KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 12: Summer 2019
Flash Fiction: 853 words
Climate Crisis

Safe Spaces

by Kathleen Thomas

I. Snow Storm

A small boy, red scarf around his neck, skates without moving inside the snow globe your grandparents gave you today, your eighth birthday. Your grandmother tells you snow globes were invented by accident. Your grandfather says you are taller than he was when he was a boy.

A blizzard begins, ends, again and again whenever you shake the globe. You want to ask the boy inside if he is afraid of snow. Does he dream of skating outside his silent world?

II. Floods

On your grandfather’s birthday, he tells you about the floods that happened exactly sixty years ago today in Holland, a place on the other side of the world. “The North Sea Flood. There,” he says and guides your hand to a small yellow shape on one of his maps. “At first the rains were far away. No one understood the storm was headed toward them in the middle of the night. Until it was too late. No one was safe.”

You want to ask him whether he ever showed your father the map, told him about the floods. But you know if you asked, he would take a deep sigh and be silent, go far away. Where does he go then? He never tells you, never talks about your parents, their accident.

“Here, let me show you where we are now on this.” He spins the globe on his desk while you watch the blur of colors, countries, and oceans till his hand makes it all stop. “Here,” he says. “This is where we are. This is home. We’re safe here.”

III. Tornadoes

In your grandparents’ house is a basement where people must go if a tornado is coming. At school your teacher, Mrs. Sills, announces a safety drill. “We will all line up in the hallway, squat down, and cover our heads. This is only a drill. Don’t be afraid.”

Afterwards you begin to check the sky every day, and ask over and over if a tornado is coming. If you could, you would ask your parents about clouds and tornadoes. You would tell them to search for the basement. You would ask them to save everyone.

IV. Heat Wave

Summer, many seasons later, you make friends with Lilah, the girl who moves across the street. Her mother is a scientist; she tells you about barometric pressure, wind velocity, and other changes that create dangerous conditions. The thermometer reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In the evening, she pours you a glass of lemonade.

Lilah’s father points to your shoestring, and notes it has come untied. Once, long ago, your father bent down and tied your shoes. You were too young to remember anything from then except you remember it was hot that day and your father tied your shoes. You can’t remember if he said your name; you don’t remember the sound of his voice.

Lilah takes a sip of lemonade. The ice in your glass has disappeared. You think you should go, but first you tie your shoe, finish your lemonade, say thank you and goodbye. Then you walk across the street into your grandparent’s house where the lights are coming on now. You walk into your room, shake the globe again and again, feel cool snow falling.

You wonder if one day you will be able to tell Lilah you like her, like her parents. You will show her the snow globe, tell her it was discovered by accident by a scientist experimenting, trying to intensify light with reflection.

Then one day will she ask why you live here instead of with your parents? Will you tell her about their accident, the dangerous curve in the road, the bad weather? You will tell her everything she wants to know. But not yet. Not yet. First you must learn all you can about atmospheric conditions, dangerous weather, safe spaces.

V. Wild Fires, Wind Storms

Autumn. Many years after you tell Lilah everything, you move away together, move away from snow and tornadoes to this place of endless beauty. You have a home, many books, maps, a globe. You have a son together. There is eternal beauty in his smile.

Outside your home is a green forest with mountains nearby. You know there can be fires, wild reckless winds in the distance on the other side of the mountains. At night, you both listen to your son’s breathing, hold him close, protect him from distant fires, winds.

But you both fear that in twenty years, ten, five, next year, even tonight the snows in the globe are melting. Storms, tornadoes, stronger than you knew, tear apart families, memories. And far away, families you will never meet walk forever in search of shelter, with dreams of safety.

Both of you know none of this is a drill. Both of you know one day your son will have questions. And be afraid. Where you are now will be gone. You try to remember all you’ve learned. All you must do. Soon.

Here. Now. Your son sleeps, safe, in this moment. You are sure. Only in this moment.

Kathleen Thomas
Issue 12, Summer 2019

writes where shadows and light seem to merge. Her work has previously appeared in Apple Valley Review, Kalliope (a journal of women’s literature and art), Moon Park Review, The Louisville Review, and Warren Wilson Review. She has received a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in fiction.

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