When the Scarves Fell

Katie Piper

              Grandad sat in the chair he always retired to after Sunday dinner. It had slender, polished arms and his fingers would curl over the ends of them. He was always a little poised, as if he was on the verge of getting up – perhaps the war did that?

              Mum and Nan cleared away the plates, thick tracks of gravy glopped between them, forks scraped leftover gristle into a small heap. I dressed Grandad up in Nan’s scarves. She had a box of them, I pinched one at its corner, waved it through the air, then threw it up to see where it would land, to see how it fluttered through the stillness, through the gravy laden atoms that spritzed through Nan’s house.

              Grandad sat in his brown cardigan. The buttons hung like fallen chestnuts. Sometimes he had to let go of the chair – he used his hanky to dab a glimmer of spit. When he smiled his teeth moved a little and shined in the sunlight. Half of him caught the sun from the window, his cheek smooth and creamy at the centre, and his eyes held the mischief of all those fights with Nan – every Sunday he was late for dinner, spinning yarns at the pub.

              But there were no fights then, after the doctor said something like, it’s as big as my fist.

              I saw tiny lights of tenderness flicker in his face, he couldn’t move far from his chair, but his eyes and hands still played. And I remember wondering, after all the scarves had fallen, how it would feel to be left with the women, alone, without his mischief to love me.

Katie is British and now lives in Wodonga, Australia, with her toddler. Katie is a nurse-academic and uses creative story work in her teaching. Her work has appeared in: Reflex Fiction, The Cabinet of Heed, Virtual Zine Mag, X-ray Literary Mag, Ellipsis Zine and 100 Words of Solitude. Katie was a 2020 Pushcart nominee.