Two Boys, One Book, In Jim Crow’s Jackson

Emmet knows the math book is raggedy, but his teacher doles them out like they’re candied yams. His fingers trace the name inside the cover. Randall. 

Emmet pictures a gold-curled boy claiming the book when it’s crisp new. 

“It’s no matter, numbers don’t change,” the teacher says. But Randall has already written the incorrect answers in the book. Emmet knows math comes at you true as a Mississippi morning. Emmet has learnt it’s words that lie. Like lynching can mean justice. The word separate can mean equal.

Emmet corrects Randall’s answers. His slim black fingers learning to make things right. 


This story won Second Prize and The People’s Prize in the September 2023 Monthly Micro Competition.

About the author: Fiona Dignan started writing during lockdown to cope with the chaos of home-schooling four children. This year, she won The London Society Poetry Prize and The Plaza Prize for Sudden Fiction. In 2022, she was longlisted for the Reflex Flash Fiction Autumn Prize and EHP Barnard Poetry Prize.