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Trolley Rocket by Sumitra Singam

Chandrika eyes the five large bottles of Coke Amma puts in the trolley next to her. She turns to her brother in the baby seat. Surya’s busy with a cheese stick. Appa never bought Coke, and he never let them eat the groceries before they were paid for.

Chandrika feels an ache in her chest, a grabbing feeling that she can’t name. She wants to say something to Amma, get her to put the Coke away and buy juice instead.

But Amma doesn’t really listen these days. The only time she says anything is during evening prayers, when she circles the aarti fire around the idols like Appa used to. She says, Look up to the sky, kids, that’s where Appa is now.

Amma is busy choosing pasta. Appa always bought Barilla, No question, one-hunnert-percent the bestest, Chandrika. Amma’s pasta is always gluggy. She doesn’t drain it properly, in the colander. She just tips the water out of the pot and half the pasta ends up in the sink.

Mrs. Kohli from next door is in the supermarket, too. She touches Amma’s arm, pulls her in for a hug, It’s so terrible, he was so young. That truck driver should be locked away forever. They’ll be chatting for ages. Amma’s crying, her eyes red and screwed up like craisins. That’s what it’s like now, Amma either silent or crying. Chandrika thinks of her Appa, and how his whole face would light up when he came home from work. How he would pick her, then Surya up, twirl them round until a delicious dizziness fizzed in their bellies.

Chandrika hefts one of the bottles in her hand. It’s heavy, but she might be able to manage it if she’s quick. “Surya, you ready for an adventure?” Chandrika asks her brother who looks mutely back at her.

Chandrika picks the bottles up, two at a time, and with a look of steely concentration on her face, begins shaking them. She lays them flat, and uncaps them as quick as she can. “Hold on tight, Surya!”

The children hold on to the trolley as it takes off, soars over the fifteen aisles, the gawping, squawking shoppers, Amma screaming after them. It bursts through the ceiling, and climbs steadily into the sky, to the sun and the moon, to their Appa.

Hear Sumitra Singam read her piece

Sumitra Singam is a Malaysian-Indian-Australian coconut writing in Naarm/Melbourne. She travelled through many spaces to get there and writes to make sense of her experiences. She’ll be the one in the kitchen making chai (where’s your cardamom?). You can find her and her other publication credits on X: @pleomorphic2

Ash Wednesday by Gary Fincke | Boys: A Duplex in Prose by Sarah Freligh | Cartouche by Lucinda Kempe | Diversification by Colette Parris | Trolley Rocket by Sumitra Singam | The girl goes by Cathy Ulrich | Eleven years after I left, brunch by Karen Walker