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Bedtime in Thorpe Village, Leicestershire, England
by Sue Williams

art by Robinson Accola
art by Robinson Accola
I.

Thirteen-year old Nancy is sitting on the bridge, listening to the trickle of the stream in the dark. She can see nothing here in the shrouded countryside, can only feel the wooden slats prickle against her thighs and hear the burble of the water and the owl's low cry. Even when she squints at her hand, she still can't make it out... and, realising she's invisible she begins to breathe easy. Truth is, her body usually feels fake, her limbs unfamiliar, plasticky and hollow; but now, they're all hers, right here, in the dark—not her uncle's at midnight, when, beneath her sweaty sheets, his fingers make her both exist and not exist.

II.

Nine-year old Tommy stands in Thorpe Village Church, staring at the vaulting of the ceiling above where the cold lights hang like ghoulish orbs and the gargoyles peak and grin. He thinks it's miraculous that, in cold, stalwart England, churches are often left unlocked—not out of sloppiness (he, of course, is sloppy) but because they are holy shelters. At home—a corner bungalow where the village roads meet—his father and mother are still fighting. "Dear God," shouts his father. There's the crash of a glass. "I won’t let you do this. Jesus." But as Tommy stands here in his scuffed Converse boots, between the quiet pews, beneath the yawning vaults, he knows things are bound to turn out fine. Because he always says his prayers, never interrupts, and at school he writes so neatly that his words don't seem like his.

III.

Next door to the Butcher's Pub, Rosemary is climbing out of the window, while John snaps the curtains shut behind. She knows she's ungainly, a plump sixty-eight year-old, fumbling to get her bottom on the sill before landing, barefoot, onto the flowerbed below. Behind, she can hear Rita, John's wife of twenty years, arguing about the state of the kitchen, where an hour ago, John threw Rosemary over the table, binding her wrists and taking her from behind—oh yes, the table bashed against the wall, the wine-glasses tumbled, and the calendar fell. But now, as she creeps across the grass in John's dressing gown, Rosemary feels fresh and free. She finally has a secret. A full-blown fib. And it makes her so present that her whole body tingles, gloriously real.



All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.





Sue Williams is a book and magazine editor for Narrative, who also teaches creative writing at Grub Street. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Narrative, Night Train, Salamander, Redivider, the Yalobusha Review, Hint Fiction: a Norton collection of stories, and elsewhere. Recent awards include first place in the Carolyn A. Clark 2009 Flash Fiction Prize, and the Glimmer Train Best Start Award. She is working on a series of chapbooks, one of which she has written in collaboration with her writing group. Sue, a Brit, now lives in the Boston area. She can be found online at: www.suewilliams.co.uk.

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.
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