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'Ancestral Soup' by Rachel John, LISP 2022 Flash Fiction Finalist

'Ancestral Soup' by Rachel John, LISP 2022 Flash Fiction Finalist

Ancestral Soup

Dad called as I drove through the December storm. The oddest thing, he said, sounding worried. He was visiting his brother, keeper of family documents. His niece, my unschooled, watermelon-breasted cousin was also there, he said, giggles spilling from her toothless mouth.

We were researching our family history, a spectral body of names really, not flesh and bone family, and as he introduced ancestors to me, I recalled visits to great aunts and uncles, sitting well-mannered while adults conversed and tea and cakes were served, and they’d elbow – Say thank you! – even though we had already and we scowled. Then when released my sister and I would erupt in vengeful silliness outside.

Our research lent our tenuous relationship a tangible bond, an excuse to… whatever, just as hiking was the bond with my now expatriated sister. Growing up we’d only seen him twice a year at most and his name was dirt at home. We perused flimsy unions skirting generations, diluted cousin tangents, covalent marriage bonds; the tally of surnames and census pages accumulated, and I became a little obsessed. But, nevertheless, it concerned me, this random family arbitrariness, my pale flesh an ancestral soup.

In the family bible, it’s your… he said, the signal faltering... Dates, I heard. My dates? I lost concentration momentarily, my cousin’s vacant eyes flashed before me, I heard a dislocated roar and shatter of glass and metal, rubber and bones and saw my buckled sepulchral car from above through a curtain of red rain and flashing blue lights, my limp self slumped at the wheel, and Dad shouting: Are you still there? … you alright? Over and over. And I saw my cousin again, inscrutable red-lipped smile, pen in hand before the family bible, and poor dad sitting opposite as white as a sheet.


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