by Rosie Garland

THE KIDS CURL up tight and roll under the sofa.

Like hedgehogs, I say.

More like pangolins, you reply.

I agree. They are far more like pangolins, complete with hefty forepaws, talons powerful enough to tear down walls. I kneel, shove my arm under the couch. They snigger, out of reach. The flick of their tails against the laminate flooring.

You come out right now, I growl.

Or else what? says our daughter, full of whiskery disobedience.

Don’t speak to your mother like that, you say. Come out now.

What for? asks our son.

That stumps us. I rest on my haunches, you at my side. We look at each other, wondering what we can offer children who’ve grown all the claws and teeth and ferocity they need. What is a wise parent to do?

The books from the Ministry were never any help. Imprecise suggestions about hiring a skilled alchemist to unlock metaphysical shackles. Not that we can afford such a luxury. We spent everything on Birthing Licences.

I think myself a million miles away, to where planets orbit friendly stars. Where DNA still behaves itself: clean water, trees, and enough oxygen to go round.

We can’t teach you anything more, I say. Mothers aren’t supposed to cry these days, but I am oddly tearful. The whole world is yours for the taking. Go get it.

There’s a pause. Jeez Mom, says our daughter. What world?


ROSIE GARLAND writes long and short fiction, poetry and sings with post-punk band The March Violets. Her work is published internationally, and her latest collection What Girls do in the Dark (Nine Arches Press) was shortlisted for the Polari Prize 2021. Her novel The Night Brother was described by The Times as “a delight…with shades of Angela Carter.” Val McDermid has named her one of the most compelling LGBT+ writers in the UK today.

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