Sunday, July 4, 2010

Elephant Words week #7

More flash fiction inspired by the images at Elephant Words. The site is still going strong, nearly three years after Nick Papaconstantinou created it. If you like interesting writing but don't have much time, you should definitely head on over there and check it out. It's fun.

Sand In My Toes

By Chris Beckett

I remember the day you left. I was so angry. Mom tried to talk to me, but I wouldn’t have any of that. Like any kid, I preferred to be miserable alone, but needed to make enough of a scene so that everybody knew I was unhappy – the center of attention without acknowledging it. Of course, Dad just sat in front of the television watching the game, which was typical. I’m not sure how I could have expected anything more from him?

It was hard; I was only seven. How was I supposed to understand? For so long, I resented you for abandoning me like that. I’m sorry.

I come out here whenever I’m home now. Running my fingers across the smooth stones, I stretch back through scattered memories, searching for one I recognize, for a stone we might have skipped across the river that used to run through here.

The state dammed it up quite a few years back, sent all the water toward the farms on the other side of the next town. Maybe you heard. But I don’t know.

Not a day goes by I don’t think of you, wonder what you’re doing, imagine what we could be doing together if you were still around. It’s foolish, I know, but it’s what I do. I can dream, can’t I?

On some level, I think I’ve finally come to terms with the whole thing. I needed years of therapy, which I only agreed to once my first marriage went to hell. But that’s another story, and one I’m not ready to discuss.

Shit, what a life.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t comprehend the realities in my head. You were the older brother. You were the one that could swim. I wasn’t strong enough, and I even had trouble with a life jacket, always felt like I was sinking despite its buoyancy. But none of that mattered. In my heart, I couldn’t reconcile the fact that I hadn’t saved you.

To be honest, when you first started flailing I thought you were pulling my leg, trying to scare me. That wouldn’t have been beyond you. I sat there in the sand watching you splash around, expecting you to stop suddenly and swim back over to shore. But when the splashing stopped, I couldn’t see you. I had no idea what to do, I swear. I wanted to rush in and save you, wanted to swim out to where the water rippled softly, but I was scared. I couldn’t move.

So I sat there, pulling my knees up to my chest, worrying my toes into the sand. (I still have trouble with grit between my toes.)

There are some mornings I wake up, and for a moment I forget and call out your name. It’s a reflex, probably just a specter of my dreams, but for that split second my heart skips and I wonder what we might do today.

But then I remember and pull myself back under the covers.

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