KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Flash Fiction: 998 words

Breaking Up Light

by Kelli Fitzpatrick

The tires on my Kawasaki crunch gravel up Josie’s drive, but even in the half-dark of evening, I see she’s not on her porch. Engine idling, I pull off my helmet and check my watch—I’m not late. If we scoot, we can make the last showing. I figured the second Indiana Jones movie would be perfect for our second date. That is, till Trevor told me the rest of the title.

Temple of Doom—not real romantic.

Dad badgered me all week to get everything just right. I stopped at the Shell for some Good and Plenty candy—Josie’s favorite—got a haircut, even polished the metal on my bike. “Don’t give her any reason to leave, Marty, or she will.” Dad spoke it as a flat truth we’d both lived through, the leaving that had left us alone in our house.

I wait several minutes, nervous as a spooked whitetail, but no sign of Josie or her mom, so I kick out the bike stand. If I know Josie, they’re probably in the barn, so I shuffle through cool grass, licorice rattling in my pocket.

Sure enough, Josie strides around the corner, plowing right into my chest.

“Marty!” She’s in denim shorts and muck boots. “Luther’s loose. Flew over the fence. We’ve got to find him before something else does!” She hurries to a squat wooden shed at the edge of the field.

Following, I catch a glimpse of Josie’s mom, Tabitha, crouched at the chicken coop against the barn, mending a bent section of wire. Tabitha speaks to the riled birds in her low earthy voice. I wonder if they can tell by her tone how many leavings she’s lived through.

I sure can.

“Coon got too close and spooked them,” Josie says, pulling a small metal canister of scratch feed from the shed. The grains clink inside like glass. “Luther’s always been a jittery bird. And an escape artist. Keefer’s searching the barn, we’ve got the field. He can’t have wandered far.” She latches the shed door and meets my eyes. “Will you help?”

I look across the yard at my motorcycle leaning all lonesome. I don’t know how long it takes to catch a chicken, but my grip on tonight’s plans is melting like a handful of wet sand. Still, I don’t want Josie’s rooster getting snacked on by a fox, so I say, “Sure.”

“Great. Hop up there.” She points to the shed’s flat tin roof. “Try to spot movement in the field while I draw him in.” Josie wades into the bushy soybean plants high as my belt, shaking the feed can and trilling her tongue.

Beside the shed, there’s a huge tree stump with wicked burn marks down the side. I climb on, hook my fingers around the eave, and pull myself up. Settling on the edge, feet dangling, I see rows of crops angling to the east like a bundle of twine gathered at the horizon. I train my eyes on the near ground and watch for signs of chicken.

There’s stirring all over. Slight breeze in the weeds. Cat flicking its tail on a fence. With the sun gone, bats swoop and snap up the skeeters swarming the yard lamp, jagged little shadows breaking up light. Josie’s rattle-call cuts across the property and blends with cricket song, a wild thing in its own right.

This isn’t how our date was supposed to go. But there’s an energy out here in the damp, a kind of life in just doing whatever is needed. Right now on a screen in town, Indy’s trekking through some remote temple, saving a damsel from dangers and heathen rituals. Below, Josie zig-zags through the jungle of soy, shaking the canister in a rhythm that somehow matches this land exactly. She doesn’t need saving, but I’ll bet my bike she will save the dang bird this night. She is the ritual.

To my left, just out of clear sight, a shadow glides by, much bigger than a bat. It dusts the top of the soy leaves and something lets loose a shriek.

“Luther!” Josie dodges toward the bird noise, breaking a path through the plants.

The shadow banks—a barn owl, circling for another pass. A ballsy barn owl, not to be scared off by our racket. I stand shakily on the tin, rip open the box of candy, and fling the pieces in a hard line beyond Luther’s terrified squawks, hoping to drive the chicken toward Josie. The little pellets titter over the leaves like hail, and a blur of silver scutters in the dark.

Swinging down off the roof, I weave my way to where Josie rummages on the ground. Bent over, she’s just part of the field, but as I reach her, she pops back up, hair frazzled, clutching a large bluish-grey rooster. She tucks him under one arm football-style, his feet still twitching in fear. The owl veers off toward the west.

“He’s fine,” she breathes, stroking Luther’s neck. “Thanks, Marty. I know this wasn’t what you had in mind for tonight.”

I mean, it wasn’t. But those plans seem far off now, like a distant thunderstorm. “It’s perfect.” I pull a soft leaf from her hair.

“Not everyone understands...this.” With her free arm, Josie sweeps the sky and the field and the rescued critter in one motion. There’s kindness in her hands. I’m not sure I understand it either, but I know I want to be on the inside of that arc with her, however messy things get.

“Come inside for a bit?” She walks toward the buildings. “Mom made applesauce earlier, might still be warm.”

“Think she’d tell me the story of that scorched stump?”

Josie raises her eyebrows and leans close, lips almost pressing my ear. “You think tonight was nuts...”

Luther coos. Above, stars cling to the dark like snowflakes on suede. We head toward the coop, smiling in silent mystery.


Site contains text, proprietary computer code,
and graphic images that are protected by:

⚡   Many thanks for taking time to report broken links to: KYSOWebmaster [at] gmail [dot] com   ⚡