by Sara Crowley

Siobhan is looking at her husband’s reflection in the window as he speaks.

“We’ll be OK.”


“We’ve been through worse.”


“It’s tough, but we’ll be OK.”

Through the window Siobhan watches the daffodils in the side bed. She thinks them cheap. Each year she waits for the tulips to push through the earth, holding their buds tight before relaxing in sun and opening to reveal candy stripes, clean whites, yellows, thick purples.

“Are the daffs early?” Tom asks.

“No,” she replies.
She allows his embrace and sags against him, drooping.

“I love you.”

“You too.”

“Do you fancy pasta?”

“Yes, OK.”

“Tomato or cheese?”

“Tomato, thank you.”

“Garlic bread?”

“No, thank you.”

They are holding on, hanging on in there. She is choosing sauce and declining bread as if she has a preference. She is thanking him and thanking him.

Siobhan hears an insistent low rumble and can’t tell if it’s in her head or in the house. She lays on the kitchen floor listening, imagining how the centre bed would feel if she dug into it, past the hard outer layer and into moist, softer soil. She thinks it would be quiet.


The long awaited tulips are short lived. The timing is off; the reds arrive first and it’s not until they are in full bloom that the others appear. The weather isn’t conducive and they quickly wilt; petals blown or dropped, stalks wobbling. Ragged leaves are turning brown and she longs to tidy them but knows to leave well alone – they send vital nutrients into the bulbs beneath, feeding and nourishing as they die. Tom has gone to the shops. He will return with a peach, a paper. Small tokens she will accept blankly. She watches for his return.


They sit side by side on the sofa watching their regular TV programmes. He favours light entertainment which fails to amuse her. In her mind she digs, down, down.

She hears a recurrent crackling in the walls. Together they try to identify what it is. It becomes almost a hobby. A glass on the wall and a careful hush. Tom explains it away, it could be the fridge, or an electrical hum echoing from the downstairs light. Siobhan is dubious.

She wishes she could give reassurance that they will indeed get through. She works on pastry in the kitchen, fingers rubbing at flour and water, and her mind skitters away from pie and back to earth.

The noise gets louder at night. She leaves the house intending only to breathe night air. The flowerbed offers sanctuary. At first, Siobhan sits in it and uses her hands as scoops, flinging clods onto the surrounding grass. Then she sprawls across the bed, presses her face against the cool darkness, inhales mud and digs deeper.


Sara Crowley’s fiction has been widely published in places including wigleaf, PANK, FRiGG, 3: AM and The Irish Times. Her novel in progress was runner-up in Faber’s Not Yet Published competition and she was the winner of the Waterstones’ Bursary. She’s Managing Editor of The Forge Literary Magazine, blogs at saracrowley.com, and appreciates you taking the time to read this.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Beneath”?

In answer to your question, I don’t think I can tell you anything surprising or fascinating about Beneath. I wrote it quite some time ago and have often sliced away at it to make it sharper. The last edit was seconds before I sent it to you. To make up for such a dull reply I am attaching a photo of the flower bed that inspired the story. I see this from my kitchen window and the tulips are gorgeous. 


Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now open. The reading period for standard submissions closes again December 15, 2023. Submit here.


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