Finally, we have the winner of this year’s flash fiction competition; congratulations to Catherine Edmunds! We’ve had a great time reading all of the submissions, and this one resonated with us the most. We hope you love it as much as we do. Check out what she came up with below!
Don’t Eat the Rhubarb
by Catherine Edmunds
I go back outside as dusk falls. My wife went to bed a few minutes ago, saying, ‘What are we going to do about the flesh-eating plant in our garden?’
‘It’s rhubarb,’ I said.
‘Okay, you keep telling yourself that. Don’t stay out too late. Enjoy those crazy anxiety dreams.’
We’re both saying the opposite of what we really think. What we know. For example, I know that at night, the dead really do emerge from the compost I laid around the rhubarb, and I don’t mean just a few ghosts. There’s 250 million years’ worth of them, either dead, or pretending to have died, lying very still in the compost heap, but once you start spreading that stuff around . . . well, you don’t want to try to eat the rhubarb. Put it that way.
I don’t have crazy anxiety dreams. I have the compost heap from hell.
And I have sold it to the man next door. He was looking at it admiringly yesterday, saying he wishes he’d started one off six months ago, and I said, ‘You want some compost? You can have the whole lot for a tenner.’
‘Done!’ he said, and he was round with a wheelbarrow and a shovel ten minutes later. He refused to take it all, however. He’s left me with a little. ‘For my rhubarb,’ he says. I won’t eat my rhubarb; I make it into crumble and freeze it and give it away to people I don’t like.
He’s spent today spreading compost all over his vegetable patch and round his raspberries and currants in the fruit cage. That netting might keep birds out, but it won’t keep the dead in. Oh well. I’m off to bed. I will try not to dream about the dead and the not-quite-dead and the not-remotely-dead-but-seriously-decomposed.
It’s morning now, and things are not looking too good. I’ve spent the entire season avoiding rhubarb, but my wife served raspberries and cream for dessert last night, and I’d completely forgotten I put a nice top dressing of compost round the raspberry canes last year. I’m looking at my wife, and she’s looking at me, and we’re not at our best, though neither of us is saying anything. One of her eyes drops out onto the pillow and she picks it up quickly and squelches it back into the socket. ‘Sorry,’ she says, but it’s not her fault. I move to get out of bed and realise I’ve left my foot behind under the covers. I stand on the stump, lopsided. My wife can’t actually get out of bed. Her lower half is liquefying. She smells of raspberries. Old ones, that have that fluffy green fungus on them. I lurch back into bed. In sickness and in health, that’s what we said, and we meant it. If she’s going to liquefy, I might as well swim in her entrails in one last intimate embrace as we sink into putrefaction. It’s not so bad. Sloppy and smelly, but that’s sex for you. So long as there’s love, it’s fine.