We’re at it again! This week’s Friday flash fiction fun at JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination 2-minutes-go blog. Write for two (more or less) and post it for the world to see. Maybe you’ll join us next time. I swear, magic happens when we all write together. Here are mine. Lightly edited to be a little easier on the eyes. With a dash of cinnamon, cook until done.
His blue-jeaned legs swung from the crook of the tree branch, beating a tattoo against the trunk, and she could almost hear him calling her a pussy in his head as he smiled half-assed at her, gesturing with his nibbled apple how easy the climb had been. She didn’t care about girly things like manicures—piano lessons forever had cured that—so she dug in her stubby fingers and began the ascent. The sickly-sweet aroma swirled around her, of the apples that hadn’t made it to picking, the whir and whine of the bees in their confusion of something to pollinate, and straining her muscles, she pulled herself up, leaves catching in her hair, the scruff of the bark scraping her skin even through her denim shirt and pants. His grin widened as she joined him. The sun, dappled through the leaves, glinted off his aviator lenses. Sanctuary. At last.
The future waits but he does not know that yet. Life has been a series of steps he’s told to take, places he’s told to wait, tasks he’s commanded to complete. Choices? That’s not been part of the plan. Choices have been about small things: ketchup or mayonnaise on the french fries; go swimming or ride bikes. These new choices feel too large and terrifying, like he’ll pick the wrong one and be stuck on a bad path forever. End up like his mother. Worse, like his father. Drifting around, busking for change and smiles. Not knowing when he’ll come home. As the bus bound for the unknown pulls into the bay and opens its doors, his mother licks a finger and pushes a cowlick down and he cringes backward. “Mom.” His mouth forms a sneer. “Stop it.” And to his surprise, she does.
From nowhere, it seemed, the neighborhood stray tortie joined me on my walk. Dusk. Playing with me or trying to herd me or whatever feline trick she employed to bond me to her, she slipped serpentine in front of my legs, her mottled fur blending in with the asphalt, with the darkening night. Now just her too-big collar was visible, keeping me from tripping over her. She lifted her head up to mine, gave me a slow blink and bonked her forehead against my knee before letting me continue placing one foot in front of the other. Take me home, she seemed to be saying. We both knew that couldn’t happen. So we walked, her twining her long, skinny body around my calves, twitching tail, for the length of one property, two, before she slipped back into the woods.
She couldn’t explain why walking in circles helped. The rhythm of it, maybe, one after the other around the top of the driveway, the streams of rain trickling under the hood of her slicker and down her neck. It was something she could feel, unlike the stale air inside, unlike the same tired looks he gave her. Feeling that wet and cold sliding along the nape of her neck was like a jolt to her body that woke up the rest of her nerves; the smell of the ozone calmed her and made it easier to face what lay inside. Made it easier to lift her feet up the crumbling concrete stairs and face his puzzlement, his derision, the shattered drinking glass he refused to throw away. He wouldn’t throw anything away. It all had memories, it all meant the person who’d owned it stayed alive, somehow. But she also preferred to walk the circles outside because if she did them inside, she could see the glass, the shards stacked inside the jagged base. Throw them out, she said. Get rid of them. She didn’t want to explain why it was bad to have them around, why she couldn’t stop watching the glint of the fluorescent lights against the fragments. The words were too hard, too fractured, too broken.