Inheritance – flash fiction by Barbara Diggs


An oval of silver, feather-light against my throat. Mother Mary stands atop the world, a serpent crushed beneath her feet. Her arms are open in welcome. Rays of light descend from her palms. Grace. Blessings. Once my mother’s, fallen to me.

When I was pregnant with you, my fifth pregnancy, my first surviving child, I remembered. I scrabbled through my closets for her red lacquered jewelry box; untangled the pendant from tarnishing chains, placed it around my neck. Grace flowed from it, seeping into my body. Light like gold flecks infused red blood cells. Cupping the curve of my belly, I whispered: My blood sings with grace. My blood is a blessing to you. Over and over. And I could feel it, a Mother’s grace, spiraling through the cord that bound us, nourishing you, plumping you, keeping your grape-sized heart, going, going. This heart would not stop.

Last night, you cried as you studied for your chemistry finals. I’ll never remember all this, you shrieked, and something slammed against your closed bedroom door. You let me enter your room, smooth your hair, kiss the top of your head, while you stared at sketches of polymer chains as if they’d betrayed you. I started to unclasp the pendant from my neck and fasten it around yours, but you put up a hand. Mom, you know I don’t believe in that stuff.

Your words fell like arrows. Somewhere, they pierced. But before the reality of you, what could I do except nod? I know too well: Some gifts can’t be given, only found. So, I just lay my hands on your cheeks, wiped your tears with my palms.

Marveled at the light seeping into your face,

the gold flecking your brown eyes. 

Barbara Diggs’ fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including FlashBack Fiction, Reflex Fiction, (mac)ro(mic), and Ellipsis Zine. Her work was Highly Commended in the 2022 Bridport Prize, and has been longlisted and shortlisted in the Bath Flash Fiction Awards. Barbara lives in Paris, France with her family. 

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