Aunt Pook says Mum was hit by lightning when she was little, when they all lived together on Four Oaks farm, that’s why Mum has frequent electrical surges and sags and dips in power.
Lightning struck the big oak tree, then a slice of the current jumped onto Mum and fried her brain. She was side-splashed, Aunt Pook says, and so she eats the birthday cake before the candles are blown out and dances in the wrong places.
Aunt Pook had been at her friend’s Kitty’s house. Grandma had been making soup in the house, Granddad outside in rubber boots, Mum barefoot.
Dad didn’t believe aunt Pook’s story, he called it bum fluff, said it was because Granddad was a bully, kept calling her faulty, dud, even threw bones at her once during Sunday lunch.
I don’t know what to think, but I think Mum might have married Dad for the same reasons she’d stood under that big oak, hoping to shelter from the hail.
And I think that after a while Dad didn’t want to be the oak tree anymore, he said Janine love, I’ve had it up to here. And the door clicked shut.
Now the three of us – aunt Pook, Mum and me – are going back to Four Oaks because aunt Pook says it would be jolly therapeutic.
Mum picks dandelions and sequences them between my braids whilst Aunt Pook unravels her hey Janine, remember whens.
We sit on bricks, picnic on carrots and crackers. Mum on her lowest setting with her head cupped in Aunt Pook’s hands, me unwrapping things and wrapping them back up. Aunt Pook says we’ll stay till sunset, gals.
No-one lives on Four Oaks anymore apart from rooks, and they swing from overhead power cables.
Mum stares at me and I stare back. I picture the faulty contact inside her brain, the mangled ventricles, all the space.
She strokes my head and turns to Aunt Pook.
He was a nasty piece of work, she saysand glides towards the big black oak tree, kicking off her shoes.
Aunt Pook doesn’t reply – she catches her own tear and cups it.
I’ve seen Mum do the dance before – everyone has seen her do it and they always leave the house in silence – but now, as she does her epileptic movements around the charred oak, the dipping sun gives her bright orange contours.
Look at your hair! aunt Pook whispers and points at my dandelion braids. It’s all lit-up!
Kik Lodge is a flash fiction and short story writer living in Lyon, France. Her flash has featured in The Moth, Tiny Molecules, The Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction, Slegehammer Lit, Ellipsis Zine, Splonk, Bending Genres and Litro.