Flash In The Pantry: A Blemished Slate by Dr. Susie Gharib


She was ushered by her uncle into the only room that was close to the front door of her grandparents’ spacious but very old house. He mumbled something in utter disapproval at her newly shaven head, which looked as a scraped potato in her grandmother’s pot. Clare felt utterly embarrassed though she had done nothing wrong. She thought that she must have looked too ugly to be isolated in her uncle’s private room. She stared at the open window behind which many butterflies roamed. She examined every inch of the wall, stared at nothing then inspected the pictures of a single man’s world, and although she could not then spell the dignified word, its letters loomed large on the ceiling and walls:

F grew gigantic and looked like a lamp-stand with no gold.

O was a circle that had no exit or door.

R restlessly roamed tripping on obstacles on the floor.

L heavily lagged looking lame and forlorn.

N knelt to pray for hair to quickly grow.

F,O,R,L,O and N must have come into the room the moment her uncle turned the knob. Time grew wingless and seconds and minutes crept on the floor. It was a tradition with some parents to have the heads of children shaven to strengthen their hair-roots, but she who recommended the hair chopping did not supply Clare with a cap or hood with which to hide her furless globe. Why was she not at home? Was a shaven head a stigma in any household?

Clare waited for her grandmother who with a hug would calm the heaving and scattered limbs of forlorn. She would ease Clare’s bewilderment and shame with a single kiss on her forehead, fastening a bouquet of violets to the sleek hair, behind the very tiny ear, regaling her nostrils with the soap-scented hand as she, with a snow-white towel dipped in lukewarm water, blotted every mark on an easily blemished slate, a child’s face.


Dr. Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of
Strathclyde. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Peeking Cat
Poetry, The Curlew, Plum Tree Tavern, The Ink Pantry, A New Ulster,
Down in the Dirt, the Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Mad Swirl, Leaves
of Ink, the Avalon Literary Review, The Opiate, Miller’s Pond Poetry
Magazine, WestWard Quarterly, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Grey Sparrow
Journal, The Blotter, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Crossways, The
Moon Magazine, the Mojave River Review, Dodging the Rain, River Poets
Journal, and Coldnoon.