He drank his beer, twisted off his glove, and told his mom he’d be sure to take a camera.
Mom, he said. He’d put his stuff in storage.
He was finished as a freshman and his mom was on the phone now. She called and called. She’d been in the army. His dad, too. That’s where his parents met. They weren’t married very long.
His father also kept calling. They were all somewhere else.
He took his shoes off, in his dorm room, flipping the remote.
It was his decision. He’d be there with his hat on, in his Kevlar. His parents had been medics, and now they kept on saying that the army was disastrous. They were paying for his college. He could do what he wanted. Artillery offered a bonus.
He put on the jacket his dad had worn far off in a war zone, where he said sand had blown into his eyes and sunk into his pockets; his dad came back the same, save a busted knee cap.
He hung up with his mother.
He got up, looked in the mirror, and saluted himself.
The worst day of my life
They drove down to the beach and opened the car doors. Mirror took off her shoes. The sand was cold. Mirror sat sideways on the seat of the car, looking down at her feet. Chappy hadn’t moved since he stopped the car. He was facing forward, his hands on the steering wheel. “You didn’t say good morning this morning, Mirror,” he said.
“This is the worst day of my life, Chappy.” Mirror’s head sank down till her forehead touched her knees. She was so thin. She could barely feel her body where it pressed up against her thighs.
“If you can say good morning on the worst day of your life, Mirror, that says something about you.”
“I know that, Chappy,” Mirror said. Her voice was muffled from her lips being pressed against her knees.
Chappy was feeling fastidious, and it was making him sick. He untied his shoes, took them off, tucked the laces neatly inside the shoes. Then he pulled off his socks. They were brown socks, brand new. He folded each sock once and laid it on the corresponding shoe. Mirror had her head turned sideways, so that her ear was on her knee. Her eyes were slanted tight to the corners of her eye sockets, trying to see what Chappy was doing. “What are you doing, Chappy?” she asked.
“Folding my socks.”
Mirror sat up, put her hands on her knees, stood. She brushed the tops of her pant legs to get the wrinkles out. She looked down the beach toward the lake. There were two birds high in the sky above the lake. Lazy, low waves capped about a foot from shore and rolled onto the beach. Mirror walked down to the shore. Chappy stayed in the car and watched Mirror through the windshield. “I should get out of the fucking car,” he said to himself. But he didn’t move. Mirror had her feet in the water now. She was drifting south along the shore. The lake came to meet Mirror with its little bit of foam, then left Mirror. Mirror counteracted her feeling of abandonment by moving down the beach. She was moving forward, leaving Chappy behind. “Goodbye little bird,” Chappy whispered. He put one foot out the car door and set it in the sand. “Cold,” he whispered.
Flash Fiction in Artvoice
Literary Buffalo occasionally includes flash fiction alongside the poetry, features, interviews, and book reviews. Literary Buffalo seeks submissions of flash fiction, meaning complete stories running 500 words or less. Stories longer than 500 words will not be considered. Send submissions to flash fiction editor Forrest Roth at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Flash Fiction Editor, Artvoice, 810 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14202. Please include SASE for return of manuscript.
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