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The Truth of the Matter
About the Author: Gina is a writer from Tasmania. Her stories range from unsettling to uplifting and often lead readers away from the clarity and safety of light and dark, into less certain grey areas. Recent publications include Re:Fiction, On the Premises and the short story anthology “The Loop”. When not writing, Gina works as a graphic designer.


Someone had parked in their car space.

“Dammit,” William muttered and pulled up in the middle of the parking lot. “Can’t people read a reserved sign?”

Maree kept her eyes on her phone. “Everyone in town knew it was your dad’s funeral today. They probably thought you wouldn’t come back to work.”

“I can’t afford to keep the shop closed for a whole day,” William muttered. “Not after the way Dad managed the business.”

 Maree shrugged. Her fingers danced over her phone, forming texts, pressing send then moving on to another.

Thanks for being there today. Alexander loved your weekly Cluedo games.

Glad you made it. Alexander never missed your crime and mystery book club meeting.

So good to see—

William tutted. Maree glanced up in time to catch his eye roll.

“When did it become customary to text guests after a funeral?” he asked.

“They keep messaging me. It’s polite to reply.”

“Just send a reply-all. Thanks for coming, blah blah.”

“They deserve better than a template,” Maree said. “Each of these people meant something different to your father. He’d want them to receive unique replies.”

“They won’t know the difference.”

Maree sighed. “Just park the car.”

“Where exactly would you like me to do that? As I’ve already pointed out to you, our spot’s been stolen.”

Maree stifled a huff, determined not to lose her cool on the day William buried his father. But really, did she have to solve every little problem for him? “Park in your dad’s spot.”

William gaped at the empty space beside theirs that was marked with another reserved sign. A breath fell out of him. “Of course, Dad won’t need it anymore. You know, for a second there, I actually forgot.” Frowning, he rolled the car into the free space. He killed the engine but continued to grip the wheel with both hands. “Geeze, Dad’s gone. Never coming back.”

Maree put her phone aside. It was rare to see William shaken. He usually hid his feelings behind a well-guarded wall. She stroked his cheek. “It’s a lot to deal with, isn’t it? Want to talk about it?”

“I guess.” He took a breath. “Dad was … I feel like …” He released a long sigh, then it turned into a chuckle. His face brightened. “With Dad gone, I can finally get Fuller Engraving out of debt.” He leapt from the car. “There are so many changes to make. Coming inside?”

Maree shook her head at his question, as well as his expression. The smile had no business being on his face twenty minutes after his father’s wake. “I’ll finish texting everyone first.”

William raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t you sick of it?”

“Talking with Alexander’s friends makes me feel better. Most people find talking helps.” She shot him a level stare.

He shrugged. “See you after.”

It was forty minutes before Maree entered the shop. The room was free of customers and beyond shelves of trophies, metal picture frames and pewter mugs, the counter stood abandoned.

“Will?”

A rumble filtered through a door behind the counter—the computerised engraving machine at work in the back room. Maree headed for the door, but paused at the counter. She’d helped out a little in the past, but with Alexander gone, she’d spend a lot more time in the shop. William would step into the position of head engraver and she’d leave her job at the library to serve customers. She was glad to do it. Needed to do it. William had never been the best at greeting customers with a smile. He saved his fake cheer for her.

She stepped through the door, into the cluttered workshop. William stood in front of the chunky, ancient engraving machine that took up a large section of a bench. A beige computer stood beside it with lettering typed onto it. Testing TESTING, it read.

“What are you working on?” she called over the deafening growl.

 William pointed to a metal tag clamped to the machine’s engraving table. As a robotic arm moved every which way, scraping the surface, the same words that he’d typed onto the computer appeared on the tag. “I’m trying out a new font.”



This story appears in our MAR 2019 Issue
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Reader Discussion

7
Mar
Thank you so much for this awesome story! I applaude your imagination!
By Tatiana Claudy


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