KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 2: Winter 2015
Micro-Fiction: 440 words

The American Way

by April Johnston

Once, she had been something.

So tall, she looked down on treetops. So sturdy, the wind cut paths around her. So striking, strangers came by just to stare.

She belonged to Finn Nevin, the town’s most successful and extravagant entrepreneur, who made his fortune in prosthetics during the first World War, who threw lavish parties that required fishing the limbs of party guests out of the pool in the morning.

For decades, she served Finn’s purpose, allowing him to boast without having to speak, showing the world what he had without having to invite them inside.

But those decades weathered her, and so Finn stopped wanting her, and she was left empty inside, a rotting shell standing silently on the west side of Paradise Lake, waiting for someone to care.

No one did, until Randy Betters threatened to destroy her.

Then everyone in town—those who had admired Finn Nevin and those who had despised him and even those who didn’t feel anything about him at all—got in their cars and drove out of their neighborhoods, out to the eastern edge of Paradise Lake and looked across to see what she had become.

She still reached into the sky for three stories, still had the look of something that mattered, but her grandeur had gone. Red fabric awnings that once hung above windows like heavy eyelids became crimson lashes, batting in the wind. Flowerbeds that drew meandering lines to the lake disappeared under a blanket of overgrown grass and weeds.

When did this happen? they asked each other.

We have to save her, they agreed.

And so they baked cookies and sold them on sidewalks, not really believing that 25-cent snickerdoodles could raise the money they needed. They lifted hand-painted signs in front of Randy Betters’ office, begging him to reconsider, not really believing “Think better of it, Betters” scrawled in neon pink could persuade him.

And it did not. Randy Betters sent machines with wide, hungry jaws to the west side of Paradise Lake, and they snapped at her until she fell. And, where she had stood, he would build four smaller versions of what she had been and sell each one for more than she had been worth.

Her would-be saviors watched from the east, mourning the passage of time, lamenting the destruction of history.

No one suggested that this funeral was fitting; that the very thing that had built her had destroyed her, too.

Instead, they marched somberly into the rubble and gathered squares of crimson cloth, took the pieces home and carefully tucked them into dresser drawers, where they’d soon be forgotten.

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