by Jan Kaneen
Tesco’s humungous—the wire shelves, the groceries—big as the ones in Tom and Jerry and the shoppers are all giants. An old-lady giant walks up behind me with a basket hooked over her arm, but she doesn’t see me because I’m really small and she’s looking at giant apples not looking where she’s going. She catches the top of my head with her basket.
‘Sorry lovey,’ she says. ‘Didn’t see you down there. You alright?’
I can tell by her wrinkly eyes that she’s a friendly giant so I smile and nod my head.
‘Lost your mummy?’ she asks looking behind me down the long-long aisle. I follow her gaze past the piles of fruit to the columns of brightly-coloured tins, all electric oranges and neon greens. Mummy’s right at the end by the pie counter her face dipped in shadow looking at the packet in her hand. I shake my head and point to her just as she puts the packet in her basket and goes round the corner. The old giant-lady smiles and says I’d better go and catch her up then. I smile the same smile back and skip off doing my special Oliver-skipping.
We went to the pictures last week to see Oliver! and the Artful Dodger skipped in a special way that I’ve been practicing ever since. It’s slower than ordinary skipping but miles more fun. I do it now, all the way to the pie counter. The smell gets more delicious as I go, changing from apple green to warm brown meat-and-potato pie. I turn down the aisle where mummy just went because I want to ask her what we’re having for elevenses. She’s right at the bottom but near enough to hear if I called her name. I skip a bit faster doing ordinary skips, and I’m really surprised when I don’t get any closer. I skip faster again but however fast I go, she always stays exactly the same distance away. I get a lurch in my tummy like you get in a lift when you go down really, really fast, and when Mummy disappears round the next corner, I start to run. The next isle’s piled high with pet food that towers tall above me in tins covered with pictures of animals—massive cats and dogs that watch me as I go. Their faces change shape as I run past, so their teeth start to show.
‘Mummy,’ I shout, tears pricking behind my wide little eyes, but she keeps on walking without looking back. ‘Mummy,’ I scream, running fast as I can. ‘Mummy. Mummy. MUM!’
And that’s where I always jolt awake, breathless and sweating, real tears spilling as I open my eyes, and when I do, the same-old pain is as sharp and raw as the first time I felt it more than fifty years ago, the gut-punch knowing that she’ll never hear me call, that I’ll never catch her up, that I’ll never see her face again.
Jan Kaneen has an MA in Creative Writing from the Open University and her short stories and flash fictions have won prizes and been published hither and yon, most recently at Retreat West, Molotov Cocktail and Ellipsis Zine. Her memoir-in-flash, The Naming of Bones is forthcoming from Retreat West Books in 2021. She blogs at https://jankaneen.com/ and tweets as @Jankaneen1