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Burning Malta

Flash in the Pan| Views: 274

You’re shivering in the study, wearing your summer dressing gown. You refuse to accept it’s a cold July, and the coffee has gone cold. You drink it anyway.

Working from home does not suit you, according to your wife. You are too easily distracted by your Ian Rankin novels, by your old books from university you can’t bear to part with, by your collection of stamps.

You open up your Stanley Gibbons album. Take care of your stamps – they can be easily damaged, it tells you. Damaged stamps must be discarded. Maybe. Mint stamps are sometimes worth more than used ones, sometimes it’s the reverse.

This morning, your wife declared she was going for a run. At half nine, you sat up in bed and logged onto Skype for Business so your colleagues would assume you were doing work. You are always ‘Available’.

You run your hands over Great Britain, over all the colourful queen’s heads you were forbidden to touch as a child. Your father always insisted on tweezers.

On the back cover of the album, there’s a big world map. You close your eyes and aim a finger at the page. It lands in the Mediterranean sea, just off the coast of Malta.

Malta is on page 81. Beneath the word ‘Malta’ there is space for you to place your own stamps within the boundaries of a long rectangular box. There are eleven stamps. All are rectangular with tiny illustrations: a cathedral, a man on horseback, the wing of an airplane.

You tear out the page unceremoniously. The album is in alphabetical order, with Mauritius and Mauritania on the flipside becoming collateral damage. You find the long cooking matches from the kitchen drawer. Your wife seems surprised to see you.

Over the bathroom sink, you light the match and wait for the paper to catch. You burn through five matches before the whole page is ash. It feels victorious.

Once you burn Malta, you find the will to toast crumpets. You add butter and the nice marmalade normally reserved for guests. You eat the crumpets sat on the leather swivel chair of the study, and think about getting dressed.

Deborah Torr is a writer from South London. One of the London Library’s Emerging Writers 2019, Deborah has been published by Reflex Press, Spread the Word and has work forthcoming in Great Weather for Media. You can find her on twitter @deborah_torr.

361 words.

9

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