The Manifesto of the Scones

Frankie McMillan

My uncle Ivan was a communist. He said if we’d read the books he’d read, we’d all be communists.

My mother told us kids not to even give him the satisfaction of looking at his book case.

My aunt handed around a plate of freshly baked pogácsa, all exactly the same size.

My uncle owned a grocery shop. He winked at my mother, said she could come around after the shop had closed and to help herself to anything she wanted. A young widow shouldn’t starve, while others had plenty, he said.

As if, she told us.

My uncle said he was as good as the next man. He said he didn’t believe in God but the honest sweat of the workers. My mother said he didn’t know what he was talking about. ‘I suppose Stalin is your friend,’ she said.

My uncle said some things should be free to everyone. My aunt stood, flustered in the doorway. She
glanced at my uncle then back at my mother. ‘What are you two talking about?’

My mother went out one night. She untied her scarf, let her dark hair loose. She came back with a cardboard box of tinned foods. Baked beans. Guavas. Peaches. When she tried to open a tin, she cut her finger on the sharp lid.

‘God has punished me,’ she said. We watched her wind a tea towel around her bleeding finger. Watched her blood creep through the cloth, make a stain the size of Russia.

Frankie McMillan is the author of four books, the most recent of which, My Mother and the Hungarians and other small fictions (Canterbury University Press) was longlisted for the 2017 NZ Ockham awards. In 2005 she was awarded the Creative New Todd Bursary. Other awards include winner of the New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry Competition in 2009 and winner of the New Zealand Flash Fiction Competition in 2013 and 2015. In 2014 she held the Ursula Bethell writing residency at Canterbury University and in 2017 the University of Auckland/Michael King writing residency. Her work has been published extensively in journals and anthologies including Flash Fiction International, 2015 and The Best Small Fictions, 2017. Her latest project is Bonsai: best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand, (CUP, 2018) edited with Michelle Elvy and James Norcliffe.