The Fifth Mug


It’s just like normal, I tell myself. I stand at the sink and wash the breakfast things. The kids are at school and Simon’s left for the office. It’s just like normal, only there aren’t enough plates; there aren’t enough mugs. I add one of each to the washing-up bowl to make myself feel better. For almost a year there have been five of us, and now, just as suddenly as there were five, there are four again.

We all raised our eyebrows the first time Charlotte demanded an extra space be set for Mr Pretzel. “That’s a ridiculous name,” Jamie said, but we told him to be quiet. “You had an imaginary dog when you were younger,” Simon reminded him. I worried about it for the first couple of weeks, but it didn’t take long for Mr Pretzel to become part of the furniture.

This morning, Charlotte frowned at the fifth place at the breakfast table. “Mr Pretzel doesn’t live here anymore,” she said, solemnly carrying his dishes back to the dresser. “I’m big now.”

It’s like someone’s died.

I scrub the fifth mug extra hard, even though no one’s lips have ever touched it.

This story was first published by The Puffin Review, 2014