by Jo Withers
It wasn’t like her to keep losing things.
Once, there had been five.
It reminded her of the old nursery rhyme where the little ducks go swimming one day with their mother.
But they weren’t ducks and she wasn’t a mother.
They tried to stay together like families were supposed to, but something always happened and one by one they ended up on the other side. Over the hills and far away where she couldn’t reach them. She wailed and screamed for them to return but they had gone.
One after another … crack, crack, crack, crack … none of the little ducks came back.
No-one blamed the mother duck, but she blamed herself. The pain of feeling them there, then not, was suffocating. The paranoia and despair as she began again. Continuing because the others deserved a chance. Each time she worried more, breathed heavier, hoped harder.
But the ducks still vanished.
Last time things were going well. They had been together so long that it seemed real. Once, she even thought about names. Then she woke with cramps in the night and knew immediately. This little duck had died too.
Now there was only one.
She tenderly stroked the softly rising mound of her stomach, praying that this one would make it home.
Jo Withers writes flash, shorts and poetry for adults and children. She won The Caterpillar Story for Children Prize in 2017, was recently shortlisted in The Grieve Project and ACU Poetry Prize, and her writing was recommended in L.I.S.P.’s third quarter. She is also author of the middle-grade sci-fi adventure 5 Simple Steps to Saving Planet Earth. You can follow Jo on Twitter @JoWithers2018.