What My Mother Would Be by Valerie Cutko

What My Mother Would Be

by Valerie Cutko

This is what I will be: a very thin old woman with hair silver as a slug’s trail, a straight-backed old woman drinking cold vodka from a tiny glass.

That is what Anne is thinking that day on the beach, talking to the French boys. The man she will marry in three days emerges from the sea, handsome and brown. She feels for him exactly nothing, which is not strange. Anne feels nothing about most things. The man will be my father.

In three years, Anne will look into the eyes of the infant warm in her arms but too far away. She will be thinking,

I will be: a person frozen as a pond, and this child will crack through the ice of me and drown.

In ten years, Anne, though not old, will be thin and straight-backed, and her hair will be threaded with silver. Her thinness will be disturbed by a small belly where her liver is beginning to swell, and there will be faint scars on her wrists, notes she’s made to remind herself of something. My father, still handsome, will be abroad. She will be thinking,

This is what I will be: still as a stone in a night field.

And in sixteen years on another beach, absently rubbing a translucent shell with slim fingers, my father still cresting the waves,

I will be: the sand at the tide’s edge, itself again when the sun sears it dry.

In twenty years, when I am seventeen, Anne will lie cool in a hospital bed, finally dying, thinking,

I will be:

gone like a breath that was steam for a moment on a winter’s day.

Then we will burn her and she will be flame, then smoke.

In thirty years her voice, thin and silver and terrible, will whisper in my head, and it will sound like my voice,

This is what I will be:


Valerie Cutko's short plays have been winners of the Soho Theatre's Westminster Prize and Warehouse Theatre International Playwriting Festival. Her story 'There Used To Be Angels On Mott Street But Now There Are Only Sushi Bars And A Space NK' won second prize in the 2020 Fiction Factory Flash competition. Other fiction has featured in the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology and the Remnant Archive.

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