Messiah after the sculpture by Emily Valentine In the woods that day it was sombre As: graver than remembered years before; a dry October, wind making up for lack of rain. There seemed fewer leaves on the ground, so that each twig we trod sounded, crack: the cocking of a gun. I recalled walking the same track with my father, each of us carrying coal black plastic sacks, reeling back in mock horror and admittedly part delight as he dragged up a rake load, worms and other nasties, with his spade hands and chucked them in the bin bags before clutching the lot like a highwayman, shooing Bess on ahead, hoisting our nipper on his shoulders and nearly topping him on a low branch of beech with moss moulded along one side. We should have reached the quarry, the period of time we'd been tramping, but had yet to see the cut out slice of orange clay: the drop like citrus on taste buds after sugar. You turned, that's when I grabbed your arm, pointed. Yis, it was the fearst robin you'd ivver seen and I let you admire it while I gave daggers to the lad taking aim a few feet behind it, air rifle framed by bare lime. You talked all the way home about how in New Zealand you only see the mynah birds: pists, nah, vermin, you said, you would shoot the berluddy lot of 'em. * I cannot shout praises, or even speak my mind, my tongue is not complete; my own half father's, half mother's (theirs cleaved in form from others similarly), it is split in two, but I can mimic perfectly. In the morning I am nurture mother, tender succour to infant life, off peak sage advisor and child's advocate. By afternoon I manage (badly) mason entrepreneurs, part clown (to amuse, plus it helps with the juggling), part accountant (I'm told it never adds up, even if one can count), and part IT radicle, tapping into unseeded territories in the ether. In the evening, I wear comedy and tragedy (two faces optional, and here's where juggling's handy), directions given from the rocking chair concealed in joviality. I sing them to sleep: lullabies, ballad of girl who stole riches from her parents, half sum from each, to buy herself a baby's life, a swim to her death. I sing wife, take my new husband for a sleeping pill until he pulls the cover over me and I am silent, once again, till dawn. * Acknowledgements lie south west of a rock shaped like a lion by a thousand years of storms and wild seas and an artificial eye. Your phone rings. Mynah with a yellow eye mask and white arm bands, scavenger, turns her head to look, burns and I do not ask why you do not answer. Clouds make pied outcrops, changing and transient as the point of who last used the shed key; what pudding your mother likes. And there is something else, a new message and your shirt, the one I didn't buy you, printed roses, red, scattered, lying stained at my feet. * In the darkness the motions, however small, like sounds, are exaggerated so that a tired sigh, even a breath, takes on the auditory aura of the sea, so that doing nothing feels like doing something. There are no screens in our room, no tv, no visual means to play out others' lives. Only a black, now lightening to grey, expanse of window looking out on other windows looking somewhere into darker shade. Rolling on my side, I feel the briefest touch, fingertip to fingertip, like a bird caught deep inside the pit of me, feel the pull of a hand contracting. Opening my eyes I am now able to see the small sooty outline of his face, peach stone for eye, rib cage unmoving. I'm sorry, there is no heartbeat. There was a black bird caught inside the chimney, when we had a chimney, and fire of course. It could be heard in there for days. Even in summertime it wouldn't turn, couldn't work out that escape came only by first going down. And it was quiet one evening, until the flies. We lit a fire then, in June. Thirteen weeks it took to kill it. We turn out the lights and it's still there; listening now I can hear it, trapped in the burnt shaft of malignant bricks, covered in soot, flying up. * A black face appears in the mouth of the hole in the electrical box at the top of the telegraph pole perhaps it isn't wired up right shouldn't be there but it's making a go of it all the same. A nest with the best sea views on Beach Road.
Rachel J Fenton is an award-winning writer living in the South Island of New Zealand. Her fiction has won the University of Plymouth Short Fiction Prize, the Auckland University of Technology Creative Writing Prize, she came second in the Dundee International Book Prize, was longlisted for the Inaugural Michael Gifkins Unpublished Novel Prize, the Bristol Prize, and was shortlisted for the Cinnamon Press Debut Novel Prize. Her short stories have been anthologised in Stories of Hope Bushfire Relief Anthology (Aussie Speculative Fiction), Remembering Oluwale (Valley Press), Refugees Welcome (Co-Boox), Cooked Up, Food Fiction from Around the World (New Internationalist), and others. Also known as Rae Joyce, Rachel is Co-editor of Three Words, An Anthology of Aotearoa Women’s Comics (Beatnik).