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  You could have a big dipper   

Six eights by Mark Stocker

I don’t know my NHS number, so I leave that blank. I skip the part about previous surnames, too. For my temporary address, I write the caravan park. I’m regretting this already. I feel ridiculous in flip-flops. Next to me, a young mum rocks a howling toddler in a stroller. The kid has a patch over one eye. Tears are running from under the patch into a glob of snot and dripping onto his lips. I should feel sorry for him, but I want to grab the handles and wheel him out into the traffic.


I wake up and shuffle through to my parents’ room. Dad switches on a lamp and I turn to see my shadow on the wall. I tell them about the bumble bee, how it was big as a bus and I knew it had come to get me. Mum asks if I want to climb in. From the end of the bed, I crawl up the middle and settle between them. I am expecting warmth, but the sheet is cold.


The class is laughing. A scrunched-up ball of paper stings my ear. The supply teacher ignores it and asks again. Six eights. I shake my head and run my finger along a crack in the desk. She leans over and talks to me about rhyme and rhythm. Repeat after me, she says, and I do. She keeps me in at break and makes me write it out fifty times, so I won’t forget.


The nurse tells me what a brave lad I’ve been while she checks my temperature. My belly aches where they’ve sliced into it. I wonder how big my scar will be. On the TV to my left, a cartoon bee has his arm around a box of cereal at a drive-in. He is singing to it. My Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, you know that I love you. The words spin around my head. I tell the nurse I’m sore and she smiles and says the pain will pass.


The day Dad goes, I take out his record player and put on a stack of his 45s. The Beatles, The Stones, Buddy Holly, Hendrix. They’d be worth something if he hadn’t scrawled his name on the labels. I cry as, one by one, they drop onto the turntable and the needle swings across. I make sure it’s all back where I found it before Mum gets home.


The doctor tells me to breathe in, then out as he presses down with his fingertips. He asks about movements and blood and medical history. I can’t think. He tells me to get dressed and asks if I’m enjoying my holiday. I smile and he smiles back for too long. As I push my feet into my flip-flops, he types. He asks me to confirm my age. A bumble bee taps against the outside of the window. Forty-eight, I tell him.


Mark Stocker is a writer from Suffolk, England. He’s been longlisted and shortlisted in various competitions, and has had stories published by Flash Fiction Magazine, The Phare, Pure Slush, The Daily Drunk and Ellipsis Zine. He was the winner of this year’s Flash 500 Short Story Competition.

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