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  • Writer's pictureKayleigh Willis

'Razorblade Therapy' Flash by Kaine Laidlaw

All I got for my sixteenth birthday was a pack of razor blades. Time to be a man, dad said. Men aren’t scruffy. Blood trickled down my jaw and I was surprised how something so small can inflict so much damage. There’s still a white sickle-curve under my cheekbone.

I practiced by running blades over a jumper to remove bobbles. There’s a knack to trimming excess molecules. Easy to get carried away until the fabric was see-through. I had to hide the holes.

It was my one degree of expression in dad’s tight ship. Up at 0600 hours. Shoes polished to mirrors. Lights out by 2100 hours. When I was stressed with exams, I’d score notebooks and light the ribbons in the garden, watch the ashes blow away before preparing dinner for dad getting home from work. Bloody matches are going missing, he’d growl. Then later it’d be something else. Too much salt. Dragging the clarts in, you’ll get a clip. I learned to ignore it.

I became fascinated with reduction--I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that. It taught me that nothing matters. I’ve never been attached to much. It’s not a frugal thing--we had everything we needed, so I wanted nothing. Friends come and go. I’d inherited an indifferent disposition and never felt lonely. I got on with life, found I enjoyed woodcutting.

I filed one of the original razors down and wore it on a chain. It seemed the thing to do. A cold metal reminder against my chest.

It either fell off somewhere or I misplaced it. I was sad, but it felt fitting, after instilling so much value in it. Losing it was another reminder. It had been there when Phoebe left me. She’d used strong words and I carried on carving in the garage. I packed the shavings into Tupperware boxes. Deconstructed sculptures, I call them. They don’t need labels. These curls came from a lion’s mane, these ellipses made a starling’s wings. I give the figures as gifts.

I got over it.

My son bought me a barber-style straight razor for Father’s Day. After telling him I didn’t want anything I recognised something callous within him. Something I’d planted. I smiled and thanked him for such a thoughtful gift. It’s still in the box.

All rights. Kaine Laidlaw.

Kaine Laidlaw is a writer from Newcastle Upon Tyne. In 2020, he gained a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Newcastle University and has since been collating his first short story collection, alongside working on his debut novel. In his fiction, Kaine tackles the likes of working-class life, escapism, and stasis, as well as the small pleasures and beauty to be found in the world, all through a surreal lens. He also runs the (self-explanatory) @bookreviewsinhaiku account on Instagram.

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