Ashleigh Rajala – Coal Dust

Coal Dust

Chapter One

Caroline once joked that she got the worst bits of Dad while I got the best. Now I see what I never did when I was alive: Caroline wasn’t talking about genetics at all. She was sitting beside me on the beach then; we were having a holiday up in Whitby, as we always used to. The grains slid through her fingers as she dug through the loose sand hot from the sun to get to the dark, wet
Now that I’m dead can I replay those moments like rewinding a tape or skipping through the scenes on a DVD. Time means nothing: I can see past moments fresh like they’re happening before me. I was just a kid alive: only eighteen. Now that I’m dead I could be eighty. The loss of flawed and biased eyes brings a careful certainty to everything. My concluded life is a butterfly stuck through with a pin: the wings are never flapping again and all I can do is study them.
I watch Caroline at my funeral. She stands side-by-side with Stuart, facing my horde of mourners. Stuart stands on the left, Caroline on the right. They don’t look like family. Which is fine because they’re not. Not really. The only blood they shared was mine. I was a bit of each of them: half Stuart’s mom, half Caroline’s dad. Between them sits a picture of me like the overlap on a Venn diagram, a blend of the two of them. I only notice now how awkwardly they both stand with me between them. They both feel like first drafts, I realise now, with me the final copy. It’s unbelievable, really: their differences. You wouldn’t think you could make a person out of that.






Ashleigh Rajala divides her time between a variety of poverty-inducing ventures: writing for fun and writing for torture; watching far too many movies and reading far too few books. Previous incarnations include bookseller, bureaucrat, filmmaker, zinester, student, and wayward traveller. Her physical home is Vancouver and her internet home is


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