On the 6th Day of Christmas Andrew Boulton gave to me…
When summer came and the skies bulged with a sticky mist, one wasp made an error of judgement. Sugar-drunk and oblivious to consequences, this wasp found himself trapped inside a freezer. And slept.
Now it’s Christmas morning and the freezer is, for the first time, open long enough for an unsteady revival.
Opening that freezer is Suzy, thin in figure but bloated with loneliness. She is searching for food, any food so long as it could not be mistaken for a Christmas dinner. She chooses a pre-packaged jacket potato that demands a spell in the microwave which will bring it to the almost brink of edibility.
The wasp, chilled and dozy, and mightily surprised at the sensation of its own breath, staggers out and plops onto the floor like a lost tooth.
Suzy, attuned to sound in the way all isolated people become, notices the wasp and, forgetting the rules about the creatures we are, and are not, allowed to offer sympathy to, picks it up with the dessert spoon she keeps handy for scooping lemon curd directly from jar to mouth.
Her first instinct is to message Greg, despite how long it’s been since she has.
But this is the kind of thing they’d always tell each other about. The small, unusual occurrences that thrilled them both. A habit they look for, but are yet to find, in anyone new.
Without thinking, or at least without overthinking, she sends a message. There was a wasp in my freezer. He’s alive. Do wasps hibernate? I don’t want to know what he’s been doing to the ice poles.
She regrets the message as soon as she sends it. Actually, the regret begins a second before she presses send, the sort of regret you feel stepping into the road just in time to detect the ding and wobble of a bicycle that can’t stop.
Before, when they were together, these sorts of messages would happen two, three, twelve times a day.
Suzy: I’ve just seen a sparrow eating a Kit-Kat finger.
Greg: Someone’s left a single lobster claw on a bus seat and now people are standing up rather than move it.
Suzy: Two ducks are fighting over a spanner. I love you.
But then they rowed and Greg left and tried to come back and Suzy sulked and told him to stay away, and those messages stopped. A few weeks ago. A month or so. 88 days. Whatever.
She is deciding whether to Google ways to unsend a message or simply slide her phone into the microwave, a crackling companion to the horrendous potato. And then she notices the wasp, who appears to be shaking his tiny black head.
There is a moment of odd magic. Then her phone buzzes. Greg. Urging her to check for hedgehogs in the dishwasher. Perhaps a small bear in the downstairs loo.
Suzy settles into a chair, already typing. Smiling, as if she never stopped, while her Christmas wasp helps himself to some potato.
Andrew Boulton is a lecturer in creative advertising. His stories have been published in journals including Lunate, Retreat West, Storgy, Flash Fiction Magazine, Tiny Molecules and the Bath Flash Fiction Award. He lives in Nottingham with his wife, daughter and a chubby cat.
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