Richard Thomas + Reuben Sutton



Mother was an old lady, splicing film cells of memory. She sat by the window clutching my hand and kneading a damp handkerchief. She shouted because she was deaf, but no-one else was listening. Old people do that: shout.

Mother told me strange things, forced a whole prologue to my life onto me. An heirloom. Nothing else was left once the nursing home was paid. It swallowed up everything.

“The scar’s still there, too big to have healed. I never wanted to forget Daisy anyway. It’s her only lasting reminder.” She pulled up her cardigan and there was the scar, half-hidden.

Scars don’t disappear in a lifetime. Lumpy ones or discoloured grooves, they grow less obvious, but we’re stuck with them. I have them under my arm and over my chest, quite precise marks. A reminder of what was once there. They’re painful, and moving my shoulder is difficult.

I stood at mother’s grave. She died in her eighties, not a bad innings, but you always want them longer.

It was six months since her cancer took hold, spread through weary organs, tipping the balance in favour of death. You know the story, a thousand times over. You’ll know it for yourself one day.

I can’t remember where she’s gone. I was too young. We were premature, cut out of a place we never chose to be: the womb. Who chooses to come into the world? Who chooses to leave it?

Mother didn’t know about my cancer. I’m glad of that. She sometimes talked about when she’d be pushing up daisies and then she must have remembered. She’d fall silent. I understand now.

We died, Daisy and me. I was grabbed back though. Resuscitated. Not Daisy.

My shoes were right up to the rectangle of earth that had been piled down over mother’s coffin. It was covered in grass already. One day it’ll sink into a hollow, when the box rots, when the void gives way.

I talked, rested a hand on the headstone, but nobody was listening. Were they?

My scars were new then, and my void was in a different place to hers. Not far though: the womb, the breast. Inches. Closer psychologically.

Sometimes you see a sign, your interest is pricked, and you’re taking the next exit. We parked by a sign in Swedish and English. No-one else was around. Some sort of burial mound. They’re ten-a-penny in Sweden.

Sheep were everywhere, grazing, making pellets of shit. Tread carefully, or else you’ll need to scrape it off your shoes.

Go on a nice day and you’ll be able to see lakes stretching out below. They go on for miles, scattered everywhere. You could never tire of them. And the sky, it’s not the same.

There it was, a grassy cone surrounded by a few trees. I climbed up, not expecting to find anything at the summit, certainly not a hollow a few feet deep. It’d been dug out or just sunk in over time.

Just the place to bury a crock of gold, or someone you love. Or both. I lay down in the centre of the hollow, one arm stretched out to the side, the other unable to move far. No shit to worry about here. I fixed my eyes upwards. Not a cloud.

They found a ship burial on a dig there last year. The oldest in Scandinavia apparently, like some new Sutton Hoo. They’ll have cut right into that mound; big bucket loads and then one trowel scrape at a time.

Sometimes a mound is just a mound. But sometimes it holds a secret.