KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Flash Fiction: 770 words

Bulls on Parade

by Ryan Keith McConkey

They said children were growing up faster than ever before, but Tom didn’t buy it. His son was no man, just a boy. Teddy didn’t even shave yet, still stared at the ground afraid to look his old man in the eye. They said he was old enough though, and there wasn’t much Tom could do to stop it.

“Look at how handsome my Teddy Bear looks!”

Men don’t have nicknames like that. Men don’t have mothers who still make their beds, use extra fabric softener on their underwear to keep their butts from chafing. Tom watched in disgust as his wife licked the napkin in her hand, and proceeded to wipe away remnants of strawberry jelly from Teddy’s chubby cheeks. The boy didn’t put up a fight, even blew his nose for her into the napkin.

“About time we got going.”

She hugged Teddy one last time, tried not to cry. Tom was clear on that point. Crying would only make things worse. She needed to be strong. She couldn’t bring herself to say goodbye. Goodbyes were final.

“You be a good boy Teddy. Do what they tell you.”

“Yes, Mommy...I promise.”

Tom took one last swig of coffee before heading for the door. The front door squeaked, fought with its rusted hinges to avoid being opened. When closing, it was the other way around, slamming shut so fast that you had to stick a foot in the way.

They didn’t make it to the uprooted driveway before Mary came rushing out waving a brown paper bag as though its contents held the key to Teddy’s survival. Tom shook his head, but took the bag from his wife, not wanting to start another fight. She was on the brink of a meltdown as it was, and the job of picking up the pieces fell on his shoulders. Still, he didn’t have to like it.

Tom’s pickup truck was slow in turning over, gurgling like a hose on the verge of spewing water. It started eventually, with a lurch that propelled the rust-spackled truck into the street before Tom had time to turn the wheel.

“Do you remember what I taught you?”

“Yes, Father...always look for cover.”

Teddy was no killer. That much was certain from their hunting trips. The boy wasn’t a bad shot. He could hit the center of a paper target more times than not, but refused to shoot at anything with a pulse. Tom tried telling him that vermin were responsible for ruining his mother’s flowers. It didn’t matter. Chipmunks too, had families.

At least the boy wasn’t afraid of gunfire. Tom saw to that. It took several days and hundreds of wasted rounds, but now Teddy could hear rapid fire from a machine gun without flinching. He even knew how to judge the distance and direction from the sound, and could find the appropriate cover in seconds. Teddy didn’t need to be a killer, only a survivor.

“What else?”

“Be aware of my surroundings...everyone is a potential threat.”

It was sad, but true. What appeared to be a friendly could soon turn into a foe. The boy was too trusting as it was. The concept of there being people out there who wanted to hurt him was alien to Teddy.

“Do as I say and you should be fine.”

“Yes, sir.”

What worried Tom most was the lack of fear in his son. With all the recent killings, the boy should have been shaking, should have put up more of a fight. He should have been crying, begging his father to bring him back home. Instead, he just sat there in the truck absorbed by the endless stream of orange fields. Maybe it was best this way.

Tom pulled up to the curb of a large redbrick building with his truck sputtering as though it were out of gas. They weren’t the only ones there. Vehicles of all makes and models were doing the same, a solemn procession of opening car doors and the salutary honking of car horns.

“We’re here Teddy.”

Teddy leaned in to hug his father, but couldn’t quite reach him. The stick shift was in the way. In this one area Teddy was stubborn. He was known to keep his arms outstretched for several minutes staring at Tom with wide eyes moistened with the promise of impending tears. This wasn’t a time for weakness. The boy would soon be a man, and men didn’t hug one another. Nobody ever died from tough love.

“You better get going, Teddy.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have a good first day of school.”

Ryan Keith McConkey
Issue 1, Fall 2014

A recent graduate of the MFA program at the University of Tampa, whose first short story, “The First Member,” was published in the June 2014 issue of The Story Teller Magazine. McConkey currently teaches Middle School English at Warner Christian Academy, and as an Adjunct Professor of English at Daytona State College.

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