A Parting Gesture by Karen Rust

I bring his truck to a stop where the gravel track ends, cut the lights and wait for my night vision to kick in.

It’s fine, Half-pint. I’ll plan everything, but I can’t do it alone.

The damp air engulfs me as I shove the heavy door open. Beyond, lies a rough path through forty-metres of uncut grass and nettles that guard the river bank.

I can’t help you with this. I’m not strong enough.

The tailgate creaks as it drops open. The blanketed bundle lies on a lining of tarpaulin. I close my eyes and steady my shaking hands on the edge of the material.

Don’t underestimate yourself, Half-pint. You’re the strongest person I know.

We’ve been to this spot many times, sitting in affable silence under our giant brolly on the riverbank. Hours spent watching rods and floats, with a flask of hot tea and Tupperware box of egg sandwiches to keep us going.

Please, don’t ask this of me.

The tarpaulin’s rough against my hands as I tie the edges together and tug the bundle forward to the edge of the tailgate. A faint whiff of Armani reaches me, and I jerk my head away as hot bile rises up my gullet.

You’re the only one I can ask, Half-pint. Do this for me.

The path is uneven and the weight more than I can bear. It’s the rocks. We didn’t account for the extra weight. I lay the bundle down in the damp grass and drag it along in bursts. The rhythmic shhhh shhhh seems loud in the quiet night. All that planning we did with you to reassure me. Now I’m alone.

I love you.

I reach the water’s edge with its tang of minerals and wet foliage. A lone can of Tennents Super, bobs near the bank. My chest hurts. The ties come apart easily and I tug the blanket inside the tarp, so he rolls into the river with a quiet splash. A startled sedge warbler begins its tweet-tut-tut somewhere in the reeds.

I love you too, Half-pint. Always and forever.

The rocks do their job. Attached with soluble string, there’ll be no sign of them within a few hours. Nor of the sedative, chosen for its quick rate of clearance. Just a body that drowned. Not a body. Him. He is drowning.

Okay, then. I’ll do it. For you.

Bubbles break the surface and I fall to my knees. More appear, but fewer than before and then…no more. The moon looks down at us, an all-seeing eye that passes no judgement. Should I be judged?

Bless you, Half-pint. For letting me keep my dignity.

‘Goodnight, Dad,’


Karen Rust is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at The University of Leicester. She decided to take the course after receiving close-but-no-cigar agent feedback on her first novel. She’s currently working on her second novel and enjoying trying out new forms such as flash fiction and short stories. bloominglateblog.wordpress.com/

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