Ack! Almost forgot to post my two-minute bits from JD Mader’s Friday Flash Fiction luau and quilting bee. Definitely run over there and see the awesome-on-a-stick going on from these amazing writers. It’s weird how once we all get going, and the whatever juice starts flowing, that we get stronger. Themes sometimes emerge. Or we riff off each other. Don’t know which. But at 250 comments, we came pretty close to breaking the blog. Maybe next week. I went for four this time. Must have been the coffee. Or the power.
The thunder of men on horseback grew closer, hooves pounding into the newly planted crops, their shouts and laughter a lance that pierced her nightmares. She buried her face in the hay of the synagogue attic and squeezed her sister’s hand. “Shh, tateleh,” she murmured to the young girl, and they whispered a prayer that they’d heard Mama recite over the candles on the Sabbath. It did not slow the horses. It did not stop the big men with their brass-buttoned uniforms dulled with dust and dried blood. It did not stop their shining blades from hurting the men downstairs. Papa, uncles, brothers. It stopped nothing. But it made the girl stop crying, and it made them both invisible.
She rolled onto her back to finish her stretching routine, the plastic pain of the artificial turf of the infield no match for her thin nylon singlet, and counted the crossbeams that held up the marshmallow sky. There were pigeons trapped inside the dome; she heard their chirping, saw the streaks of what they’d left behind in the rafters when Coach made them run the stadium stairs. Carrier pigeons, they called them. Big joke. The football team, bellies jiggling, huffed in circles on the track around her, shaking the ground. She knew them all by name. Some day they’d be famous. Not her team, though. Because it wasn’t truly a team. Even though they had uniforms and a meet schedule and a coach, on paper it was just a bunch of women who liked to run, and there were whispers that only teams would be allowed in this hallowed hall. The inequity stabbed at her like the pointed tips of the fake grass, like the droplets of sweat flying off the men’s reddened faces, the occasional wads of shiny spit that only landed a few feet away from the stretching girls–ladies–women’s track club. The coach strode out to greet them, and she caught a quick shifting in his eyes before he smiled too broadly and clapped his hands together. This is it, she thought. We’re done. “Okay, ladies,” he said. “Meeting time.”
The bare-chested man perched at the edge of my bed looked suddenly too young to be sporting a mustache. He laced his fingers together between his thighs, mouth twitching in an attempt to explain himself.
“It’s okay,” I drawled. “Happens to every guy once in a while.”
He turned on me with a good-natured sneer. “Funny. So I’m not the first guy she’s hidden in here when her parents came over?”
I quickly recalculated. He wasn’t a bad guy; there was no need to make him feel inadequate, or any more like the one-nighter that my roommate had probably used him for. Still, it pissed me off to have my Sunday morning interrupted. It pissed me off even more because I’d been chasing him for months.
“No. She usually makes them go out the window. So I guess that means you’re special.”
The crowded bus jolted forward. She nearly lost hold of the two bags of groceries she juggled in her arms. Suddenly it all felt so wrong she wanted to cry. The bag at his feet contained one of those pop-up turkeys and gravy in a can. A package of aluminum baking pans bobbled at the top of the bag he clutched in the crook of his left elbow. His face was set into a mask of it’s-gonna-be-all-right while she was certain hers was more like I’d-rather-die. She swallowed hard, trying to make the best of it. This wasn’t his first choice either. But it didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. Her mother always put out the best china; the turkey was organic from a local farm; the stuffing took days to make, with herbs from the garden scenting her fingers. Thyme on your hands, her brothers used to joke, while she stirred the onions and celery into too much butter on the stove. This, what they were doing, this rebellion-style Turkey Day, just felt…wrong. Traitorous. And worse. She was too young to feel this old, too young to feel the ties unbind.