An offering of flash fiction where a sudden tragedy opens the door unto the possibility of a whole new life…
by: Arya F. Jenkins ((Header art by Nacho Zaitsev.))
Go ahead you pervert before I ram your ass. After the man turns, she proceeds, driving at just the right speed. Heaven forbid, three, five notches faster, sirens and red whirring lights will come after her.
Another right, uphill, then, after an eternal light, left into the parking lot. She swings into a space, switches off the ignition, grabs her wallet on the passenger seat, takes a long breath — in, out — and opens the door.
Woosh. A virulent gust assaults her. If she had checked the internet, she would probably find news of tornados. Glacial temperatures in April, then this, whatever it is. She has ceased to malfunction according to the weather. Turn off. That’s her motto. And she is mostly, unless due to chemistry, she is now like a live wire.
The separating IGA doors veritably suck her in. She heads straight to the middle aisle for a jar of roasted nuts, then to the cheese section in back for a package of Muenster slices, then impulsively for a Diet Coke from the cooler by the register.
The cashier, a young woman in a dark blue uniform, neat cornrows, bright red lipstick, large, neon green glasses that highlight the hazel brightness of her eyes, smiles at her.
“You have an edgy look. You should be in movies,” she tells her as if to compensate for her nasty percolating mood.
“Thank you,” a nail-bitten hand with sketchy polish wags at her. “This my last day. I’m going to another job.”
“Hollywood?” she doesn’t intend sarcasm.
“No,” the girl laughs good-naturedly. “I wish. More money though. Gotta do what you gotta do.”
“Well, good luck.” She thanks the zitted boy with a crew cut who has packed her things, whose downward glance showcases his long, lovely lashes. “Good luck, both of you,” and off she goes digging into the bag for the container of nuts, filling her hand to the brim. Some spill to the floor. No matter. She chews dutifully, takes a swig of Diet Coke. In her car, very soon, she feels herself returning.
Another attack subverted even as slate clouds release cascading bullets across her windshield. Beyond, shadows of people run for cover, umbrellas flailing, some ripped away by wind.
What is this, and should she sit it out? Instead, she switches on the ignition and windshield wipers and watches as overhead the sky tilts yellow green. In front, attempting to get into a car whose door handle, for whatever reason, fails to give, is the cashier from before turned into Medusa, hair streaming every which way. Both hands grip the handle as her glasses fly off. Then she is swept upward as with a creaking thud the world flips. Then all is still.
From that angle, herself immobile, she watches the wreck of the lot until hands and heads begin emerging from upturned vehicles. She opens the driver’s window, lets herself onto the ground, springing automatically to the edge of the lot to a leaning pole, underneath which there is only soaked grass, pink where she lies, the crumpled body of the young woman who only minutes before smiled at her. Eyes closed, cheeks stained with mascara, a tiny cluster of knots at the side of her head bleeds out the last of her.
Her nametag reads Elvira. Why did she go to her car? Why didn’t she stay inside, this girl, mouth frozen into a leer defying the uncaring weather. Even drenched, she is not so heavy.
The zitted boy greets her at the store entrance, eyes widening and, as if reading her mind, bypasses the obvious question.
“Why did she step out?”
“I don’t know. Smokes, maybe. She always does.” He helps her set Elvira on a counter, gazing at her as if at long ago. Sirens and vehicles converge.
Two big, kind passersby have righted her car. She shakes their hands then approaches the maroon sedan that stayed put. Through a side cracked open window, she apprehends the strapped form of a fidgety infant in a rear-facing seat, damp face grimacing. Gotta do what you gotta do.
Police and firemen stalk the lot, clambering across the side of an overturned truck. Her attention veers to Elvira’s covered form as it is hoisted into an ambulance whose doors stay open as EMTs rush off to other victims. Close up, the only visible sign of her is an outstretched hand clamped tight around keys, extended like a prize.
All she has to do is reach for those keys, her portal into another life. Elvira’s child will become hers. Unaccounted for, it will become a thing she grows, inculcating it with the proper amount of fear and reserve. When storms come, they will brave them together. Early on, she will introduce her to female superheroes. No need to disclose to her who her real mother was, or the story of her demise like that of a colorful branch disengaged from a tree too soon. All she has to do is reach and run.
Beautiful art by Nacho Zaitzev accompanying my flash. Thank you!
Arya does it again. So much expressed in just a small number of words. Love the line “All she has to do is reach for those keys, her portal into another life”. Did not expect the story to take the turn it did. A wonderful surprise.
I was riveted reading this story. I felt sadness as the surprise
Ending developed. A child left unattended in the car while
Her mother Elvira did what she had to do. Then a moment of choice for the character. Jenkins imagination and writing is superb in this piece.
Whew. Now I know why it’s called Flash Fiction. The momentum builds (like a tornado’s approach) and doesn’t let go until things have been turned upside down. All in a few short pages. Very skillful and gripping.
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