The Victorious Breath by Monica Dickson

I shall use my time. I will drain it, wring it like a cloth. I shall flannel the faces of my children. I will hold their chins and know the colour of their eyes when they’re closed. I shall play on the floor. I shalt not check my phone or rush out of the door, peeling their fingers, one by one, from my ankles. I shall let them pull me back towards them. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.

Right beneath the patio there is mud, compacted, uneven like the slabs themselves. On the bad mornings I cling to my wife. I say, “What does it mean? What have I done?” and she says, “Don’t be ridiculous, love, it’s just your mind playing tricks on you.” I get up, wash, dress, the details of the dream already in landslide. Still, I can picture the crazy paving as it shifts, rising and falling. In, out. Ujjayi.

I lower myself to the bedroom floor, sink into my pose. Relaxing. Relaxing. Relaxing. Balanced. Balanced. Energised.

My wife shouts from the kitchen, “You’re going to be late.” I am cross-legged, irritation rising. Connect with the ground.

I hear a thud, like a blunt object on an unyielding surface. A school shoe lobbed at a wall? An iPad hitting the deck? Ocean breath. With this one I can hear the sea, like when you hold a shell to your ear. I can feel the air vibrating at the back of my throat. It’s a balm: for anxiety, for fatigue, for making space when all is chaos. Let the ground support you. I feel tiny hands pushing back against the soil, disturbing the stones, tracing their fingers along the cracks.

My wife calls out again. One of the kids is crying. One of them is always crying. Inhale for four; exhale for six; get your arse downstairs.

I come up to standing, check my phone. Still time. I shall use it, drain it, wring it like a cloth. I shall flannel the faces of my children. I shall let them pull me back towards them. 

Monica Dickson writes short fiction. Her work has appeared in Splonk, jmww, X-R-A-Y and elsewhere. She’s been longlisted and shortlisted for various competitions and her story Receipts made the inaugural BIFFY50. She won the 2019 Northern Short Story Festival Flash Fiction Slam and is a 2021 graduate of the NSSF Academy. More at and @Mon_Dickson