The Alligator Clock by Rosaleen Lynch

The alligator clock snapped on the hour and if you put your finger in his mouth, he drew blood which mother said was good luck, when she told May to sit on the bed and press with her thumb and raise her hand to God, and sent Danny out for ice, what she jokingly called the motel first aid kit, that cured all ills and was good in an Irish whiskey too, she said, as she used one cube on May’s finger and two for her drink and when a pizza we didn’t order got delivered to our room, we believed her, and thought that was all we had to do and she never examined our fingers as we left the motel for school, of course she didn’t, and we took care to do them in rotation, so that it was once in ten days for each, to allow for healing and May, because she was gymnastic and the right size, stood on her head and did her toes with help from Danny so it was once every twenty days for her and Danny tried to pierce his ear but couldn’t position himself just right or he flaked or jumped, so he stuck to fingers like me, and though we weren’t sure if we needed all our luck, we weren’t taking chances, and when May said it was working, I didn’t correct her because it made it easier to go out to school each day, and every day we came home and everything was fine we knew it was up to us, and when we came home twenty-seven times three fingers or toes later, the room was full with smoke of potatoes burnt to black shells in the pot, the fire alarm silent on the ceiling and a roast chicken cooked but cold in the oven that had switched itself off, and when Danny asked why the stove top didn’t have a timer, I said I didn’t know and gave him the remote control from that week’s hiding place and went to look for mother, checking her pills were still in her bedside chest with the same number as that morning before school and though some of her clothes were gone, I reckoned they could be in the laundry or she could have thrown them out, the ones that were getting too big and I imagined May saying she could just be gone out for ice, as I shared the chicken out between us with some instant mash and beans, leaving a drumstick in the fridge for mother and in the morning as I poured cereal out, I heard May’s laughter when she saw the chicken leg stuck in the mouth of the alligator clock and I promised Danny that after school I’d pierce his ear with ice.

Rosaleen Lynch, an Irish community worker and writer in the East End of London, loves stories conversational, literary and performed. Words in lots of lovely places and can be found on Twitter @quotes_52 and