Dizz Tate


Dizz Tate

Dizz Tate is a writer currently living in London, after growing up in Florida. She was long-listed for Young Poet Laureate for London in 2014. She has been previously published in The Wrong Quarterly, Squawk Back, and with Arachne Press, with work forthcoming in Femmeuary. She has written a short play as part of the London Design Festival, and took part in the Young Writers Workshop at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith in 2014. In 2015, she was long-listed for the Bare Fiction Prize and Bristol Short Story Prize.
Contact: dizztate [at] hotmail [dot] com

The Matriarch


The old woman has lived here for a while. She is not sure how long.  She sees time as someone she once knew, someone who has left her and now walks ahead alone. Time is like her husband. Although she reminds herself, as she has to often, to stop herself feeling angry with him, that he did not choose to leave. 

Next door to the old woman is an empty lot, bought and then abandoned. A jungle gym has arrived in its centre. She does not know from where. It is green and boxy, with a slide, a few monkey bars. In the day, it looks harmless, but at night, she has caught herself jumping at the sight of it. Its metal sides catch the light of the streetlights. She is not used to this new glinting. She has known this street for years.

The families come and go. The children shriek and shake in their pushchairs. The mothers stand together in the doorways while the children smudge chalk into the bleached driveways. When the rain comes, as it has always done, the chalk slides into the gutters. The children do not care. There is more chalk, there are more driveways, there are more days. The old woman watches. She sits in her netted porch, where she can see the empty lot next door and the house opposite. Her chair rocks back and forth. The empty chair beside her rocks back and forth. Sometimes she will speak to the empty chair. She fills it with her husband, the children she has not had. She speaks inside her head. The voice is clear. 

A mother and her daughter live in the opposite house. She thinks of them as new, though she does not remember when they moved in. It seems that perhaps they were always there. 

The little girl is tiny, with sharp features screwed into the centre of her face. The mother is tall and slow. The little girl runs around in circles. When the rain comes, as it has always done, she lies down in the driveway while her mother shouts for her. 

The old woman watches. Each morning she pushes herself from the bed. She peels off a page from her calendar. She forces the date into her mind, assigning herself a numbered day. By the time she reaches the kitchen, the date has slipped away. 

She makes tea. She listens to the radio. The music swirls around her and lifts her through the years. The first song of the day. The first sip of tea. Sometimes the song is too strong, the tea too strong, and she has to hold the counter. 

She shuffles to her seat. 

The air falls around her like fresh sheets. Spring. She thinks back to the date. The pages of her calendar flutter away from her imagined hand and flap around the porch. 

She looks up. The little girl is taking her bike from the garage. Another morning. She watches as the little girl pushes the bike toward the gutter, wobbling. The old woman holds her breath. She has seen people fall in her life. She cares for strangers.  

The mother runs out with a paper bag. She shouts after the little girl. The little girl brakes with a squeal. She looks furious, her face scarlet. She grabs the bag. She speeds away. 

The mother sits in the grass in front of the house. The old woman watches as she chews a blade. The old woman remembers seeing how they once spray-painted the grass greener in the opposite house’s front yard. They had taken photos for real estate magazines. 

The little girl has a party. The old woman wonders how old she is. There is a group of little girls, their voices loose and high-pitched. They run around for hours in bright bikinis. The mother puts the sprinkler system on and they leap backwards and forwards, the sparks of water like sparks of light. 

They fill balloons with water and throw them in high, wild arcs. One lands in the old woman’s front yard. The little girl stuffs balloons down her bikini top and struts around, shaking her hips. The mothers from the road sip their drinks from plastic cups and laugh. Soon, all the little girls walk with bright plastic breasts. The old woman watches. The mothers watch the girls. The girls watch each other. The balloons explode in their tops. They screech and run at each other. 

The old woman peels off a day. She takes longer in bed. The air is cool. It stacks around her like panes of glass. She wraps a scarf around her neck. Pulls a quilt across her legs. 

The chair next to her is always empty. In her head, she hisses at it. She is angry. Her head feels like a large, clean room. She scribbles in its corner. 

The neighbourhood kids are next door in the empty lot. She rests her head on the chair back. She rocks back and forth. She listens to their voices. The girl from the opposite house seems different. Her hair is tangled and turns inwards at her chin. The other girls are different too. The boys seem oblivious. They are playing some complicated game that involves hiding and chasing. They throw leaves at each other.  

The girl from the opposite house chases a boy. The others girls circle the lot’s edges. The boys run and wrestle. 

The old woman watches the girl. She sits with the boy in a cove beneath the slide. She whispers something in his ear. He leans in to her. The old woman watches him pull the t-shirt away from the girl’s back. He stuffs a handful of leaves down it and leaps to his feet, laughing. 

The girl stays still. The woman watches her face. 

She wonders why she has never had children.  In her head, her husband says nothing. He never says anything. A door opens in her head’s big room. He leaves through it. She thinks of following him, but she stays in her corner. The door folds in on itself neatly and disappears. 

The old woman has fallen asleep. It is late at night. She would not normally be up so late. The jungle gym next-door seethes with reflected light. She jumps at the sight of it. She always forgets it is there. She is used to the empty lot. The frame has been there just weeks. Maybe years. 

The mother from the opposite house sits at the top of the slide. She smokes, her exhaled breath a spiral of pale grey. She stares upward. The old woman stares upward. The sky is blank and black. The lights of the houses spread out thin and infinite beneath. 

The old woman wakes and watches the girl opposite in her driveway. The sky is rumbling for its daily storm. It darkens and folds in. The girl and the driveway brighten beneath it. 

The girl draws with chalk. The old woman wonders how long it has been since the girl last drew with chalk on a driveway. She has stretched out. All the children have stretched. They do this in waves. They stretch and fade. The smaller ones arrive, fat and loud. There are always people coming, people going. 

The girl draws dark circles. She shades them with pink. She adds blue and turquoise. A world explodes. The old woman shrinks away. The storm coughs. The girl ignores it. The old woman cannot look away. The rain starts in rolling waves. 

The girl drops her chalks. She lies down in the driveway. The rain comes between them. The old woman sees nothing but sheets of blurring water. The trees hunch down. The porch shakes. The world blackens and breaks. 

The heat is sticky again. The girl and her friend sit beneath the slide next door. The day’s light is draining. 

The old woman tries to fix on the date. They are shaking cigarettes out of a packet. 

‘I’ll show you,’ says the friend. She breathes in and out.

The girl from the opposite house has trouble lighting her own. The friend cups her hand around the tip. The flame ignites and fails. The girl breathes in and out. 

‘You’re not even inhaling,’ says the friend. 

‘I am,’ says the girl. 

The old woman watches. They smoke and breathe. The smoke floats through the net of the old woman’s porch. She breathes in deep. She breathes out deep. 

They start to pose with their cigarettes, taking photos of each other with their bright, alien phones. The old woman imagines her husband. The chair is empty. The peeled paper days fan out. The children scream and stretch. She is alone in the neat room of her head, the quiet of her porch. 

The opposite girl starts to climb the side of the frame, swinging off with an arm. The old woman does not mind if she falls. She has lost her caring. 

‘Take a picture,’ says the girl. The frame shakes. 

‘Get down,’ says the friend. ‘You’re gonna tip it.’ 

The opposite girl stretches further. She looks up to the sky. She jumps, pushing off the frame with her feet and landing in the grass. She stands up and brushes her knees. 

‘Did you get it?’ she asks. They crouch together. The old woman imagines the picture. She sees the opposite girl in miniature, her head tilted, her arm wide. 

‘I look fat,’ says the girl. ‘Delete it.’ 

The old woman does not speak, even in her head. She moves from room to porch, from bed to chair. The days crackle and crease with age. 

She watches the opposite girl and her mother. The mother sways through the house. She makes jewellery, paints photo frames, adds beads to flip-flops. She sells them on a blanket in the driveway. The other mothers bring her drinks and sit close to her. The girl does not come outside. 

The girl smokes on the jungle gym in the evening. The mother smokes later in the night. The old woman watches them both. She inhales their leftover smoke. 

She watches the girl drive to school. She watches the mother in the window. She watches the few times their paths cross over each other. 

The girl and her friend sit together in the empty lot. They swig from a bottle. It is late, and the old woman is tired, but still, she watches. She claws for time. Her time has gone, but with the opposite house, the time is rich. 

She has begun to take photos with an old camera. Each morning, she lines herself up with the mirror. She closes her eyes. The flash of light circles her, elevates her. She feels it hold her up with importance. She places a hand flat on the bedpost, and leans her body away, one arm out, her face tilted to the ceiling. The ceiling is low. Her body is full. She closes her eyes. 

She watches the girls. They sway in her vision. They turn in the fanned water of the sprinkler, from little girls pretending to be big to big girls. Their bodies are rounder now, more ruthless. 

The girl’s mother comes out, later in the night. She does not see the girls, scrunched and small beneath the slide. The mother climbs up above them. She sits and shakes out a cigarette. The opposite girl screws her face. She places her finger to her lip. They are still and silent, hiding from the mother, who smokes. The streetlight catches the water in her eyes. She hums to herself. She sings a few strange lyrics. 

The girl underneath hides her face in her knees. The friend is red from trying not to laugh. 

The mother slides down, staggers back to the driveway, into the house. The friend laughs. The opposite girl jumps up and paces. She kicks the slide. She tosses the bottle between her hands.  

‘Your Mom is a freak,’ says the friend.

The opposite girl throws the bottle into the street. The streetlight picks apart the glass until the road is splintered and smudged with light. 

The opposite girl turns. She looks at me. I cower in the porch. I face the chair. 

‘That old bitch is always watching me,’ says the girl. 

I hold my breath in my stomach. I close my eyes. I enter a bright, white room. My husband paces through. I scribble along the walls. I draw great arcs with chalk. The room pulses with colour. The days of the calendar swoop down and around in great starling-like shapes. 

I open my eyes. Silent world. Dawn the colour of lemon juice. Whitening. 

The day is hot. The broken glass shines in the street. The jungle gym shines in the lot. 

I push myself from my chair. I ready myself to speak.