by Damhnait Monaghan

WHAT HE NEEDS, says his mother, though no one ever listened to her, is love and kindness. (Like I never had as a child and still don’t, she thinks, a cold and distant spouse replacing disinterested parents.) He’ll find a way out of this, she says, though she never did, stuck in the small town she’d sworn to leave behind.

What he needs, says his father, is more discipline. My dad used to belt me—once a week whether you needed it or not the rest of the family silently recites, sing-song for this is a familiar tale—and I turned out just fine. His family knows this is far from true, he is far from fine, but no one dares contradict him.

What he needs, says his sister, under her breath, though she’s in the next room, safe from her father’s hand and her mother’s tongue, is to be the centre of attention, sucking all the oxygen out of the room, so one notices anything else, least of all her.

What he needs, he doesn’t say, as he sits cross-legged on his bedroom floor, eyes squeezed shut and hands over ears, is to escape from this family, who will never understand what he needs.  


Damhnait Monaghan’s flash fiction is widely published and has won or been placed in several competitions. Her novella in flash The Neverlands (V Press) won Best Novella in the 2020 Saboteur Awards. Her debut novel New Girl in Little Cove (HarperCollins Canada & others) won the 2022 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writers Prize (Romance). Damhnait is on Twitter (’til the bitter end) @Downith.

Her website is