Sue Kingham

The Scholar – 1976

Mam’s envelope rustles in my pocket as I walk.

Why does she write to the butcher every week instead of giving me money for meat? Is she checking I remember to say thank you?

There’re three streets between home and the butcher’s shop on the corner of Warwick Road and Wood Terrace. I make my first turn at the monkey puzzle tree; it’s so big I can’t see into the house crouching behind it. My second turn is at the bungalow with the torn net curtain that flops like a slice of pizza. I know what pizza looks like, although I’ve never had one. Mam says they’re too expensive, but we did have fish ‘n’ chips last month ‘cause it was my eighth birthday.

I have to be polite to the butcher, but I don’t like him. His hands are pink and he has pork sausage fingers. When he gives me mince, wrapped in white paper, he smells of blood and his long nose hairs curl into his black moustache.

The message in my pocket makes me feel uncomfortable. I sit on the low brick wall in front of the ‘pizza slice’ house pull out the envelope and hold it up to the sun. Then I slip my little finger under the flap and wiggle it along. It opens. Checking no one’s watching, I take out the note.

same time this week

It’s written in pencil. Mam hasn’t signed it, used punctuation or done any of the things Miss Robinson told us we had to do in a letter. I’ll tell her how to write one properly when I get home.

Sue Kingham writes short stories, poetry, flash fiction and creative non-fiction. Her writing can be found in Flash Frontier and in Takahē. A 2014 graduate of the Hagley Writers’ Institute, when not writing she enjoys the visual arts and reading.