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by Barbara Lovric

Mummy lays down on the kitchen floor, crosses her arms over herself and refuses to budge. Her baby belly rises like bread as her bum spreads over the spot where the lino has cracked and begun to peel. Maybe she wants to hide the hole. Maybe she will just lie there till Dad fixes it. We don’t know. She won’t speak.

The cooker is on and open. Chicken nuggets and chips. Our favourite. Jimmy and I’d eat that every night if we could. On top of the white fridge, the kitchen timer click-clocks. Jimmy and I sit next to Mummy, cross-legged, one either side and wait for the alarm to sound.

Meanwhile, Dad’s in the back yard, hammering away at something. Whether pounding nails, sawing wood or screaming, he’s loud as Mummy’s quiet. Same with Dog who barks and barks and barks. I peek out the window, head low so Dad can’t see me. He’s almost done boarding up the dog house. A paw sneaks out from a small gap. Dad pelts it with the hammer and pounds up the final plank.

The alarm sounds and I slide the nuggets and chips onto plastic plates and put them on the glass table. Jimmy and I scramble up tall chairs, feet dangling, eating with our fingers. I press the remote and Marvin the Muffin comes on. Jimmy squeals and sings the theme song. He doesn’t know many words yet, but he tries.

Dad stomps in the back door, takes one look at Mummy, grunts, then goes straight out the front. The car peels down the road. Maybe he’ll come home. Maybe he won’t.

On the telly, Marvin talks to two kids around Jimmy’s age about their happiest day. One says, every day when Mummy reads me a bedtime story. The other goes on about the time his Dad took him to a soccer game.

Some days are better than ours.

Barbara Lovric is an American expat living in Ireland. A previous Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair winner, she’s had flash in The Fiction Pool, The Incubator, Words for the Wild and The Cabinet of Heed. She was shortlisted for the 2017 Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award and longlisted for the 2017 Bare Fiction Prize. She was also selected to take part in the Irish Writers’ Centre 2017 XBorders project which explored the theme of borders in literature and memoir. She is the founder and facilitator of a local writers’ group and is a reader and senior editor for TSS Publishing in the UK.