In Keeping with our trend of flash fiction, this week’s addition comes from our very own Caitriona Marron. Caitriona’s writing works well because it doesn’t betray the charm we often find in work ‘scribbled down at a bus stop,’ in a burst of inspiration. We so often lose this vibe after several rounds of editing and can easily forget why we set out to write in the first place. Despite the brevity of a typical piece of flash fiction, Caitriona does an excellent job at building a world we find oddly familiar but have never lived in, ourselves.
When You Wish Upon an Air Hole
“Johnson… Johnson! Can you hear me Johnson?” Silence answers back as I scan the buildings around me. There’s the usual upheaval, everybody getting back after a tough day’s slog and no sign of my son. The skies are bright, giant shadows looming in the distance. There’s still time.
Normally, we arrive home together everyday from there. Sometimes, I’m dropped off at the other side of the block, or he’d be found wandering the far corner of our segment. I could locate him quickly, not many folks have a seven year old with jagged blue hair. Today is different. It’s taking longer which is never a good sign. That means he might not be coming back tonight.
Kicking the round bumps on the plastic asphalt, I continue my search following the symmetrical green road down to the lot. It’s always quiet this time of day. People rush home and stay there waiting for dusk, our favourite time of day. We peep out our windows that have no glass to watch the darkness sweep over us, signalling our time. I thought a lot about it today, especially now that Johnson had asked about the white dots in the skies. “We’re told they’re stars, Dad, but I don’t think they are.” He’s a bright boy. I didn’t want to lie to him but he would find out eventually. He wasn’t old enough to figure out his schooling wasn’t exactly up to par.
I ramble around the back of an old block site and wait. We’re very patient. We wait to finish work, our smiles painted onto our faces- “Dad?” The holler rose from the third row behind, and I follow my son’s yowl. “Dad! Over here!” I didn’t recognise him for a moment. “They took it off…” I reach for his head, and embrace him awkwardly. What did they do to him? His brave smile makes my heart lurch. “Come on baldy, let’s get home, it’s nearly dark.”
We live by a hill. A luscious green hill with bright red flowers, planted in perfect squares. That’s our spot; the best view in town. We reach it right on time. A large shadow eclipses the light briefly, the thunder barking in snatches around the air. Johnson clasps his hand down on mine, a regular occurrence when it gets too loud. The bright light makes one last appearance before a gentle vacuum signals dusk, suckling at my hair piece. It happens quickly, like a door closing in a dark room. The light seeps out from toe to head, the undoing of the day; take backs, and clean slates all round. Darkness almost cleanses my yellow skin, scouring memories from the day. I see the light bounce off my son’s acorn head, and sigh.
I hear hustling in the houses below. Neighbours setting up dinner and rearranging their moved furniture. The clatter of plastic settles the nasty feeling in my stomach. I ask Johnson if he’s hungry. “Come on, we still have those juicy red blocks?” He shakes his head, staring up at the night. “Well? Have you figured it out yet?” I ask, moving a square closer to him. His beady, black eyes have a look of determined concentration. I angle my arm on top of his shoulder and study the rows of multi-coloured brickwork, the jagged skyline, glinting from the lights above. “Not too sure Dad, I just thought stars would look a little different.” Disappointment. “They’re air holes, son. Without them, we’d just suffocate in this red box.” I turn and Johnson has his painted smile back on, but it’s not forced. Hope.
Caitriona’s work marries what could normally been seen as a realistic world with a dash of whimsy and playful surprise. We start out with an ordinary conversation and an ordinary family dynamic only to soon realize that this isn’t actually a family of humans, but rather, they are Legos. Hasn’t everyone wondered what the toys are thinking when they are locked away and we are not in the room?