And today, a flash fiction for you.
In the Twinkling
When he’s done whacking us, our old man leans across our bed, his tattooed arms stretching out like spider legs. “Next time’ll be worse.” He straightens up and clenches his fists, daring us to make a sound. Don’t matter. Me and my brother agreed a long time ago we wouldn’t cry. Not in front of him, anyways.
He kicks our bed with his cowboy boot and stomps downstairs. We don’t move. I know my brother’s crying ’cause I hear him sniff, but he don’t say nothing.
“You okay?” I ask. It hurts to turn my head, but I need to look at my brother’s face. His right eye’s swollen; going to be hard to hide that tomorrow. Probably have to skip school till it heals ’cause he told us if they find out, they’ll put us in foster homes and we’ll never see each other again.
“I’m okay.” He closes his eyes and tears squeeze out.
Another thing we agreed on is we don’t call him Dad, even though he is. Mom never woke up after one of their parties and we buried her a few days later.
I try to take a full breath but something stabs my insides.
The screen door slaps against the frame. Voices float up with the smoke, and we hear the crack of beer cans. Music rattles the window. The walls vibrate. I struggle up from the bed, careful not shake my brother, and look out the window. Bunch of old cars in the driveway, another party, more people coming and him outside talking. He drops a beer can and crushes it with his boot. Then, like he knew I was there, he looks up and turns his eyes right on me.
My heart slams against my chest and I drop into bed. My brother groans. Something sharp hurts me inside and I hold myself trying to make it go away but then he’s there, in our doorway, his body bowed and tight like a coyote. He takes the room in two steps, grabs me up and slams me against the wall beside my brother. Pulling the back of our hair, he pounds our faces into the wall because we wouldn’t listen, that’s all he wanted, was it that hard to listen, you stupid bastards. He stops for a moment, but when we slide down, he clutches our throats and shakes us, throws us on the floor. His boot hammers my head, finding the soft spots. I stretch out my hand for my brother.
And then, like I been holding my breath too long underwater, I burst out and I am free. Light shoots from my fingertips. My brother is beside me, golden and beautiful. He throws his head back and laughs and his mouth is filled with light.
I wipe my eyes. Instead of tears, little white flames cling to my fingers. I gently blow them like dandelions and they float around us, feathers of light, twinkling with brightness.