Family Fortunes By Lucy Goldring

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‘We asked one hundred people to name a source of family conflict – ’

In my mind: In-Laws

But I didn’t say that.

At the end you’re supposed to smile and wave moronically. Some teams get silly and pick up Les Dennis like he’s a roll of bargain carpet. Bugger that. I shuffled left and shoved my hands in my pockets, forgetting how ridiculously tight my trousers were. They had to edit me out of the shot.

I didn’t want Maria on the team but I got outvoted. Mum asked me how on earth she’d feel, assuming I gave a crap. Uncle Lee was the clear choice. Never breaks a sweat, Lee; cool as a cucumber, sharp as a blade. He’s unmarried, like me, only ten years’ older. Conversely, I’ve had Maria pegged as dense from the off.

Cracks were showing at rehearsal. Maria had a slippery grip on the rules and was slow and shaky with her answers, which were average at max. Martin kept patting her hand, saying, ‘Well done, honeybunny.’ She does look like a rabbit – the kind that goes all rigid and bony when you stroke them.

When we were fourteen, Maria let me prod her boob in Pete Denford’s coat cupboard. She was wearing white fingerless gloves and matching lace in her hair. Never. Been. Acknowledged. Within a fortnight, she was seeing Martin. He was in the year above us, told girls he was feminist. And that was that; without consultation I became the bloke who prodded his future sister-in-law’s boob. And I’ll tell you something, stuff like that sticks.

Martin says Maria’s being treated for moderate anxiety. I say that’s an excuse to avoid Dad’s Sunday roasts when she’s got a mard on. Her family are wankers so makes sense she’d want to join team Cockcroft. But you’re either in or you’re out, right? When Maria does grace us with her presence, my parents make a massive fuss, complimenting her silky blouses when they’re River Island at max. It’s embarrassing, us all gawping.

Did I mention we won? Not even the point. Anyway, The Listers were saddled with Duncan – basically a ginger-chinned Maria – and they missed some absolute sitters.

Afterwards, we split the money by household: Mum and Dad, Martin and Maria and yours truly. Martin said it should go five ways, an equal share for each person, which was massively ungrateful as I scored highest, despite going second in Big Money. Mum shut him up by giving Maria the Bosch multi-mixer, since her old Kenwood was still serviceable. That was on top of a Cotswolds minibreak. More than fair, if you ask me.

‘We asked one hundred people to name a source of family conflict – ’

Little Katie Lister said, ‘Jealousy.’ A solid 22 points but not the top answer.

‘Money, Les,’ I said. Boom! Advantage Cockcroft.

Fair play to Katie Lister though. Jealousy can slice through a family faster than your average food processor. Seen it happen. My parents couldn’t pay off my drug debts and sort Martin’s college fees. It made no odds to Martin that I was a terrified kid back then. He’s been bitter as a crunched-up aspirin ever since. Well, he’s got his effing cheque now and Maria’s finally persuaded someone to employ her, so everyone’s hunky-bloody-dory.

Did I mention I’ve got a new girlfriend? Not even the point. Anyway, she recognised me off the tele. Came right over and chatted me up in the pub. Fame at last! I was thinking. Couldn’t stop grinning. When she came round for Sunday dinner, she told Dad she’d admired my lightning reflexes. I didn’t deny it – was happy to have it acknowledged in fact. All this while pretending to enjoy a piece of lamb she’d been chewing for ten minutes. A bloody diamond, Natalie is, and brainy with it.

No disrespect to Uncle Lee but reckon I’m the sharpest Cockcroft these days. I’ll probably audition for Strike It Lucky next. Reckon together Nat and I will be unbeatable.


Lucy Goldring

Lucy Goldring has lived in Bristol all her adult life but stubbornly calls herself a Northerner. Before getting into writing, she had various jobs in sustainability and education.

Lucy has been shortlisted by Flash 500, the National Flash Fiction Day (NFFD) and Retreat West and recently won Lunate Fiction’s monthly flash comp. She was nominated for Best Small Fictions 2020 by both NFFD and 100 Word Story.

Lucy has published widely online and has work featured in several anthologies.

Tweets @livingallove

More stories by Lucy Goldring:

Lunate Fiction
‘The Eight Year Hope of Us (as seen on TV)’
‘Built-in Obsolescence’

Via Amazon
First published longer form short story ‘The Intimacy of the Plish Sitter’ available to read for 99p in this Comma Press anthology

Reflex Fiction
Author page containing all selected stories including the long-listed ‘Collapsing Isosceles’

Ellipsis Zine
‘Blood, Water, Other’

The Cabinet of Heed
‘Passing Resemblance’


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