I have done the essentials shop and slip through the side gate. The metal prop holds up a line with three pairs of pyjamas. The flowers are bright and disorderly. Slug pellets gather in the crooks of leaves. Crusts of bread on the grass.

The sound of screaming like children. Two magpies: one caught in the gutter of the house next door. I watch and another bird comes and the heads snap forward and Dad calls from an upstairs window, They’re killing it! Don’t watch. I look at him and he keeps watching. Two more birds fly over so I turn back. They can’t be killing it. They cannot be. They are helping it. They are helping it, I say, like a prayer, then louder: They have funerals! Funerals! They can’t be killing it!

They are, they are. I look at him. Oh, they’re not. I turn back and they’ve scattered: scraps of black against the sky and silent. I turn again. He says, Aye, they’re not like that, really. He asks if I’ll catch the money which he drops before I answer. A paper twenty and a plastic five. They’re not taking these much more you know, I say. But it doesn’t matter.

I hear Dad through the glass, explaining what happened with the birds to Nan. I stay inside the gate longer than I ought to. As I drive home I think about magpies and whatever I was on about. As if grief could make you good. As if funerals proved that.




Also by Lydia,

LENT 2020