Home Flash Fiction Editor’s Choice—Cleaning House, by Lindsey Harrington

Editor’s Choice—Cleaning House, by Lindsey Harrington

Cleaning House, by Lindsey Harrington

They tackled the kitchen first, making three piles: keep, donate, and toss.

Sophie and her mother, Sylvie, politely debated the fate of Grandma June’s belongings inside, while a storm raged outside.

“Keep. That’s a keep.”

Sophie took the wooden rolling pin from Sylvie’s hand, hovering over the goodwill pile.

“That old thing? You’ve got a rolling pin at home.” 

Sophie’s best memories were of standing on a chair in an oversized apron, making apple pie with Grandma June, while Grampy barked orders from the living room. It felt like just yesterday, even though she had a child and a shitty marriage of her own now. 

“Fine,” Sylvie said, confronted by her telling silence.

Sophie crossed the room. A break for some tea, that’s what we need. As the kettle boiled, she stared at the rain streaming down the window. 

“It’s like God’s crying for her,” Sylvie squeezed her shoulder. Sophie snorted but then crossed herself. Grandma June would have liked that.

It had been a difficult trip. Three hours on rutted roads brimming with water, the wind jerking the car around. Sylvie gasped and grabbed her arm every time the wheels lost traction. Sophie kept her eyes forward and her hands at ten and two, doing her best to ignore Sylvie and the thoughts of Rick at home alone with baby June.

They moved onto the living room and its photo albums. Sifting through them, Sophie came across an old picture of Grampy. He was sitting on the house’s fence of white two-by-fours, a smoke in his hand and a scowl on his face. 

“God never cried for him,” Sylvie pointed at the photo of her father. It was a miracle, they agreed on something.

“At least she got to enjoy some years without him.” 

The wind picked up, howling through the chimney, and knocking out the power. 

The pair worked through the darkness, rounding up every dusty candle and scattering them across the living room. The place needed to be empty and clean for the realtor by Sunday.

“Feels like a séance.” Sylvie shivered. 

Grandma June, if you can hear me, give me a sign. Sophie squeezed her eyes shut.


Until they got to the bedroom.

“What’s this?” Sylvie held up a single piece of lined paper, neatly folded. 

Sophie snatched and opened it, crumpling the letter with shaky hands. The words blurred and whirled together as a presence filled the room. They both stared at the page, eyes wide and foreheads creased.

Sylvie cleared her throat. “Getting pretty cold in here. Think we should light the fire?” 

“Good idea. I’ll get some wood.”

Sophie lit the letter off a taper candle, the corner catching instantly. Flames licked up towards her hand before she tossed it onto the waiting kindling and raised her mug. 

“To Grandma June.”

They clinked drinks and watched the paper disappear in the glowing hearth. Sophie stroked the rolling pin beside her on the sofa. 

If Grandma June could do it…

Lindsey Harrington is an Atlantic Canadian writer working on a short story collection about breakups in all their forms, called Coming Apart. Follow her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/lindseyharringtonwriter/