KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Flash Fiction: 685 words

Note to Self

by Deanne Gertner

When your nineteen-year-old son, Henry, sits you down at the kitchen table over pecan pancakes that he made for your breakfast, a week after he’s gotten back from the Rhode Island School of Design (or Ris-D as he’s come to call it), and tells you, “We need to talk,” don’t jump to conclusions. He has not knocked up some East Coast, trust-fund, artsy girl. He hasn’t contracted meningitis, nor is he Republican. He does not want to join the seminary or the Peace Corps or a cult. What he has to tell you is worse, decidedly more cruel and heart-wrenching for the mother of an only child to hear: he wants to take his sophomore year off so he can walk—not drive or hitchhike or bike or canoe but walk on his two size-ten feet, feet you spent hours kissing, socking, shoeing, this-little-piggying—to Anchorage, Alaska—3,198 miles—to work the fishing boats for a summer. He is not joking: the line above his nose between his sleek, black eyebrows is soldier straight.

Interjections about bears, snakes, poison ivy, his allergies and lack of common sense, crazy-eyed truckers hopped up on meth and porn will not deter him. Don’t remind him of the time he came home crying from the Cub Scout “retreat” in Mr. Benson’s backyard. He’ll simply smile and say, “Mom, this is going to happen,” and place his warm, wide, callused, sculptor’s hand on your back as your pancakes get cold and sticky with syrup while you imagine all the ways he could die on this peyote-induced quest of his.

Save your tears for nighttime. Opt for a sound machine set to Amazon—the bird caws sound more like your hiccupping sobs than Ocean Tides. Do not try to muffle your cries in your pillow. Waking up with dried snot in your bangs makes for a challenging hair day. Keep an eye mask in the freezer; your co-workers will not believe that poofy-eye syndrome is a real medical condition.

When you’ve finally accepted that nothing you say will change his God-forsaken mind, go into list-making hyper-drive. Paper Henry’s room with lists of phone numbers: second and third cousins you’ve never met, food banks, homeless shelters, churches, police stations. Quiz him on The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Guide: How to Survive Frostbite, How to Treat a Bullet Wound, How to Perform a Tracheotomy. Make him recite back the passages as if they were scripture.

Buy him long johns, wool socks, a goose-down parka, water purifying kits, everything-proof matches, a hatchet. Load your REI cart with so many silver packets of dehydrated food that NASA will suffer a shortage. When Henry refuses to take a cell phone, GPS, or credit card, plead your case to every biker, hiker, skier, rock climber, and camper in the place until a jaundiced-looking salesclerk suggests an emergency signal transmitter. Try to suppress the hatred you feel for this dread-locked, hairy arm-pitted, gluten-free vegan. She is not the enemy, and, as you know all too well from Vegas, you lack a poker face.

In the days leading up to his departure, take your lunch breaks on sun-dappled benches at the playground so you can watch kids swing, slide, climb, crawl, dig, and chase. Let their squeals and giggles and tantrums spark memories: the afternoons you took naps together on the weekends, his hot, sweaty infant’s body curled between your breasts, the soft, sweet scent of his little bald head proof that perfection existed; when Henry, five years old and running in his new gray cowboy boots, slipped on the cement stairs in the front yard and cracked his forehead open; the time he won the county-wide art show in sixth grade for his milk-jug assemblage portrait of you.

On the first day of October, an Indian summer still lingering in the air, when you watch his pack-burdened body shrink to a black dot at dawn, lament that you gave him this courage, this heart that could walk away from you and your good intentions, so certain that it would remain unchanged, unhardened on his return.

Deanne Gertner
Issue 1, Fall 2014

A Colorado native, Deanne Gertner is a recent graduate from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She works for Denver-based art consulting firm, NINE dot ARTS, where she helps companies tell their stories through art.

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