It was only after having children, and what happened next, that she discovered her love of minor dishonesties. I bet you didn’t know that giraffes can breathe underwater, she told them as they walked the slow path to the park, and they wide-eyed-and-shocked at her, and she nodded impressive, grown-up knowledge right back. Now, remember - only cross at the traffic lights.
Be kind to each other, she said later, pouring warm water over their soft limbs, and - when bees get tired, they fly upside down.
The next day, she spent the morning teaching them to break eggs and strip away tired potato skins, and told them, tiny dinosaurs, too small to see, live in the cracks in the pavement. Over lunch, she explained that, unlike dinosaurs, humans do not last forever.
Tuesdays are a few seconds shorter than all the other days, she told them that evening, leaning, conspiratorial, across their small beds, breathing them in, so you have to make the most of them. And remembering takes practice - try and think of the things you love every day.
A few weeks later, lying flat and intubated, she held their small hands and told them, I’m not going anywhere, I promise. And pineapples? They grow underground.
Awarded second place in the 2021 Bridport Prize Flash Fiction category.