KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Micro-Fiction: 482 words


by Andrew Stancek

My stomach growls when I wake up. Last night Frankie and I shared one can of stew and one walnut. When his plaintive eyes bore into me and he asked for dessert, I combed through the sack and handed him the lollipop I’d been saving. Food domineers my dreams, when I’m not plunging off precipices or burning to death. Last night the dream was sausages, six coiled fat wursts like my Mama used to bring home from the market forty years ago, to roast on sharpened stakes in the backyard; grease drooled down our chins, as Papa sang of Janosik and freedom, between slugs of borovicka.

I sing Frankie no songs of liberation, no ballads of heroes. Hunger is as familiar to him as his shadow. In today’s scavenging I hope for a potato or two, perhaps a turnip from an abandoned cellar. Still three crabapples in my satchel.

“Tell me a story,” he says nightly when we burrow into our sleeping bags, to fool fierce hunger through imagination. Often I weave tales of Waterman and lands just beyond the border, where boys trot on ponies and play with silver marbles. “The boy’s mommy was bursting with pride at his bravery in the slaying of the dragon, fed him Turkish Delight and marzipan berries, and tucked him into a feathery bed. Her lark-like voice sang him to sleep,” I ended last night and Frankie’s eyes shone.

My mind grows parched of tales. I have to ready us for the next part of the journey, scoop my jackknife and hatchet. Leaning against our shack is a coil of rope and a length of pipe, both too hard to carry. On the roof a solitary black bird sits, face hooded; his glare considers my flesh-free bones. The wind blows hot; a flicker of a sickly yellow light appears on the horizon. I’ll have to wake the boy. I watch as he tosses in his sleep, grinds his teeth. A tiny vein throbs in his neck. He’s toughened but I cannot allow him to get too hungry to trudge on; he mustn’t fall sick. Hunger conquers hope, makes the spirit faint. The hovel has given us a few days respite, but the time has come. Two flasks of water yet.

The night we escaped we stumbled through brush and gnarled tree roots, crushed mushrooms underfoot. The next day we heard bees buzzing and I cooed for him to be brave, that we’d soon have a new home.

I close my eyes. Black Forest cake. Sometimes my Mama brought one from the market, and the three of us stuffed globs of cherries and whipping cream into our mouths. Frankie has never even heard of such luxury. After licking half his lollipop last night, he carefully wrapped the other half, saying it was too good to eat all at once. He would have the rest tomorrow.

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