Unfortunate One by L.A. Craig

Dec 22 2011

Jade raises money for kids with leukaemiea. She sells miniature clay skulls. Their tea lights seep amber from eye sockets, gaping noses and between crooked smiles. She fires them in a kiln in her backyard and sells them at craft fairs, car boot sales and on days when she’s not busy, from a fold-up pasting table on her front lawn.

Jade saves stamps for the blind, buys pet food for the animal rescue centre, volunteers two afternoons a week at Mind. She collects jumble for the Lifeboat Association and shops for elderly neighbours. She feels it wasteful to allow time to fritter.

Her husband said their marriage might have lasted, if they’d had more idle moments. Jade signed up for the evening class as soon as he had gone.

A nightlight was the first project. While others fashioned toadstools and rockets for their children, Jade’s thumbs rounded out two hollow eyes, a rigid grin. The uneven base wobbled as the flame caught the wick, then, fire dancing between jagged teeth brought something dead back to life.

At home she made another then another, painted each a different shade, added fake jewels, bandanas, fangs. She made one for every child on the ward, to their individual specification: rock star, furry, fairy skulls with tiaras, pirates slashed from hard fought battles. Skulls dipped in glitter, with feathers and earrings, one with false lashes to frame its blank stare.

When all her clay is used up, her hands unemployed, Jade slumps from the weight of doing nothing and sobs.

Her tears are frustration for the poor children, she will tell you, for the abandoned pets, for the old folk, housebound, no family to visit, for the starving in Africa, for those unable to help themselves.

LA Craig writes in the UK. Her work has appeared in Everyday Fiction and The Pygmy Giant.

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