Today we are excited to publish our second finalist in last fall’s Flash Fiction contest.
by Shana Ross
The girl who grew up in summer fields with fireflies and not so many neighbors married a boy from the city who knew bricks and concrete and floating rainbows on standing water. And she found herself craving woods between houses large enough to be lost in, and he nibbled on memories of alleyways full of a churning mob of friends, neither one of them able to convince the other that their childhood sounded so…lonely. Where is the midpoint between solitude and anonymity? The happy couple feared they might never find it.
But the kind of fears that eat lace tunnels in your heart worm their way in and out so slick and silent that they slip from your view after each twinge, and you wind up living a life without ever needing to reckon with them. We all want what’s best for our children, but mostly we aren’t sure what that is.
One way to tell the story is that the boy wore down the girl, and a different way to tell the story is that she liked living in the city, as much as she had loved her childhood, and so there’s no way to know whether she might have come to the same conclusion all by herself. Either way, she said yes to a child and they settled in the light city. The geography of these things is probably set with a language that enough people share, but she hadn’t lived here long enough to know where the inner city is in Manhattan, what to call the different tiers of boroughs, when you slide into suburbs. They bought a house that was half a building with a small yard that backed onto an alleyway, and their son grew, and she felt uneasy. Raising a child in a place, in a life, that bears no resemblance to your own memories is a little like chronic pain – you stop noticing the constancy of your struggles, and what takes your breath away are the small small windows when they pause.
On the first day of summer, the first real first day of summer, the evening after the last day of kindergarten, she watched the pack of children in the alley transition like seamless ombre – kickball to basketball to waterfights, day to twilight to golden glow before nightfall. There are not so many nuances in the country, here the darkness comes in differently, the houses already entered into night but the sky still bright with trees and roofs in sihouettes, the sun flares into the alleyway and the children are still in bright color, every smile ecstatic as they laugh and chatter in words that don’t reach their watchers in English. They are a jazz rendition of childhood joy, soon to be called in for dinner.
I give thanks, thought the girl, I want to thank the universe. For this nice solid life, which I’m not sure I deserve. The only thing I’m sure about is that I can’t be the architect, for it is a constant surprise, and so I give thanks.
It shouldn’t go unnoticed that in that moment she did not think about the role the boy had played in creating this life together, her blessing went out to the vast and unknowable universe. But that moment, for her, seemed perfect, a memory she wanted to preserve in every last detail, like a snowglobe to store on a shelf; something to be taken down and shaken on occasion.
About the photographer: Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz is a writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. She is the author of two fiction chapbooks and a former news writer and assistant English professor. Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @gwjomi. Her photograph above is titled “the house through the door.”