The Parting Glass

Helen Chambers

              Move fireside-close; warm away your bone-ache. A bitter evening to be out. You’re the last to stumble this way tonight. Separated from your company? I believe they passed through here earlier.

              Will I fill you a parting glass of our very own whisky to speed you onwards? Hold it to the firelight, admire its caramel tones, inhale the oak and walnut – fine enough to entice the angels to take their share.

              Your very good health. Drink deep.

              Smooth as melted chocolate. Winter-cosy to the palate: damp leaves and blazing fires. For you, it sings of excitement and change. Let it soothe your troubled spirit.

              Yes, just me and Lucy, my companion cat. Midnight black she is, apart from her butterscotch eyes. No, no – don’t look in them. They might do you harm.

              I warned you …you’ll deny her nothing now. She’s a rascal. Listen to her purr. Now there’s a sound worth bottling.

              You admire my amber amulet, I see. I wear it always, and always is it warm to my touch. Comforting, and yet burning with its own flame. Yes, that is an insect embalmed within it, forever trapped. This is my gift for helping people across the divide, and it provides me with protection…

              Look outside. A marvellous Hunter’s Moon tonight. See how the window lattice casts a shadow which makes prisoners of us, criss-cross caged. Open the window. Release us. Bring the night sky closer. Draw aside the star-curtain, pinpricks from the light beyond. I fancy I see the faces of your friends, beckoning you. My task is only to guide you. Do you hear their soft calls? Gently rise, and start your onward journey. Lucifer will accompany you the first few moonlit steps of your way.

              Goodnight to you.

Helen is a UK writer who won the Fish Short Story prize in 2018, was nominated for Best Microfictions in 2019 and a Pushcart Prize in 2021. In summer 2023, she’s directing The Winter’s Tale for the Wivenhoe Outdoor Shakespeare Company, and when not worrying how to stage ‘exit pursued by bear,’ she writes flash and short stories. You can read some of her publications at