Flash fiction. POV: Your Boyfriend is Sick, by Polly Halladay. Image: a wom stands at a kitchen table in front of a saucepan and a pot ofherbs. She is looking out a window, through which you can see a field and a chicken. To her left, leaning against the wall, is an axe.


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He was breathing through his mouth all night, nose thick, feverish, and radiating heat. So, you’ve had time to think. Chicken soup it is.  

You get up, get washed and dressed, and go to work. You’ve left medicine and a steaming cup of Lemsip by the bed with a schedule for which pills to take, how often and when to alternate. It will be painless if he takes them correctly. Before you leave, you take the axe from the back of the door.  

It has been a wet autumn, the grass is sodden and squelches under foot. The dogs press their noses through the slats of the kennel and yip as you pass, snorting steam. You hush them. 

In the coop, the chicken is easy to catch, lousy after laying. She offers her neck. It’s quick. There is little blood. The other hens blink. One rises, lifts her skirt, and sits on the exposed eggs. You’ll collect them later. 

On the patio, you scald the bird, pluck the stubborn pinfeathers and wipe away the rest like the sweat you dabbed from his brow when you went in to boil the kettle.  

With a knife and your cold hands, you remove the crop, lungs, kidneys, and the gland on her rump, chucking them in the slop for the dogs. She’s never looked so good: thin, hairless, and empty. Good enough to eat. She cools off in a cold bath while you collect the rest of the ingredients.  

The garden is still ample. Celery, onions, and a carrot. You pick one that looks most like a cock, small and wrinkled. You don’t need much for the mirepoix; you don’t want to overpower the main ingredient.  

You pick: 

Garlic – to strengthen the immune system.  

Thyme – to reduce inflammation and help resist infectious diseases.  

Bay – for all the above, but mainly depth of flavour.  

Chilli for a kick.  

You roast the bird, get some colour on those bones. While she browns, you do the laundry, clean the house, answer the emails you’ve been avoiding. Call your mother, quietly so you don’t disturb him. She doesn’t ask why you’re whispering; she knows. You check the recipe, and she says you’ve got it spot on. He’s a lucky boy. 

The cooking smells haven’t roused him, but they sing through the house. They remind you of home, of Christmas after Dad left and your mother’s strong hands. You let the rhythm guide your movements. It’s quick. There is blood. Your mouth waters.  

Next, remove the meat from the bones and add it to the simmering stock. Taste and season as needed. Finally, serve with a squeeze of lemon, a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprig of mint. 

You needed this. Your head is thick, and your limbs are aching. You’ve caught his sickness, but this will help. It always does.  

The bedroom is quiet now. You will sleep well tonight, drifting off to the sounds of the dogs finishing off the scraps.   

Polly Halladay

Polly Halladay is a British writer based in London.


She is a graduate of the UEA Creative Writing MA program and her work has been previously published in Lighthouse Journal

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