When I think of Trent, my mother's brother, I always think of nails; he carried them in his mouth everywhere, so that, to me, he looked like a tall, wiry bird collecting twigs. He would wander from room to room putting things up, or hammering things down, and if you asked him a question he would answer from between clenched teeth, the words flat and short and perfectly suited to the job.
Trent's wife — my aunt Christine — always had nails in her mouth too, though hers were a different kind; they were for hammering down Trent, for putting him in his place any time he came loose, and fixing, good and proper, any ideas he might have that he could do better for himself.
This is how the two of them lived, and how I always found them when I cycled over to their house to throw the burst football in the yard for their giant lurcher-cross, Sailor, who was happy to see me in a way no-one ever has been before or since.
And Trent would take me into the workshop to show me the latest thing he was working on – a cupboard, a wooden yacht, a doll's house – until Christine shouted to him from the kitchen to stop boring the child and come and clear his shit off the table so she could put out cake.
And it was this way for the three of us most Sundays I was a teenager, until one night while he slept, Trent's heart stopped hammering and they nailed him down for good. And in time I stopped going round to see Christine and to kick the ball around for Sailor, though one day my aunt turned up at our house unannounced, carrying a toolbox I could tell was heavier than it looked, and put it down on the table.
‘He'd want you to have this,' Christine said. ‘Never any damn use to me,' and I didn't know if she meant Trent or the tools.
‘No, I can't stay,' she said when my mother asked her if she wanted a lemonade, the day being so hot for September.
After she had gone, my mother turned back to the sink and muttered something sharp, but her words were lost over the noise of the running water, and the dishes in the bowl — which were old and chipped like her fingernails.
Tim Craig lives in London. A winner of the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction, his short-short fiction has been placed or commended four times in the Bath Flash Fiction Award and has featured in the Best Microfiction 2019 and ’22 anthologies, as well as literary journals such as Milk Candy Review and Atticus Review. His debut collection, ‘Now You See Him,’ is available from Ad Hoc Fiction.