Running Away

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Our short story of the week is a story about childhood memories from the writer Maggie Ling.

After a career as a published illustrator and cartoonist, Maggie Ling swapped dip pen for iMac to work with words alone. Since then, her prose fiction has been listed in numerous international short story competitions, including a shortlisting for the Bridport Prize and publication in Unthology 1 (Unthank Books 2010), Something Was There… : Asham Award-Winning Ghost Stories (Virago 2011), and Unthology 5 (Unthank Books 2014). Her story ‘Let Her Go’ was Seren Books Short Story of the Month (Seren Books: October 2017). A collection of her short fiction will be published later this year. She lives in Norwich, a UNESCO city of literature.

Running Away is the story of a boy who doesn’t fit in and the devastating consequences for his family.

Enjoy!

In my perverse mind it’s summertime: that hot summer of 1976. Which it could not have been, since Lukey was born in January. Even so, I persist in seeing it this way. Seeing my mother, in bikini and tie-dyed sarong, drifting from shaded bedroom to sun-scorched balcony, a whiff of coconut suntan lotion wafting through time to perfume this dull autumn afternoon. Bob Marley is playing on the record player, Running Away running through my head. Though, again, I am conflating an early memory with a later one, a time when Bob’s words were blasted full volume, blasted beyond the grave, my mother grieving her double loss.

These sounds, these scents, I will always associate with my first sight of Lukey, lying on a fluffy white towel, spread out on the rainbow-coloured quilt of my parents’ bed. Seeing him there, evidencing no sign of blood or breath, I thought him a lifeless doll-baby. Thought: this ugly-sweet creature cannot be my brother. He looks like the toy baby my grandmother gave me for Christmas. I imagined Lukey’s body to be floppy-soft and his pale, smooth head – showing none of the white-blond hair to come – to be as hard and as fragile as porcelain. Suspected that beneath the white nappy drawn up between his colourless legs, my alleged sibling’s sexless-doll status lay hidden.Read more…