Flash Fiction: The Reliability of Norman

Flash Fiction: The Reliability of Norman

Flash Fiction: The Reliability of Norman by Rebecca Kinnarney published as part of Doodle-zine Issue 1 - Submissions now open for Issue 2

Doodle-zine Issue 1

Flash Fiction The Reliability of Norman by Rebecca Kinnarney with image by Helen Gwyn Jones

The Reliability of Norman by Rebecca Kinnarney
with the image from Helen Gwyn Jones

In the days after Daddy left, darkness became the enemy. Darkness had swallowed Daddy up. I’d gone to bed one night and when I woke the next morning, Daddy was gone. Darkness had swallowed everything of Daddy’s too: his clothes, his books, every photo of him. If darkness could swallow the giant that was Daddy, I wouldn’t even touch the sides as it gulped down the tininess of me.

I’d always been a good sleeper. I used to hear Mummy telling people, full of pride, full of ‘look how clever my child is’. “Oh no, we never have any trouble. I put her down and she’s off as soon as her head hits the pillow.” It wasn’t strictly true. Mummy would never have let my head hit the pillow. She laid my head on the pillow, like it was a rare baby bird she’d found. Mummy was so gentle.

Even after Daddy left, Mummy was gentle. She’d still lay me down in my bed and tiptoe away but I knew she was listening, hoping to hear my breath deepen. “Mummy.” I’d never scream. It was always a whisper. But she heard. She’d scoop me up and hold my heart against her heart. Her bed was big enough for both of us since darkness had swallowed Daddy.

I slept well in Mummy’s bed. Sometimes, I’d wake with my head at the bottom of the bed in a cocoon of sheets. Mummy would pluck at a corner of the sheet, slowly unwinding me from my swaddling. I’d look into her eyes, ignoring the dark circles. “I love you, Mummy. Is it daylight now?”

“I love you, too, chicken.” She’d throw open the heavy gold curtains. “Yes, here it is, look.”

Flash Fiction: The Reliability of Norman

One evening, darkness had come early but it was ok because we had all of the lights on, so it couldn’t reach its arm inside the fortress of our living room and pluck me out.

“I’ve bought you a present.” Mummy was always buying me things. She handed me a plain box. Inside was a smiling white daisy about as big as Mummy’s hand.

“What is it?”

Mummy didn’t answer but plugged the cord in and the daisy lit up yellow. Then softly changed to pink. And blue. Purple. Back to yellow.

“It’s a nightlight, chicken. We can put it in your room and you’ll have a rainbow of light to protect you. Nothing can overcome the power of a rainbow, can it?”

She was right. Rainbows were magical. I’d never be swallowed if there was a rainbow to save me.

“Shall we go and plug it in now and see what it looks like?”

“Wait a minute, Mummy. We can’t just plug it in without giving it a name. That would be rude.” Everything in our house had a name. Sheena would take our dirty towels and turn them back into fluffy sheets of comfort. Olive would fire up twice a day and spread warmth through every bit of the house and into our bones. Trevor would fill Mummy’s night-time loneliness and she’d push up his volume, hoping that I wouldn’t hear her sobbing. But I did.

“Of course, chicken. What do you think we should call it?”

Without hesitation, I said, “Norman.”

“Norman?” Mummy looked a bit surprised but didn’t question. Mummy never questioned me. “OK. Norman, he is.”

From then on, every night, while I was brushing my teeth, Mummy would switch Norman on. I’d tuck myself into bed and watch the rainbow light show on the wall. Sometimes, I’d see Norman turn back to yellow but most of the time, I’d be asleep before purple. If I woke in the night, he’d still be filling my room with joy, protecting me from being swallowed.

It was about 15 years later when I woke one night and it was dark. No rainbow. I went straight back to sleep. I told Mummy about it, in passing, nonchalant. Neither of us wanted to make a big thing of it. That night when I came in from brushing my teeth, Norman was gone.

___________________________

The room’s lovely. It overlooks the garden. Mummy seems happy there. I wanted to keep her at home, look after her here, but I can’t any more. She was the one who decided. She’s got those dark circles back. “It’ll be much better for both of us,” she said. “You can come and visit every day but, this way, you haven’t got the worry.” I didn’t tell her that I wanted the worry. I didn’t tell her that it had always been just me and her. And that I liked it.

Dusk is thickening on my first drive home from the hospice. Darkness has fought its way through by the time I get home.

I switch Trevor on. Loudly. Trevor has always done his best to drown out the sound of sobbing.

I don’t want to go upstairs. I don’t want to climb into the maw of darkness. But I’m tired.

I brush my teeth, all the while humming to fill the silence.

I open my bedroom door and see the magical rainbow. Yellow. Pink. Blue. Purple. There is Norman, plugged in, where he’d sat for 15 years.

I tuck myself in and I’m asleep before purple.

Helen Gwyn Jones started recording her world at the age of 8 when she bought a Brownie camera from her sister. This has become a lifelong passion. 

A collector of the past (hers and other people’s) she likes nothing better than muted images of imperfection.  May be found poring over Welsh grammar books when not photographing drains or going into raptures over rust. 

Soon to be published at Hungry Ghost Project.

Instagram: @helengwynjones

Twitter: @helengwynjones

R. J. Kinnarney is trying to make sense of their corner of the world, through tiny pieces of writing and lots and lots of reading. When not distracted by a myriad short-story ideas, they are currently working on a novel, which focuses on what it is to be strong in the face of challenge and prejudice. Work can be found in all sorts of places. Links to published works on rjkinnarney.com Twitter: @rjkinnarney

The Reliability of Norman

In the days after Daddy left, darkness became the enemy. Darkness had swallowed Daddy up. I’d gone to bed one night and when I woke the next morning, Daddy was gone. Darkness had swallowed everything of Daddy’s too: his clothes, his books, every photo of him. If darkness could swallow the giant that was Daddy, I wouldn’t even touch the sides as it gulped down the tininess of me.

I’d always been a good sleeper. I used to hear Mummy telling people, full of pride, full of ‘look how clever my child is’. “Oh no, we never have any trouble. I put her down and she’s off as soon as her head hits the pillow.” It wasn’t strictly true. Mummy would never have let my head hit the pillow. She laid my head on the pillow, like it was a rare baby bird she’d found. Mummy was so gentle.

Even after Daddy left, Mummy was gentle. She’d still lay me down in my bed and tiptoe away but I knew she was listening, hoping to hear my breath deepen. “Mummy.” I’d never scream. It was always a whisper. But she heard. She’d scoop me up and hold my heart against her heart. Her bed was big enough for both of us since darkness had swallowed Daddy.

I slept well in Mummy’s bed. Sometimes, I’d wake with my head at the bottom of the bed in a cocoon of sheets. Mummy would pluck at a corner of the sheet, slowly unwinding me from my swaddling. I’d look into her eyes, ignoring the dark circles. “I love you, Mummy. Is it daylight now?”

“I love you, too, chicken.” She’d throw open the heavy gold curtains. “Yes, here it is, look.”

One evening, darkness had come early but it was ok because we had all of the lights on, so it couldn’t reach its arm inside the fortress of our living room and pluck me out.

“I’ve bought you a present.” Mummy was always buying me things. She handed me a plain box. Inside was a smiling white daisy about as big as Mummy’s hand.

“What is it?”

Mummy didn’t answer but plugged the cord in and the daisy lit up yellow. Then softly changed to pink. And blue. Purple. Back to yellow.

“It’s a nightlight, chicken. We can put it in your room and you’ll have a rainbow of light to protect you. Nothing can overcome the power of a rainbow, can it?”

She was right. Rainbows were magical. I’d never be swallowed if there was a rainbow to save me.

“Shall we go and plug it in now and see what it looks like?”

“Wait a minute, Mummy. We can’t just plug it in without giving it a name. That would be rude.” Everything in our house had a name. Sheena would take our dirty towels and turn them back into fluffy sheets of comfort. Olive would fire up twice a day and spread warmth through every bit of the house and into our bones. Trevor would fill Mummy’s night-time loneliness and she’d push up his volume, hoping that I wouldn’t hear her sobbing. But I did.

“Of course, chicken. What do you think we should call it?”

Without hesitation, I said, “Norman.”

“Norman?” Mummy looked a bit surprised but didn’t question. Mummy never questioned me. “OK. Norman, he is.”

From then on, every night, while I was brushing my teeth, Mummy would switch Norman on. I’d tuck myself into bed and watch the rainbow light show on the wall. Sometimes, I’d see Norman turn back to yellow but most of the time, I’d be asleep before purple. If I woke in the night, he’d still be filling my room with joy, protecting me from being swallowed.

It was about 15 years later when I woke one night and it was dark. No rainbow. I went straight back to sleep. I told Mummy about it, in passing, nonchalant. Neither of us wanted to make a big thing of it. That night when I came in from brushing my teeth, Norman was gone.

___________________________

The room’s lovely. It overlooks the garden. Mummy seems happy there. I wanted to keep her at home, look after her here, but I can’t any more. She was the one who decided. She’s got those dark circles back. “It’ll be much better for both of us,” she said. “You can come and visit every day but, this way, you haven’t got the worry.” I didn’t tell her that I wanted the worry. I didn’t tell her that it had always been just me and her. And that I liked it.

Dusk is thickening on my first drive home from the hospice. Darkness has fought its way through by the time I get home.

I switch Trevor on. Loudly. Trevor has always done his best to drown out the sound of sobbing.

I don’t want to go upstairs. I don’t want to climb into the maw of darkness. But I’m tired.

I brush my teeth, all the while humming to fill the silence.

I open my bedroom door and see the magical rainbow. Yellow. Pink. Blue. Purple. There is Norman, plugged in, where he’d sat for 15 years.

I tuck myself in and I’m asleep before purple.

Helen Gwyn Jones started recording her world at the age of 8 when she bought a Brownie camera from her sister. This has become a lifelong passion. A collector of the past (hers and other people’s) she likes nothing better than muted images of imperfection.  May be found poring over Welsh grammar books when not photographing drains or going into raptures over rust. Soon to be published at Hungry Ghost Project. Instagram: @helengwynjones & Twitter: @helengwynjones

R. J. Kinnarney is trying to make sense of their corner of the world, through tiny pieces of writing and lots and lots of reading. When not distracted by a myriad short-story ideas, they are currently working on a novel, which focuses on what it is to be strong in the face of challenge and prejudice. Work can be found in all sorts of places. Twitter: @rjkinnarney

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.