Here’s my most recent piece of “flash fiction” written for my Creative Writing Masters Program. Enjoy!
Mom liked to say: “Everyone is crazy, except thee and me. And I’m not so sure about thee.” I knew she was joking, though there was always a shadow of pain in her eyes when she said it. Still, I’d laugh. Like I was supposed to.
I always got up early, when the world was still dark and cold. I’d get everything ready for school, eat a bowl of cereal, and maybe have toast scraped with butter. At promptly seven, I would get her coffee ready, spooning in plenty of sugar and creamer. I could practically taste the dark aroma. She was always pleased with my coffee, which always pleased me. Life was too hard not to make people happy when you had the chance.
On school days, I’d hike up to the bus station and wait, hugging myself, trying to keep off the morning chill. I’d try not to think too much about Mom and her troubles. I had troubles enough.
On the weekends, I would make Mom breakfast with her coffee: usually just an egg and toast. She had simple tastes. Then she’d get up and go about her business and I would head outside to play, sniffing the fresh clean air. I can’t remember studying much. Maybe if I had studied harder, I would have been able to respond better. Maybe I would have understood what she was really trying to say.
It must have been Veteran’s Day or something because I had the day off, and I stayed inside to help Mom make her bed. She was in a good mood; she hadn’t been drinking lately, and she wasn’t brooding over Dad so much. It felt good to pull the sheets tight around the mattress and then spread the blanket smooth. I remember I was wedged between the bed and the wall, the window behind me, when Mom stopped and stared right past me out the window.
I didn’t want to know what she was thinking when she pointed her finger and giggled, an eerie giggle. I only felt cold ripples roll over my arms. She spoke in a hushed tone. “Well, now he’s gone and done it! I didn’t think it was possible.”
I remember the soft sigh I heaved. I didn’t want her to hear it, but I couldn’t help it. It just escaped. She waited for me to ask. So I asked: “What did he do?”
We both knew we were talking about Dad, but it seemed only I knew that it wasn’t about Dad. Mom’s voice projected a certainty that made me look out the window. “He’s gone and turned himself into a Japanese man. Look there.”
I don’t remember what else she said. I just remember looking out the window and seeing no Dad and no Japanese man. I kind of hoped there would be one or the other.
A brown leaf fluttered to the ground, delicately, like sanity. “And I’m not so sure about thee.”