Making an Angel
My mother swept in, flung off her fur and left it like a sleeping bear by the fire.
We had to build a Christmas angel. And it had to be now.
That word, angel, was soft, a breath mint sucked sharp, the way she sometimes called my name. Angela, Angela, come, a sliver of heaven in her mouth.
One palm swept across the table, peppered the salt, the ketchup falling aside, altered as a loved one after a stroke. Making an angel takes space.
She chalked an outline on the laminate and clawed through the house, pouring out drawers, jugs full of pins, coins, sticky tape, foil strips of pills to fill the angel with glints,
sharp as dreams of leaving home. I need more, she said.
I flitted to find the arms of shafted dolls, chipped china, milk lids and ribbons to give the angel ideas and nerves.
It wasn’t enough. So we swirled on impossible Airfix kits, nail polish, glitter and jewels, a fritter of a marriage certificate on the skirt.
The Altoids tin hailed my saved baby teeth across the hips. My mother lay out a lock of hair she once called sunlight she could comb and frowned.
God, we needed more. We had no wings. Just chicken in the freezer and not a feather in sight. One pillow apiece, we shook her bed into a storm, a flock gathering to all our paint, varnish and glue.
We made it, she breathed, speech slowing to a slur. I stood with her for a while and stared at the angel, goose down falling from our hands.
Angela Readman is a twice-shortlisted winner of the Costa Short Story Award. Her debut story collection Don’t Try This at Home was published by And Other Stories in 2015. It won The Rubery Book Prize and was shortlisted in the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. She also writes poetry, and her collection The Book of Tides was published by Nine Arches in 2016. Something Like Breathing is her first novel.