Short Stories

The following is a selection of short stories that have been published in a variety of media.  All content is copyrighted to Hayley Linfield.


Water Treatment

Winning entry of Alice Munro Short Story Competition 2012

http://alicemunrofestival.ca/?p=254


Getting the Tractor Out

Published in Kids' Magination Magazine 

http://www.kidsmagination.com/kidsmagination-magazine/issue-5


Tom

Published in Legends Magazine, June 2004

http://www.legendsmagazine.net/141/index.htm



The Broken Glass

Published in Dark Moon Rising - December 2003

I wake up early one morning in April, and the whole world is covered in a thin layer of glass.  An icy sheen envelopes everything – every tree, every stone, every car, every house, every blade of grass – trapping the world inside.  No air.  No breeze.  No life.

And it is my life.

I am a prisoner encased in beautiful crystal, etched with intricate patterns.  Roads of ice branch out to meet other branches.  Stars, snowflakes, and paisleys all form here.  And in all of its beauty, it is suffocating me.

All I have to do is break the glass.  All I have to do is destroy it.  It is weak, delicate, vulnerable.  Just break it.  That’s all it will take.

And I will be free.

I hear a voice inside of me.  It seems to come right out of my bowels.  Just break the glass, it keeps repeating.  Break the glass.

I go to the bathroom to wash.  In the mirror there is a woman I do not recognize.  She looks tired.  She looks sick.  She looks terrified.  But she wears a smile.  It is a small smile.  I hate this smile.

I take an inventory of the bathroom countertop:  toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, a washcloth, an old bottle of shampoo.  These are useless to me.  I notice some razor blades hiding behind the contact lens solution.  I open the medicine cabinet.  There are many pills.  I take out a bottle of aspirin.  

No, comes the voice within my bowels.  Just the glass.

I hear my infant crying and my heart starts to pound.  The woman in the mirror keeps smiling at me.  I look away.  I try to forget her, but every time I look back, she is there.  Watching me.  Grinning at me.  She knows what I am going to do.

I take a shower and get dressed.  I hear my husband stirring in our bed.  I watch him sleep.  He looks peaceful.  I hate him for it.

“Mommy?”  The voice shocks me.  “Can I have a glass of water?”  My three-year-old exudes sleep.

“Go back to bed,” I say.  “It’s Saturday.”

I bring her some water, but she has already fallen back asleep.  I watch her for some time.  She is so weak, so delicate, so vulnerable.  I hear the voice from my bowels again.  It is not my voice.  It is deeper, raspier.  It belongs to the woman in the mirror.  Do it, the voice insists.

I go back to the bathroom.  The woman is still there.  She is still grinning.  Wicked.  I am afraid of her.

Do it, she mouths slowly.  Break the glass.  Stop saying that, I cry inside my head.  Stop it.  But she won’t stop.  The voice is growing louder and more abrasive.  You’ll wake them up, I cry.  Be quiet!  But she won’t be quiet.  She is screaming at me.  Stop it!  Stop it!  Do it!  She is angry at me.  You’re a coward!  I can’t!  Break the glass!  I pick up the soap dish and hurl it with all my might at the woman.  The mirror breaks.

“Jude?” my husband calls.

Now you’ve done it.  Her face is distorted in the cracked glass.

“Jude?”

You’d better answer him.  She is still smiling at me.

“Jude?  Are you okay?”

“Yes.  I’m fine.  I just broke something.  Go back to sleep.”

I hear my husband roll over in the bed.  I go downstairs to the kitchen.  I need to get away from this woman.  I start making the coffee, but the woman has followed me.  She goes to the utensils drawer and takes out a long, sharp knife.  Put that down, I say.  What are you going to do?  

She doesn’t answer me.  The voice is silent.  

Talk to me, I cry.  Where are you going with that?  I have no choice.  I have to follow her.  She is going up the stairs.  Come back here!  Give me that!  She ignores me.  I follow her into my baby’s room.  Don’t you touch her!  Don’t you dare touch her!  But she doesn’t listen.  She is fast.  The knife slices through my baby’s skin.  I am covered in blood.  I scream, but she has already moved on.  She is standing over my three-year-old daughter’s bed.  Leave her alone!  I see the woman bend down.  Again, the knife slices through the small, soft neck.  More blood.  I am hysterical now.  I cannot stop screaming.  Why doesn’t my husband wake up?  Why doesn’t he come and stop this woman?  She is flying now.  Into my bedroom.  To my husband.  Slice, goes the knife.  I am dripping with blood.  No!  No!  No!  Stop screaming, she says coldly.  But I cannot stop.  I told you to stop!  I cannot.  Stop it now!  She is terrifying me.  It’s your turn.  I feel the knife slice through my skin.  For an instant there is more blood.  Warmth.  

Then nothing.



Confessions of a Shy Girl

Published in Mocha Memoirs - October 2003



My parents always knew that I was going to be shy.  I started clinging to my mother’s long, beige coat as soon as I learned how to walk.


In nursery school we painted.  The teacher carefully arranged the different colours along the large table where the kids sat.


My seat was at the end, by the red paint.


The other kids brought home beautiful pictures of rainbows and colourful flower gardens.  Their mothers were proud and they hung the masterpieces on the fridge.


My paintings were all in red.


Those other colours were so far away – past so many scary faces.  


Red was enough.  You could do a lot with just red.  You convince yourself of that.


At school I never saw the inside of the bathroom until I was in grade three – and then, only very rarely.  I don’t know what I was afraid of.  Being attacked while sitting on the toilet, my skirt around my ankles?  Being kidnapped on the way?  Letting my classmates know that I was that kind of girl – the kind who periodically had to relieve herself?  In class I would sit with my crotch on the edge of my chair, praying that my bladder would hold out.  As soon as the school bus dropped me off at the end of our long laneway, I would sprint to the toilet.


I was a very fast sprinter.


In Kindergarten I was offered the lead in our class play.  We were going to depict the story of the Ugly Duckling.  I know I would have been the best ugly duckling our class could produce, but I bashfully refused.  My best friend played the lead instead.  Everyone loved her.  She was a success.  I looked on from the sidelines, my potential as an actress forgotten.


Even in high school my shyness prevented me from becoming the star I knew I was inside.  Our choir director asked me if I would like to sing a solo for the Christmas concert.  Again, I politely refused.  Julie Verbeek willingly took my place while I sang softly in the chorus.  After the concert everyone whispered about how beautifully Julia had sung.  I pretended not to hear.


My confidence rose during university when I learned that I possessed some attractive qualities, but my shyness has never really diminished.  Even now, I often get Shyness Attacks.  They come on suddenly and I think that I shall never be able to leave the house, answer the door, or pick up the phone for fear of having to speak to someone.  


I have become pretty good at faking it, but there are those who can see through me.  I feel them pointing at me, saying, “Ah!  There’s a shy one.  She has the sickness.  Poor thing.”


It’s stupid when people tell you not to feel shy.  I think they know that it’s stupid, but they keep telling you anyway.  And it has to be stupid, because there must be some reason which is not ridiculous or unfounded for why you feel that way – if you feel that way.  Maybe it’s just that only shy people can feel it – whatever it is.  


It’s an unenviable skill.


I am approaching thirty now, and I have resigned myself to the fact that I shall never recover from this skill.  I don’t even believe that it is possible to fully recover.


And so I am working on the antidote.


I take a dose of it every time I feel a Shyness Attack coming on.  It doesn’t prevent the attack; it just helps me deal with it.


I remember that shyness is a part of me.  I can’t escape it.  It is like a gift.  It makes me more intuitive.  It makes me feel special when I’m alone in a crowd.  It makes me the star of an on-going movie in my mind.  It may even make me intriguing to others.  


I am proud of my shyness.  


I embrace it.  


As Wordsworth wrote,

“Soft is the music that would charm forever;

The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.”    




Playing

Published in Labour of Love, December 30, 2003


Lisa always got to be Princess Leia, and Sandra was Han Solo.  Shannon was Luke, which left Chewbakka for you.  You were the tallest – it was only fitting.  You didn’t mind your role too much.  You were supposed to follow Han Solo around and groan and grunt and beat on your chest.  It allowed your animalistic tendencies to shine through.

It was certainly better than playing Charlie’s Angels.  Once again, your height worked against you.  You were clearly the most like a man, which meant you had to be Charlie.  Sandra and Lisa and Shannon told you that you should be honoured to play the title role, but you knew you were getting a raw deal.  As Charlie, you would call the girls, hide behind a big tree – because on TV you only ever heard Charlie’s voice – and give your angels their assignment.  This was usually dictated to you by Sandra.  Then you got to sit down in the grass and rub dandelions on your running shoes while the angels caught the bad guys.  You picked a lot of dandelions.

Once you had a great idea: you would play the bad guy.  Unfortunately, you were more athletic than the other girls and you could simply not allow yourself to be caught.  You had integrity; you were stubborn.  Because they could never catch you, they suggested you go back to being Charlie.  

You complained.  

There was a compromise.  

You could be Bosley.  You got to tell the angels about their assignments in person.  

You picked a lot of dandelions.

One time, Lisa suggested playing house.  Lisa would be the mother, since it was her idea.  Sandra would be the father, since she liked to be in control.  Shannon would be the little girl – she was the shortest.  You would be the older brother.  You were supposed to spend your days working in the fields and feeding the horses dandelions, but sometimes you rebelled.  

You began smoking imaginary cigarettes and drinking gallons of imaginary beer and bringing home imaginary dates.  Your play father scolded you and told you that you couldn’t play anymore.

When Shannon suggested playing the Mandrell sisters, you were pleased.  Singing was one of your specialties.  Shannon got to be Barbara Mandrell, since it was her idea.  Sandra insisted that she be the youngest sister, since she watched the show and knew all the songs.  Then it was between Lisa and you for the role of the other sister.  Since Lisa was short and had long hair, and since your hair was cropped, it was decided that she was more suited to playing a beautiful singer.  You would be the announcer and the audience.  

They were both very important jobs.

You picked a lot of dandelions.