Frankie McMillan

Frankie McMillan is a poet and short fiction writer. Recent work appears in Best Microfictions 2021 and Best Small Fictions, 2021. She likes swimming in cold water but never gets far because dog paddle is all she can manage.

CHASE by Frankie McMillan

Mr Whippy here and there, up the street, down the street, swerving his pink and cream van to avoid a dog, Mr Whippy his face emperor white, hunched over the wheel wondering what dogs want with Mr Whippy.

Mr Whippy glancing in the rear vision mirror, kids still chasing him on bikes, their heads ducked under the handlebars, a mother jogging with a baby on her hip, ice cream, ice cream but Mr Whippy is wrecked, days leaning out his window, handing out cones with the perfect pointy top, pulling on levers, eyes squinting in the bright sun. his ears ringing.

Mr Whippy turning off his ice cream shaped speakers because Green Sleeves isn’t what he wants to hear right now. He turns into a leafy suburb, checks in the mirror again, sighs with relief. Mr Whippy parks under a tree, eases himself into the back of the van, pours sacks of skim milk into the machine, fondly pats the metal side, re stocks cones, wipes the sticky window sill, tugs on his ear again.

Mrs Whippy shining a torch down his ear canal, slush in his ear she laughs, a cul de sac of sprinkles and Mr Whippy, tired though he is clamps a pale hand on her thigh. Mrs Whippy wriggles loose. Mr Whippy rises.

Out the bedroom door, down the hall, out into the night. Mrs Whippy runs smooth and light as a girl and Mr Whippy follows, his legs pumping, dogs barking, the whole street cheering him on.

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When I look at her legs I see upturned milk bottles, and I’m talking here of the glass bottles that milk used to come in and I love the shape of those legs, I could stay out all night on the frosty grass looking up at the wire and Miss Tatyana walking the wire in silence, only the guy ropes creaking and the twang of the metal pulley, and you know, those legs get my score, those legs belonging to Miss Tatyana all the way from Russia where they didn’t have glass milk bottles, only Mr Stalin, his mouth a hard line, his eyebrows a nest of ideologies that to tell you the truth wouldn’t suit a man like myself, a man who needs the freedom to pour his love into a vessel of his own choosing.


They say anything you love, anything of value is bound to make a break for freedom.

Some nights I’m afraid I will lose Miss Tatyana.  She’ll move on from the wire. Trapeze, maybe. Or maybe it’ll be the persuasion of a baby. In my dreams I throw her over my shoulder, gallop away with her on a horse. We get married in Porto, at night she wraps her milk bottle legs around my throat. When I wake she’s gone. My breath curdles into silence.


I wait for Miss Tatyana by her caravan. Under a cool mackerel sky, only the fin of a moon peeking out. She moves between the tents and down the alleyway. I catch a glimpse of her legs as she walks past. And here’s the thing. She knows I’m there waiting for her and she knows that I know she knows this and that’s why I remain hidden in the grass. And she sits, smoking on the steps and I’m lying spreadeagled on my back, useless like something poured out. Smoke drifts over me, I close my eyes and I swallow and I swallow.    

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He wants a photograph of the baby in the bath. Or maybe lying on a sheepskin rug. You say you haven’t got a sheepskin rug and the baby’s already had a bath. Your father says, ‘ Well make up your mind, sweetheart.’ He wants a photograph of his grandson before he gets back on the plane.  

He picks the baby up, holds him by the window for a closer look. ‘There’s nothing wrong with him,’  he says. You point to the baby’s hairy legs.

‘It’s nothing,’ your father snorts. He declares the baby perfectly normal. He unscrews the cap on the camera lens.   

The baby, surprised by his own good fortune, kicks up a storm in the bath.   

You lift him out, a soapy shawl of hair over his back. Normal you say, perfectly normal as you wrap him in a towel. You wipe soap off his developing moustache.  Pat his legs and arms dry. You wonder whether a hair dryer would be better. But then you worry he might grab it, stick his little finger into the whirring head.

The baby’s warm, fat body presses into your back as you jog with him into the living room. Your father has already gone. He has other grandchildren to photograph. Already they are developing faster than he can ever record them.   

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