The girl wears shiny patent leather
shoes. There's a scuff of mud on the left heel. Her tights are bright
white, shockingly white, like too-perfect teeth or brand-new sheets.
Her dress is red velvet. A long ribbon encircles her waist and ends
in a luxurious bow at her back.
Her mother presses three dollars into
her hand, folds the fingers over her palm. “Right to town and
back,” she says. “Follow the sidewalk all the way. No turns.”
The girl nods absently.
“Are you listening?”
“Follow the sidewalk all the way.”
“To the bakery and right home.”
“No dawdling. No talking to anyone.”
Her mother smooths down the skirt of the girl's red velvet dress and
gives her a smile. “You're growing up.”
The girl blushes, twists the skirt in
“Just don't grow up too fast,” her
father adds, opening the front door.
She can feel the eyes of her parents on
her back as she skips down the street. She knows her mother will be
timing her return. She feels herself hurrying.
Merryweather Street is to her right. To
her left, a long brick wall, mainly red, but patched over in places
with a thin layering of grey cement. She wonders who lives behind
that wall. She thinks it must be a lovely place for a birthday party.
She imagines large gardens and balloons; ice cream cake and pinatas
suspended from branches.
The sun warms her back and she is
filled with joy at her freedom. She begins to skip towards town. And
as she skips a familiar melody floats over the red brick wall. She
hums to it, incorporating the melody into her movement until the song
becomes a part of her; and she becomes the song.
She pauses. Cocks her head. The song is
different from the way she sings it at school; the tune is
accompanied by a strange sound. Flesh against flesh, like someone slapping away mosquitoes.
She slows to a walk and approaches the
wall. She runs her index finger between the bricks until she comes to a crack in the wall. She worries away mortar with her finger, working out a chink, leaving a small hole behind. She presses her eye to it. The brick is cold against her face,
and rough, too, like the Saturday bristles on her father's face that
remain throughout the weekend before they're smoothed away on Monday.
Images come to her in pieces: A little
boy. A limping dog. A purple stool overturned. She sees a red-faced
man, reaching for the boy; sees the thick hand come down against the
boy's face. As the man strikes the boy, he sings the words to the
song. The girl gasps as her brain fits the pieces into a cohesive
whole. The boy meets her eye. His mouth forms a single word that she
cannot hear. And yet, she understands.
* * *
“Good girl,” her mother says when
she returns. “I'm proud of you.” And her father smiles.
The little girl does not tell her
parents about the man behind the wall. Nor of the child. Nor of the
dog. She does not speak of purple stools and children's songs. And
this day, she has grown up much more than her parents intended.
“Let's watch a movie,” her father
suggests, after they have eaten the bread with their dinner. He licks
his finger and presses it into a crumb on the tablecloth.
She sits on the couch between her
parents. The screen flashes to life and images hit her retina,
flooding her brain with color and motion and possibilities. Some
comic book brought to life: Superman or Batman. Perhaps Wonder Woman.
It doesn't matter.
Ten minutes in, her father pauses the
movie, wanting a snack. Her mother rises to pop corn. While the air
fills with the scent of melting butter, she tells her parents about
purple stools and slapping hands.
Her mother bites her lip. Her father
shakes his head.
Oh, look, her mother says. There's a
bit of mud on your shoe. She licks her finger and rubs the spot away.
Her father takes a handful of popcorn and tosses it in his mouth.
They return to the movie, incapable
heroes cloaked in capes.
Labels: flash fiction, scriptic.org, writing prompts