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yellow shapes 2 by Ira Joel Haber 








She Wears a Green Hat









and Eats Cantaloupe


Steven J. Dines

Folk are talking with their eyes.  They’re saying why a green hat on a day for black, I don’t get it. 

After the service, I find myself bunkered in Margaret’s kitchenette behind tea cups and civilized sandwiches; enough for an army.  She is out there surrounded by three generations of Croll, the youngest of which are either spill-sprawled across the living room floor or in high-speed orbit around her Ardennes armchair.  A cigarette juts from her lips and reminds me of a smoking gun.  She sees me and I widen my eyes to let her know that I am hating every minute of this.  She concurs with a nod.


Maggie’s daughter appears at my elbow, tugs it roughly.  Her name is June but she’s more like December.


“I never knew mother liked green,” she whispers.


“It’s her favourite colour,” I say.


“Absolutely not.  I’d know if it was.  I mean, why wouldn’t I know that….” Her eyes finish and you would?


“Ask her yourself.”


“Oh, I will,” she says.  “All this time I thought she hated green—detested it.  I’ve never seen her wear that colour before.  Have you?”




The first time was in 1954, in the back of my old Ford Popular 103E.  We laughed to tears at those knickers.  I said green, she swore emerald, and then we removed them from the discussion.  Green was her favourite; it had not been his.  She would tell him it was her monthly visit just so he would not check.  Such things, the small advances up his beachhead, had got her through the nightmare years.    


In the Ardennes, Maggie adjusts her hat this-way-that.  Strokes the brim in a way I’ve seen before, in private.  I glance round at June: she’s watching but not seeing.


The clock on the mantelpiece tells me it’s three minutes until our rendezvous upstairs.  We joked earlier about synchronizing watches, but this house has more than enough clocks to mark time’s passing.  Maybe she will bin a few once today is over.


The cups stand in ranks upon the countertop.  I’d try pouring the tea but my hands are trembling so much I’m sure I’d drop the pot.  I ask June to take command, which she does, though rather frostily.


Then it is up the stairs undercover of a bathroom break.  I slip inside their bedroom instead.  My palms feel like melted ice.  I’ve never been good at this kind of thing: clandestine ops.  My brother, on the other hand…he knew what he was doing and kept it secret for fifty years.  But I saw what he put under her make-up all those times.


His stuff lies in black plastic sacks on the floor.  I’d brush away a tear but in this case it is an accurate summation of a man and his life.  It won’t be put on the street for collection Monday morning, though: June wants everything.  The poor woman is drowning and she has chlorinated water in her eyes.  But that’s how Margaret wanted it then and wants it now.


“Summer doesn’t know winter,” she once said to me.  “And it never should.”


I straighten suddenly as two arms wrap themselves around me from behind.  I relax as they pull me back against a familiar contoured form.  She asks how I am.  I say better.  She whispers I have to get back.  I say of course.  Then I turn around and we’re into a spin like Fred and Ginger in those movies we never used to watch in the dark. 


We kiss. 


She leaves.


I notice the photo album lying open on the dresser.  She’s been looking back again.  I walk over.  There’s a black-and-white picture of Margaret and a gaggle of youthful women, girls really, standing around a station in the old munitions factory in Dagenham.  A couple of empty fruit crates lie at their feet, while every girl has in her hand a banana or a hunk of cantaloupe or, in some cases, both.  The smiles behind the fruit are wide and sugary.


I turn the page.  Through the protective plastic I can see her handwriting on the back of the photograph:


May 7th 1945.  German surrender.  The War is OVER!  


I look awhile then decide it’s best to close the book.  June could wander upstairs feeling rooms for echoes of her father and stumble across it.


Summer mustn’t know.


I make my way back downstairs.  Maggie’s in her armchair again, still wearing her green hat and a suitably serene face behind the rising smoke of another cigarette.  She’s just asked one of the great-grandchildren to look inside the refrigerator and take out the plate of sliced cantaloupe.  She asks would anyone else like some?  The folk, they shake their heads and talk with their eyes.  But they don’t know; they will never know.


Maybe it is a day for black, but I, for one, am finding it hard not to smile.

Steven J. Dines lives in the granite city of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he has been writing short fiction for many years. His work has appeared in over fifty print and online publications, including Dark Tales, BuzzWords, Word Riot, Noo Journal, Underground Voices, Outsider Ink, Eclectica, TQR, The Rose & Thorn, The Late Late Show, echolocation, Darker Matter, GUD Magazine, and others. His story, Unzipped, was selected as one of the Notable Stories in storySouth's Million Writers Award. He is currently working on his first novel. For more information, visit his blog at