Flash Fiction:"Practising Tricks, Spells and Other Incantations" by Keely O'Shaughnessy

You’re seven when I fracture my wrist, still young enough to believe in magic. You buy a kilo of spinach from the grocery store with pennies saved from mowing lawns. It’s wilted and limp. (There’s a variety named Black Magic, but you couldn’t afford that.) You boil it in Gran’s cast iron pot, which you struggle to lift from the stovetop. You feed me spoons of gleaming, emerald pulp that you’re sure you’ve enchanted, and stare at my limbs as if willing

my brittle bones to mend with love alone.

“Eat up, dear,” you urge, your voice becoming the kindly Mrs Potts, gentle and fragile like fine china.

Beauty and The Beast is your favourite film, the one we watch on repeat when Mother’s out practicing tricks. You sob when Beast is dying but marvel at how he’s transformed in the end. You’re young enough to believe there are such things as hope and redemption.


On nights Mother doesn’t go out, but brings her work home, we must stay quiet. She tells us the men are dangerous and wild. Fellow magicians, you say as you watch through a crack in our bedroom door as Mother contorts them and makes them howl. Sometimes, you swear it’s a body sawn in half, sometimes they’re escaping from chains. Tonight, you whisper, “Levitation.” Watching and waiting for a moment of wonder that doesn’t come, I pull you away and into bed before mother has the chance to catch you spying.


The following day, when we’re in town, mother yanks us away from an old woman ranting about creatures of the night with piercing teeth and rocket-shape bodies that can tear through water and fire all the same, of beasts who stalk in the shadows, of sinners who will burn. And I think about the enchanted spinach you fed me and about the ache in my bones, about how I’m not strong enough to protect you from all the darkness in this world. But you strain against mother’s fierce grip to listen, hopeful that you’ll hear the woman proclaim that with a touch of magic even the cruellest creatures are capable of change.

KEELY O’SHAUGHNESSY (she/her) is a fiction writer with Cerebral Palsy, who lives in Gloucestershire, U.K. She has been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and has been published by Ellipsis Zine, Complete Sentence, Reflex Fiction and Emerge Literary Journal and (mac)ro(mic), among others. Find her at keelyoshaughnessy.com or on Twitter @KeelyO_writer