KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 6: Fall 2016
Flash Fiction: 620 words

He Wanted to Fly

by Elaine Barnard

I heard the shot through the stillness, the house Sunday quiet, neighbors at church. He never went anymore. Hadn’t since he came home from the Marines, terminated from Flight School. He didn’t make the cut. He said he didn’t know why. He’d tried hard as he could. But he guessed it wasn’t hard enough. The only thing he ever wanted was to fly. And now he never would.

I’d stayed home that morning even though I thought it might be a sin not to receive Holy Communion on the Sabbath. Surely it couldn’t be a mortal sin. Surely God would forgive me for staying home just as he would forgive my son, Christopher. He was named after that saint, a protector against accidents, illness, any mishap that could befall us. But maybe I’m going too far, giving the saint more power than he deserves. Why wasn’t he there when it happened? Why wasn’t he there to stay the hand that held the gun? After all, Christopher was his namesake.

I knew what had happened when I heard it. But I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to stay still, to pretend it was an ordinary Sunday, the way things used to be ordinary. We were getting ready to go to Mass or we were returning from Mass and I was preparing Sunday dinner. The special dinner we always ate on Sundays, Christopher and me, alone together, his father somewhere in the house, door locked, not speaking. Not speaking for years now. Here, but not here. I think Christopher felt that distance, the cold that pervaded the rooms, the stale, unspeakable air.

As a boy, Christopher made airplanes and sailed them off our deck, one after another. His aim was good. It was true. The little planes sailed above the eucalyptus and the pine, often settling there. “Get them down,” his father said. “They’re a fire hazard.”

Christopher would shake the branches until the tiny planes fell. He’d sometimes cry when that happened, when his father trashed them. “My newspapers are not toys,” he said.

“But they’re old,” Christopher would answer. “I found them beside the dumpster.”

“I don’t care where you found them. Planes are not for play.” Then he’d slam the door to his study and lock it.

“Your father’s plane was shot down in Iraq, Christopher. Remember that. We’re lucky he returned. Lucky he wasn’t held in some godawful camp somewhere and tortured. Think of something else to play with that won’t remind him.”

“I’ll try, Mom. I’ll try.”

But the next day he’d be flying his planes again. And we’d repeat the scene until his father stopped coming out of his study, and put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.

Maybe he’ll come out now, I thought. Maybe that shot will bring him out.

I hovered outside Christopher’s room listening for his voice, thinking maybe the shot had misfired, or was just for practice and Christopher would laugh at his own stupidity. “Sorry, Mom,” I hoped he’d say, “just grazed my arm.” I’d bandage the wound. Tell him to put the gun away, get rid of it. We didn’t need a gun for protection. We had Saint Christopher.

The silence numbed me, froze me in place.

Footsteps in the hall. A shadow behind me. A hand on my shoulder. “Don’t go in there,” his father whispered. “I’ll do it. I’ll go in. I know what’s happened. I somehow knew it would.”

He opened Christopher’s door an inch and then one more. He leaned against it as if it was a stretcher and he could carry his son upon it. “I told him not to fly,” he murmured. “I told him.”

Elaine Barnard’s
Issue 6, Fall 2016

stories have won awards and appear in numerous literary journals such as Apple Valley, Southword, Anak Sastra, Lowestoft Chronicle, Diverse Voices, and many others. She has been a finalist for Glimmer Train and Best of the Net. Recently, she was nominated for a Pushcart prize. She received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine.

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