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Egg Races (extract)

‘Is this seat taken?’ A young, blonde woman gestures to the seat beside Sarah, her face scarlet, her fringe plastered to her forehead in damp curls.

‘Have I missed much? Have the Primary Fours run yet?’

‘No, not yet.’

‘Oh, thank Christ for that! I wouldn't have been forgiven if I'd missed it; Brian's got a real thing about me being here.’

‘I guess they're all the same, when they're young. They always like to think that mum is watching. I take it Brian's in Primary Four then?’

The woman laughs. ‘Oh no, Brian's my husband. He's the one who expects me to be here. Apparently his mother never missed a school event; he thinks it's a crucial part of childhood. Mind you,’ she drops her tone conspiratorially, ‘Brian's mum didn't also have two under the age of three and a part time job at the bank to contend with.’

A ripple of laughter spreads through the crowd as a small girl stoops to pick up her egg for the fourth time, and then, a long drawn out ‘awww’ as her face crumples and she begins to sob. One of the teachers hurries across with a tissue and guides her to the finish line where Miss Beresford, the head teacher, is attaching stickers to the chests of all who cross. The winner's sticker shows a large gold cup; Sarah considers what the others might say: ‘Proud to have taken part’, ‘Tried Hard’, ‘Good Sport’ or, more truthfully, ‘Loser’.

‘That's my girl over there, that's Stephie.’ The blonde woman points to a buck-toothed girl who's been sent to retrieve the fallen eggs. ‘Do you have someone taking part?’

‘Yes, my son, Marcus. He's Primary Four too.’

There is an awkward pause and then, ‘Oh.’

Heather Reid

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