And when I get to the cafe on the breakwater, mum is picking at a cinnamon bun but not really eating it, just deconstructing its parts and sorting them into distinct piles on the table: icing, raisins, bread. My sister is squished in beside her because the cafe is jammed full of normal families drinking coffee, and when my sister catches sight of me walking through the door she gives me her best what-the-hell-took-you-so-long look, but I’ve been dreading this meet-up since she scheduled it a few days ago, and I’ve spent the morning clearing my fridge of its leftovers and getting high.
I share my sister’s chair, pick at mum’s piles. The raisins are hot. I let them rest on my tongue and they burn.
Mum is worried, my sister starts, but this is the way a lot of our conversations have started since dad died, and there is a seagull out the window dive-bombing tourists who are whale watching. The bird is causing a commotion—someone in the boat is standing and swinging his camera bag at it, another is yelling at him to sit down, and a third is pointing off the bow like a fourth has fallen overboard. Mum is worried she’s going to end up homeless, my sister says, trying to catch my eye. I told her that’s nonsense. A guy on the deck of the cafe launches a sizeable chunk of muffin at the seagull who is screeching mad, and it lands fifteen feet from the boat and presumably sinks. She could stay with you, right? my sister says, pinching my thigh underneath the table, but all I can think about is this seagull, how it’s fending for itself, how it’s taking on a boatload of humans—how it’s probably protecting its young. I think about how that isn’t my reality anymore. Of course, I say, popping another raisin into my mouth. Of course, she can stay with me.
Jennifer Todhunter’s stories have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, CHEAP POP, and elsewhere. She was named to Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions 2018, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Pidgeonholes. Find her at www.foxbane.ca or @JenTod_.