Nonna No Name


Nonna No Name
by Rachael Dunlop

‘Tell me the story of Nonna No Name.’

‘There was a woman with a fierce heart and three sons, all cabinet makers. The work they did, so good. They heard about a big job, a house being built for a rich man. Years of work for the right men.’

‘So they walked?’

‘For many days, through a mighty forest. Each night they drove beetles from hollow logs to make pillows, heaped leaves for mattresses, and were serenaded to sleep by the mewling of their empty stomachs.’

‘But they weren’t the only people in the forest, right?’

‘Right. There was another family of brothers, also carpenters, going the same way. They met our brothers one evening. “You must be hungry,” they said. “We found these mushrooms, we’ll happily share.” But not a single mushroom can have passed their lips. The next morning they were on their way to win the job, and our brothers were crawling home, black stool as dark as the forest floor soiling their trousers.’


‘You want the story, you get the whole story. Shit and all. Those poor brothers, they lived just long enough to tell their mother what had happened.’

‘And their mother was Nonna No Name.’

‘And their mother was Nonna No Name. She had a name then, but no one remembers it now. In her grief, she disowned her grandchildren, for how could they be, if she had no sons? And she forbade any girl to carry her name.’

‘You wouldn’t disown me, would you, my Nonna?’

‘You wouldn’t let me, Bubeleh.’

‘I would not. What happened next?’

‘The three brothers left three widows and nine children with not a penny between them. They lived together in a small house and the rest of the village shunned them, afraid of the taint of their misfortune.’

‘Then men came, with horses and swords.’

‘Cossacks. They came looking for families like our poor widows and their poppets. Jewish families. You’ve gone quiet, Bubeleh.’

‘I’d forgotten I don’t like this bit.’

‘Come under my arm, little one. So, the Cossacks came, and the widows hid in their house behind an upturned table, waiting for the fire to come through the window. Waiting to die. But, then, a miracle of mercy! The villagers took pity on them, for all they had lost, and told the Cossacks there were no Jews living there. The next day the widows packed up and left, for the lie the villagers had told put them all in danger.’

‘They walked, like their husbands had walked, but they lived, and they came here.’


‘And their children grew up and had children and that’s you, Nonna, and your children had children and that’s me.’

‘That’s you, Bubeleh.’

‘And I live because the brothers died. Because the brothers died, the widows were saved from the Cossacks’

‘We all live because someone died.’

‘Tell me the story again.’

‘There was a woman with a fierce heart and three sons. We do not know her name.’

Rachael Dunlop is an award-winning writer of short fiction. Her flash fiction has been widely published online and in several print anthologies, including Bath Flash Fiction Award, Synaesthesia Magazine, Every Day Fiction, Ellipsis Two (2018), the National Flash Fiction Day anthologies, (2017, 2018, 2019) and NFFD’s annual online Flash Flood.

Image by DerWeg from Pixabay.