Friday, 14 June 2013

'The Almond Crumb Sofa' - Tim Stevenson

‘It was like being at war, I suppose,’ the Professor said.

 He relaxed deeper into his red leather armchair and sipped his brandy in the candlelight.

 His wife raised an eyebrow and stuck the poker into the remains of the fire before retrieving her cup of tea.

 ‘Not battles. Not soldiers in the trenches. That’s not what I mean.’ He stared at the last flames in the hearth.

 ‘It was a race to be the first,’ he began again. ‘The speed of sound, the moon landing, you know the kind of thing.’

 ‘The atom bomb?’ she asked.

 ‘Precisely,’ he replied.

 She knew not to pry any further. He’d always known how to keep a secret. All she knew was that deep in the Atacama Desert was a machine and it had kept her husband from her.

 ‘It was difficult,’ he said at last.

 ‘The work?’

 ‘Missing you.’

 She reached across the gap between them and gently squeezed his hand.

 ‘Not being able to call, not even being allowed to write a letter, that was the hardest thing to stomach.’

 His wife closed her eyes and let him talk. Four years of pent up thoughts rolled across the carpet.

 ‘I wondered if you’d changed,’ he said. ‘I had your photograph by my bed and wondered if you’d cut your hair or decided on a new favourite dress. It was hard to remember you.’

 She put her hand up to her curls and ran her hand through the auburn and the grey.

 ‘It’s strange how some things are hard to recollect, the little details,’ he said. ‘But that place we used to go to for tea on the square, the rickety tables and the homemade cakes, as clear as day. I used to dream about it.’

 ‘And the sofa by the fire,’ she said.

 In the deep orange glow her husband smiled.

 ‘Yes, all those crumbs under the cushions,’ he said. What were they? Coconut? Banana bread?’

 ‘Almonds,’ she said.

 ‘Oh yes. Crushed almonds, that wonderful smell.’

 Her husband had come home early. Homesickness he’d said, but she suspected.

 ‘I love you Julie,’ he said.

 She turned to face him. ‘Judith,’ she said.

'The Almond Crumb Sofa' is one of the stories from Scraps, the 2013 National Flash-Fiction Day Anthology. 

Learn more about Tim at

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