The Lesson by JY Saville

The rumble of the car’s wheels on a fast road. The muted voice of Gerry Rafferty emanating from the speakers in the front, though at that age I wouldn’t have known it was Gerry Rafferty, wouldn’t have known the solo like aural honey was played on a saxophone. In fact at that point, laid on the back seat with my head on Nana’s sturdy thigh, I was probably no bigger than an alto sax myself.

Unable to sleep despite the lateness of the drive home, I watched Nana watching me, her face distorted by moving stripes of orange and shadow as we passed under street light after street light. Even in the shadow I could see that slight smile that other people often missed among the deep lines and stern brow.

I reached up, maybe I was trying to pat the powder-dusted face high above me, but my fingers tangled in a droopy bow on the front of her dress, pulled it loose as I extricated myself. I got a whiff of Youth Dew, the familiar prickle in my nose as she moved to re-tie her bow. There was a patch of cold on my hip where one hand must have been resting, holding me safely in place before rear seatbelts.

A pause, a stretch, and I yanked on the bow again, undoing it deliberately this time. Raised eyebrows from Nana as she slowly re-tied it, watching me watching her. She undid it herself this time, tied it even slower, an exaggerated loop of her hand, eternity ring catching a passing stripe of orange light.

The rest of the way home she watched me, guiding my hands occasionally as I tied and re-tied the bow in brown and orange fabric as rough as the skin on her fingers. By the time we pulled up outside the house, I had all the skills I’d need sixteen years later when I tied the card to her funeral flowers.

JY Saville writes stories of various lengths and genres in northern England, including some at The Fiction Pool, Firefly magazine, and forthcoming in Confingo. Find her on Twitter @JYSaville or at

Image: Renden Yoder