Flash Fiction

On the Roof by Roland Leach

Roland Leach has three collections of poetry, the latest My Father’s Pigs published by Picaro Press. He is the proprietor of Sunline Press, which has published nineteen collections of poetry by Australian poets. His latest venture is Cuttlefish, a new magazine that includes art, poetry, flash fiction and short fiction.


On the Roof

The three sons are on the roof mending the ridge-caps, mortaring the cracks, cleaning the gutters. It is a mother’s day gift. They would like to say it is an act of love long overdue, but they want her to sell.

I have never really noticed the garden till I am on the roof. My mother has a bird bath, a little bird-house for them to rest. It hangs from a hook in the tree like a square uterus, its dark whale eye staring around the yard. She tells me the doves live in the sheoak, she comes out at dawn and feeds them. There are magpies that walk up the backsteps, crows whose whoosh of wings she hears from the kitchen, the occasional kookaburra and lorikeet, where would she go if she couldn’t feed the birds?

On the roof I stare into the jacaranda and see her life of busying herself: years cooking pots of soup or roast dinners, even the shank broths made for her dogs, are no longer needed. It must be lonely at night, till she hears the birds crazy with morning.

We all agree she is getting worse with age, She is half-mad and stubborn. She had been good with small children and animals, things that were helpless and loyal, but now all the grandchildren have grown up, her dogs died years ago and are buried side by side in the backyard. There is nothing left but these stupid birds.

From the roof I look across the hibiscus, the morning glory engulfing the fence, I hear the birds in the old jarrah tree, the doves are speckled along the ground, my mother must have just fed them.

Perhaps the roof will hold, I tell my brothers, as I fill in the cracks, rip out the loose concrete and tuck the mortar, using my fingers for the first time, at last ready to dirty my hands.