- Vol. 09
- Chapter 01
One day we shall feast
Souls rain down on us, and do not twinkle like stars, but are dull and occasionally brittle or sometimes soggy, like crumbs.
We collect them, mostly. Sweep our cold palms across the tabletop, scoop scant handfuls into the chipped bowl. Eventually it will be full enough, but not today.
We gather them as Ma showed us. She said that they are all different despite appearances, that each is precious in its own way. So we are careful, use gentle movements, soft touches, honour them with small words whispered under our breath. Occasionally some fall to the floor where strays eat them or get them caught in their fur to be casually discarded when they hunt in the night. We try not to let that happen. When it does the welts across our arms ache in the memory of where Ma counted the lost in our raw skin.
But we do not cry, never cry. She taught us that. Even when our hunger makes us feel like we might bend over and snap right through the middle of our body, we do not let our face betray us. Only once did tears gather, their traitorous edges stinging, pulsing hot and red in our eyes, when our oafish fingers spilled crumbs straight from the bowl itself. Ma gripped our shoulders. “We do not cry over spilled milk and we will not bawl over these meagre souls,” she said, wiping our cheeks roughly with her shirt cuffs. And even as she wiped the tears, she added more lines onto our skin, and she taught us then that we honour them because of their function, not for anything that may have come before. Tears prickled again in our younger self, who thought that maybe there was something more, but they did not fall.
Now Ma is gone and it is just us, and we do our best to gather as many as we can, to be ready to pay our respects when the time comes. Because it still feels like some respect is due, however small, however habitual.
One day we shall feast
The rain falters, slows. Today’s gathering is small, every day’s gathering a little smaller than the last. We wonder if Ma is there in any of these handfuls we gather. Before she left, she counted the marks on our body, bade us never lose count of the ones that are lost. A trace of regret, perhaps, crossed her face. Then she was gone to us.
Brushing the last stragglers into the bowl, a flick of our fingers hits strangely against the grain of the table. We watch as one crumb tumbles, rolls, over the edge. We fancy we hear it crack against the tiles.
We do not cry, nor do we add a mark to our crowded skin.
Eventually our bowl will be full enough, and then we shall feast. And when we eat we shall try not to choke on these dry, dusty mouthfuls, because we do not weep over crumbs.