Flash fiction


A Waste of Spaceby Evelyn Parsons

‘A WASTE of space.”

He says this from behind the steering wheel, glaring into the rearview mirror.

In the backseat, I squeeze as much breath from my lungs as I can, making myself like those vacuum storage bags Mam puts our winter clothes in. I’m squashed down small to use up less of it.

The space.

It’s my job to look, but I can’t read so well without glasses.

No time to get them – he was rushing.

“I could do without this,” he said, dumping me in the back seat like a sack of potatoes. I didn’t want to go, but Mammy said it was his turn, for a change, to have his little princess.

The signs whizz by in a blur.

I cant ask him. The last place I thought was it because of the ruined castle on the hill .

“Fucksake!” he said. “How many times do I have to say it?”

I keep repeating the name over and over in case I forget it completely. Castletownbere. I can’t ask again.

Castletownbere. Is that with a Kicking King or a Clever Cat I wonder?

Is it one word or two, three separate ones, with a castle, a town and a bear ?

Places beginning with T and B and S and other letters like those aren’t the problem. Short C and K places are fine too, mostly – I can sound them out.

I’m squinting, leaning as far forward as I dare, when he slows at the junction. I begin to sound them in my mind, but the signposts are quickly left behind.

An hour passes; he grabs the map from the glove compartment and tosses it into the back.

I manage to catch it before it slips out of reach to the floor. I open it like a blanket spread over my knees.

My head throbs from tracing the veiny roads and my stomach feels sick.

I’m sweaty. My legs are squeaky lumps of wood against the leatherette seat and I’m afraid the sound will annoy him, but I can do nothing to stop it. These roads are bumpy.

My dress is sticking to my skin and I’m shifting uncomfortably, praying I can hold on. Hold on.

It annoys him to have to stop and go through all the palaver.

He slows at a signpost.

Is that it? Lots of letters beside each other for company.

It is a Clever Cat.

If the letters would just match the ones on the map, the ones under my finger, it might be okay.

He mightn’t be so cross then about the boot. And the backseat. And the wheelchair and me hogging all of it instead of his golf clubs and trolley.

If only this could be Castletownbere . . . Then I mightn’t be such a complete useless waste of space after all.

Flash fiction will be a regular item in The Irish Times. E-mail a story of no more than 500 words to flashfiction@irishtimes.com