A work of flash fiction that speaks to the insecurity that often riddles expecting parents…
by: Pete Prokesch
Rob put out his joint and walked through the rain from the stand-alone garage to the house. Inside Selma pulled the steaming chicken parm out of the oven. She fixed him a plate with broccoli rabe and rice pilaf before pulling her yellow raincoat off the hook and stepping into her rubber boots.
“You’re not going to join me?” Rob asked. The weed made his mind swim.
“Wine and cheese at the yoga studio,” she said. “I told you this.”
“Any more thought to what we talked about?” Rob asked. He rubbed the bald spot on the back of his head. Selma sniffed the air like a hound and raised her brows.
“Dads don’t smoke pot.”
Rob looked down at his neatly curated plate and cut into his chicken. The meat was pink. After Selma slammed the door he waited until her car alarm beeped before he returned the chicken to the oven.
After dinner Rob walked the dog in the rain, dried off, and then played Call of Duty in his office. In the game he parachuted from a plane into a French square to hunt Nazis. The idea of parachutes both terrified and thrilled him. He could never predict where he would land. And the more skilled Nazis knew how to gun him down from the sky. The rain let up so he shut the system down and walked to the garage to finish his joint. Then he went for a drive.
He drove to the playground down the street and watched the swings sway in the wind. He liked playgrounds at night. He remembered losing his virginity under a covered slide the summer after his junior year of high school. He drove back once to revisit the scene but they renovated it and the old slide was gone. Only the seesaw remained.
A cruiser passed him slowly so he pulled out and drove to the 7-11 to buy cigarettes. He removed one from the pack on the way out of the store and a single rain drop landed on the paper. He watched the tiny droplet dissipate and change the paper from white to gray and he imagined it turned pink. He smoked in the car and the flame hissed when the cherry reached the wet paper.
Finally he drove by the yoga studio. The lights were out and he wondered if Selma had beat him home. He sent her a text.
Went out for milk and eggs. Be back in a few.
When he got home the light was on in the kitchen and he could hear laughter from the living room. Selma was on the couch with Eric and Elise — two teachers from the studio. She filled glasses with red wine as The Bachelor played on the television. She looked up at Rob and frowned.
“My brilliant husband decided to go shopping in the rain,” she announced to the room as Rob placed the milk and eggs in the fridge. He squeezed on the couch between Eric and Elise and Eric’s muscular legs pressed into his.
Rob stared at the screen for a few minutes and then excused himself to send a forgotten work email. He shut the door to the office and muted the sound on Call of Duty. As the game began he closed his eyes and imagined the weightlessness of his body as a parachute carried him far away.
He and Selma fucked that night. Afterwards it started raining and Rob walked to the garage and pulled the engagement ring he made for her out of his toolbox. The purple amethyst glistened on the hand-carved cherry.
“It’s so cute,” Selma told him days after he proposed. “But my mom already got our family diamond set and fitted. She would die if I didn’t wear Grandma’s ring.”
Rob stopped going to woodworking class after that and began meeting up with his college buddies at the sports bar on Tuesdays.
The wind drove the rain into the garage and it pooled on the pavement. Rob wasn’t sure why he kept the ring. He attempted to squeeze it on his finger but his knuckles were too swollen so he tossed it on the ground and it rolled into a puddle. He turned the speaker on to a low hum and found his weights and did a set of bicep curls. He watched the blue veins bulge with fear and fascination. With each rep he felt less and less fit to be a father.
Pete Prokesch is a writer and lives in Watertown, Massachusetts. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Four Way Review, The Westchester Review, BlazeVOX Journal, The Bookends Review, Ponder Review, TINGE Magazine, The Wise Owl, and Hare’s Paw Literary Journal, among others. He reads fiction submissions for Epiphany and works in education, teaching green-building courses. You can reach him about his writing at PDProkesch@gmail.com.