RJ Dwyer, June 2024 Highly Commended


by R J Dwyer

You start by saying sorry.

“A tumour?” he asks, and you agree. He studies his palms. The collar of his shirt is stained, while the woman next-door sports a perfect white cardigan. He brings her laundry, and they all say – what a catch. When she goes he won’t be long after. A hammering sound travels in through the half-open window and you raise your voice over it. When he meets your eye, he’s on the edge of tears and you feel satisfied. It doesn’t matter as much what’s said now, he won’t remember the details. He leans towards you, too close, and you correct the distance. When he asks if she’s dying, you pause. Your heart beats too fast. It’s almost exciting when you don’t know which way they’ll go. He might fall to his knees. Or hit you. He could even shrug and say, no worries.

He tells you that she loved to swim – how from the shore he would watch her head rise and fall among the black rocks. Once, a cut on the sole of her foot, and patches of blood left on the sand.

He tells you of the loss of their baby.

He tells you how he always felt, deep down, that she never really loved him quite as much.

How some days now she calls him by another name and looks at him differently.

How he usually goes along with this, all the same.

Later you stop outside her room. The woman is sleeping, and he’s hunched over the bed. For a moment, you think you see him holding a pillow to her face. He has one hand on her chest and with the other he runs a small comb over her fringe. You stand back from the glass, trying to make yourself small.

About the Author

RJ Dwyer is a writer and doctor, currently pursuing an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. His stories have featured in the wurd Magazine, The Interpreter’s House, the Fish Anthology 2024, and the 2024 Anthology of the Federation of Writers (Scotland), among others. Dwyer was a winner in the 2024 Fish Flash Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the 2024 Moniack Mhor Emerging Writer Award. He is fiction editor of Our Father, a Glasgow-based literary project, and has worked on the editorial team for three books released by indie publisher thi wurd. Contact: rjdwyer.writes@gmail.com

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