Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about home by T. K. Howell.
T. K. Howell is a writer living on the banks of the Thames. When not writing, he manages ancient oak woodlands and tends to trees that are older than most countries. His writing is often inspired by mythology and folklore.
T. K. has recently come back to writing after a hiatus of over a decade. He began to write and submit short stories at the beginning of 2022 and has not been able to stop since. He writes both literary and genre/speculative fiction and, among other places, his work is available at Lucent Dreaming, Mystery Magazine, Dark Horse and Firewords.
‘Chalk’ follows a young man and his father as they connect with nature.
Kicking the thin sward, he brings up chalk in the roots of knapweed and bladder campion. Eyebright, rockrose, sainfoin. In the morning light, Bee Orchids dance dark and purple against the pale green of marjoram.
Sun up. Showtime. Julian is eight and every Saturday his father marches him out of the house at sunrise and down onto the hillside, where the wind whips east to west and cuts him raw. Mr Brewer’s act of communion, of penance. Julian assumes he is being punished, though for what he hasn’t been told.
He is the youngest of the Brewer children. An afterthought. An eight-year gap to Francesca, ten to Ernest.
‘You were planned. Just not very well,’ his mother will tell him when he’s old enough to hear it. ‘We wanted a third for so long. Eventually, we just sort of accepted it wouldn’t happen. God’s will. Of course, we forgot to stop trying.’ At this, she will giggle and blush, despite being too old for such behaviour. Besides, by the time she tells him this Julian will be twenty-two and know just how much she lies. She lies about his father. She lies about the house, about her finances, about Kitty from down in the village who swindled her out of First Prize in the Victoria Sponge category at the W.I. fete. She lies, he thinks, sometimes just for the practice. To keep her hand in. Because by then he will know that he is the biggest lie of all and if she gets rusty, she might just let it slip.