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by GJ Hart

Number 10 Dorset Street is a mean house, a filthy house, no kin to its prime and never a home and Boy knows it, handles it, works hard to keep the family happy. If he finds Brother fraught, on his knees, watering the garden with his big fat tears, he sits him down, tells him one of his wondrous tales — maybe how the postman vanished or the milkman burned or a hapless traveller came to be buried alive. Brother listens and shivers, sensing night falling long before it’s due.

Boy’s endings are true endings, no redemption or lessons, just vistas of broken things and Brother stays rigid until he sees an arc of sunlight, smells honeysuckle, hears bees drinking from horns of foxgloves, then stands, dances almost, tells Boy he’s slipped the hex and it’s never coming back.

Hard graft for a boy, thinks Boy — Grandpa’s a handful, needs his stimulation and when Boy walks the boards and hears his gas, he makes a sled of his sheets and drags him like petrified alder down to the shed.

Once settled, he cranks the dynamo, spins the pinions, feeds Grandpa his medicine from a buckled spout then drops a warped 45 onto a musty gramophone and leans back, mind empty for a second and it tastes like green beans and cabbage when Grandpa finally sways.

Soon as Grandpa’s done, Boy sets to finishing, searches every room ’til he finds Dada lost amidst papers and porcelain. Dada scuttles, only revealed by what’s falling. “Can’t breathe,” he says, “can’t see a thing,” and he hurls whatever he can and Boy digs him out, hugs him, throws him around his neck and takes him down to the garden.

The light pinches at Dada’s eyes and once he’s rubbed them clear he sees a mirror leaning, a dagger in the daisies, red hairs from a rusty nail and Boy ahead, hands crossed at his sacrum, so at that moment, they resemble tiny fragile wings.

Boy leads him behind hazel, to a mound of earth still wet and shining as if stirred with diamonds. He stops, points at hairs sprouting like dogwood and Dada’s legs go damp as he heaves up a smile, choking with nostalgia for what he might lose. “What will we do tomorrow,” he says, desperate and reaching out.

“Same as we do every day,” says Boy, and Dada drops his gaze and Boy remembers how the stars flickered and the sun stalled and his hands shake and his jaw hangs and his heart bangs like a burning pot.

GJ Hart currently lives and works in London and has had stories published in The Molotov CocktailThe Jersey Devil PressThe Harpoon Review and others. He can be found arguing with himself over @gj_hart.