Home Song (short story, approx. 3000 words)

Saturday, 16 Apr 2022

A story about what makes a home, and how little some places deserve that name. 


A magpie’s liquid song seeped into Mary’s head. It was a message of pure joy, lifted into the air, for any who cared to listen. Or, perhaps, it was sung for no one, for the magpie alone. But Mary received it. And the sweet notes drove behind her eyelids and pierced her with pain… She drew in a scraping rasp of air and slowly raised herself up, willing her body to work. She must clean her face. But somewhere between corner and sink, somewhere on that small knee-dragging journey, she was hit by the sudden certainty that she no longer knew this place. 

She lurched then to the hall, to her bedroom, and dragged a small brown case from under her bed—the case her mother had brought with her from the country when she had first met Mick Collins and fallen in love—and went to the chest of drawers standing forlorn beneath the window. Bringing the contents of the top drawers in armfuls to the bed, she began throwing undergarments in the case. Added a blouse. Two. Cast one aside. Hobbled back to the drawers and wrenched open the bottom one. Found a dress, a woollen skirt, stockings, darned at the heels. A jumper her mother had made her one winter. Her fingers trailed over it, lost for a moment in indecision. Then she swept that up too. And there, under all the rest, lay the bear.  

Dusty. Worn. Blue.

A memory assailed her. Rocked her clear off the floor, so that she was sitting sagging against the drawer. She saw herself at six, maybe seven, clutching an ear, rubbing the nose, her father’s great hand clasping hers. And when she held the bear to her chest, she saw, too, his teeth, white as the heat-streaked sky, laughing down at her. 

She lay the bear on top of the clothes in the case, a talisman against the darkness. Then she closed the clasps and walked out. She did not look back. The magpie was rippling his song into her head again. She followed the notes out into the sun.

Want to read Mary’s full story? Contact me