Flash Fiction. Spelling Things Out by Rebecca Miles. Image: The words 'spelling things out' in a chunky black font. The word 'out' is made of scrabble tiles.

Spelling Things Out

Reading time:

Leaving dusk behind, I slip into the library’s light. Coat on the peg, I slink into the corner.  

Slumped on the floor, back against the radiator, is my spot. Miss Robin, the librarian, comes over with hot chocolate and a biscuit. I leave crumbs on the carpet, but she smiles. 

‘Put the things over there, Max.’ She gestures to her desk. ‘When you’re finished.’  

Sometimes I catch her eye, like I’m a forgotten book; one she’d return to its shelf, if she only knew where to put me.  

Storytime. Kids jostle on the rug, chatting with Russell, the volunteer reader. At my radiator, the warmth spreads. I don’t give a stuff about Clover the squirrel, just his voice; rich, like the last bit of chocolate.  

When I wake, Russell’s at the desk. I go over to the book, focus on the word: Clover. A lucky leaf, he’d said; but inside the word are two others: love, over.

I chuck the book. 

‘Max!’ Russell shouts. ‘Come back!’ 

I run faster. 

‘Max, your coat!’  

Why turn? 

Home: busted windows, boiler on the blink. A coat makes no bloody difference at all. 

The next day it’s still on the peg, waiting for me. On the rug, Russell reads; kids listen, stretched out like sunbathers. I’ve heard this one before: the idiot princess at the party. Suddenly in her crappy clothes, running home to sweep up the dirt- like she never left. Fairy godmothers? More like fairy fakes. 

In the games section, a green board with coloured squares, beside it a pile of tiles. A game has been started with three words. The centre one spells STORY, to the right is SAD, and to the left TRUST. 

I pick out tiles and place two of them down from the D. 


Just three little letters, but I flinch.  

‘Hi Max.’ Russell is at my side, putting down a plate. ‘You fancy joining me for Scrabble?’ 

‘I can’t play.’ 

‘It’s easy.’ He selects a biscuit. ‘You’ll pick it up as we go along.’ 

I try to smile, but my face feels stuck.  

He spells: T-R-O-U-B-L-E 

I point to the numbers. 

Do we add them up? 

‘No winner or loser today.’  

My fingers can’t grip. I fumble letters into place.  


Russell nods, like it’s what he expected, and picks up another letter. 

‘I can make it plural.’

The S pushes against DRINC. The letters move a bit, like they’ve had one too many.  

‘One drink has a way of leading to more,’ Russell says softly. 

My turn. It takes me longer to think of the next word. It wouldn’t earn me many points if we were scoring, but I have to play this. Hands shaking, I manage: 


Russell slumps then leans forward, grabbing tiles. It seems to take forever. 


Both our eyes are fixed on the board, waiting for my word. 

And I spell: 


Rebecca Miles

Rebecca Miles is a teacher and writer. She has won a Writer’s Forum short story prize, a Reedsy story prize, and been shortlisted six times on the same platform.


She is currently working on a collection of short stories, drafting a novel, and teaches introductory creative writing at Augsburg’s Technical University.


Rebecca is from London but lives in Germany.

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