Other Shit Rumpelstiltskin Did

Angela Readman

Teach his soldiers to fly, DIY parachutes drifting off a bridge. Steal his sisters’ doll and ask what’s wrong with it? Learn to pronounce his name, make R’s sound less like W and S’s less like snakes. Lay a palm on the speech therapist’s belly, fluttering fingers a blinking star. Ask his mother if boys can have babies. Why not? Bury his sister’s scissors, liberate the doll that gave her a dirty look, cradle the shaved head to his chest. Wish on a breastbone. Write to Santa for a brother, a deerhound, a goldfish to love. Ruin another jumper. Learn to spell his name. Burn his alphabet blocks, the letters never enough. Scribble lines on a blackboard. I must not… steal…drill holes in lips…stuff pudding, honey, bread into doll’s, no matter how hungry they look. Invent a game called BAM! Plot the death for his father in a half-arsed fashion: stampeding cows, possessed ploughs, a fatal allergy to the silver stuff on scratch-cards (preferably winners.) Experiment with nicknames: Stilts, Skin. Join a band. Quit. Get a tattoo. Date a woman who thought he’d be taller. Date another who calls him Rump. Babysit her son, buy a globe & spin it. Make Egg Fried Rice a geography lesson. Eat day-old prawn crackers with David Attenborough. Pick up the phone to show the kid where the geese go. Hang-up on the guy who sounds like he knows. Attend the aquarium with a lady who thought he’d be skinnier. Learn about seahorses, unfasten his belt flashing the seahorse inked to his hip. Laugh at the joke the kid next door told in the park. Take the long way around avoiding the park altogether, facts about octopus and The Beetles shielded by mothers. Put the Lucky House on speed-dial, fill out forms, ask about adoption prospects for guys living alone. Snap the world off its stand, push the globe under a sweater and stroke it in front of the mirror like a beachball, a melon baby kicking inside him, bursting to be born.

Angela Readman's stories have won the Costa Short Story Award & the Anton Chekov Award for Short Fiction. Her poetry collection The Book of Tides was published by Nine Arches. Her latest short story collection The Girls are Pretty Crocodiles & Other Fairytales is out in 2021.