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Burning

 Lily Hackett









The daughter died in a fire, in the burger bar where she worked the grill. The first hour it burned smelled great. What was in the meat locker rendered: bluey patties, short rib. After that it smelled like any building burning holding people. Everyone inside died. Those that didn’t sustained alterations. There was no daughter left to identify. Instead, the stunned mother gave a swab. They matched her data with a clump of smoking hair.

The mother’s mothers catered. They plaited cheddar twists, and thumbed holes in plain pies. They feared burned smells, so what was on the silver platters was flabby. The mother dressed in medium black trousers. Her shoes were very black. The clump was in a padded box. The box was set with spotted shells. ‘She loved the beach’ said the mother. She looked panicked. Her face rolled like a stone, leaving everything agape. ‘I think that she did’. She looked around. ‘I didn’t take a single painkiller while I was pregnant. I wanted her born immaculate’. The other mothers frowned and shuffled. The mother returned to the pew. She saw a grey bulge in a corner, like a wad of chewed paper.

The lady vicar bundled the box in her hem and took it to the burning room. The other mothers were hurt by the painkiller comment. They decided among each other to skip the wake and snacks. They left with weak excuses. The mother let her eyes unfocus. In this way she kept herself from blinking. She looked at the place where the box had been for a rough half hour. Her mothers said ‘your eyes look sore’. They tried to help her up. The mother made herself very heavy. The mothers left. She did blink, later, when a juicy hornet landed on her right eye and stung it. She rose to go.

The church door was eaten inside by age and mites, so it swung lightly, like a saloon door when a cowgirl shimmys into town. Instead, the daughter entered, spurless. Her red hand dandled the patch of peely skin on her head. The mother ran at her. To prove truth above her swelling vision, the mother raked her nails against the patch. Her daughter bled fresh pink and said ‘I love!’ The mother convinced herself quick that she’d known her daughter was living, somewhere in her mothering guts. The wad briefly pulsed with yellow bodies. The wasp the mother swatted jittered on the floor. The other wasps felt tragical, and crawled to their beds.

‘Where?’

‘The girls shelter’

‘Why?’

‘It was my fire. I sparked a lighter over the deep fat fryer. Whoosh’

‘Why?’

When it came public, the daughter was not the mother’s to forgive. The burger wives sent hate in the form of profane objects. Dry shit. Cowblood. String of milk teeth. ‘She’s asking for her daddy’. The daughter felt more guilt than she could bear. Did she? She did feel the weight of the stern rules governing her public behaviour. Even as she prepared the room to hang herself she did it as if in front of a town assembly, who at last might say ‘she feels really, really guilty.’ Then she swung, samely into second death as she had resurrectedness. The mother found and cut her down. She called doctors. The mother wailed and was pitied. But in private, she had a merry look.

The mother’s mothers twice-baked gruyere souffles. The church was full of yellow-smelling fumes. The husks of wasps snapped underfoot. The daughter’s coffin was propped up vertical, nailed shut. The lady vicar gestured to the mother. The mother turned away. After, charwomen came with suction hoses to bear away the insects. Then everyone gone, save the mother. She faced the hollow door, patient, radiant with faith and expectation.





Lily Hackett lives in Shepherd’s Bush, London. Her writing has been featured in NY Tyrant Magazine, Egress #1 and is upcoming in Egress #2 and X-R-A-Y Magazine.






2018




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Hotel is a magazine for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. The magazine is bi-annual, the online archive is updated periodically.

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2018
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