KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 8: August 2017
Flash Fiction: 988 words


by Nancy Ludmerer

When the doorbell rang, Nicky hid in his mother’s closet. He knew his father would be asking, “Where’s Nick-o?” and his mother saying, “I’ve looked everywhere!” Then she’d leave to meet her friend and his father would come looking.

Being found was the most fun, especially being found by him. His mother’s brushy skirts tickled his face. He waited but his father didn’t come. Eventually Nicky left the closet and went into the living room. His father stretched on the sofa, talking on the phone.

“I can’t come tonight,” his father said. “Of course I do. Just talking to you I get hard.”

When he saw Nicky, he covered the phone and said, “Hi, Nick! How long have you been standing there?” Then he motioned for Nicky to sit beside him. He held the phone in the air, making squawking motions with his other hand, like a big bird was talking to him.

“Okay,” his father said finally. “Of course, together. Twenty minutes. We’ll bring ice cream.”


“Baskin Robbins is the other way, Daddy!” Nicky said.

“We’re getting grown-up ice cream tonight, Nick-o. Sedutto’s.” His father lifted Nicky onto his shoulders. “There you go.” He speeded up.

The ice cream store was filled with grown-ups. Nicky wanted a kiddie cone, vanilla-fudge, but his father ordered a quart, “half fudge ripple, half rum raisin.”

Then they went even faster. Nicky wondered if they were going to his father’s other house, where he’d never been. But before he could ask, he saw something wonderful: A white horse with a red plume, its mane and tail tossing, pulled a carriage down Ninth Avenue. “A horse!” Nicky shouted.

He and his mother often visited the horses outside Central Park. Those horses just stood there, waiting for people to pay an arm-and-a-leg for a ride. “It’s for tourists,” said his mother. One black horse named Maggie was their friend. They’d bring carrots and if Maggie’s driver asked Maggie if she wanted a carrot or if her name was Maggie, she nodded yes. Close up, even Maggie was scary when she went for the carrot.

Suddenly his father put Nicky down. “Got stairs to go.” He pressed a buzzer. “It’s us,” he said. The lobby was dark and smelled of fish. Nicky trudged upstairs behind his father.

The woman who greeted them wore jeans and a white T-shirt and a mane of dark hair. Her feet were bare, with toenails painted bright pink. “Hi, Nick,” she said. “I’m Annie.”

Something brushed against Nicky’s legs and he clung to his father.

“You’re not afraid of a little kitty, are you?” She scooped up a cat, who meowed loudly. “This is Thomas. Isn’t he sweet?”

“Like the Tank Engine,” said his father.

“Can we have ice cream now?” Nicky asked. He couldn’t decide if grown-up ice cream was better than Baskin-Robbins. “Is there a cone,” he asked politely. “Please.”

“I’m sorry, Nick! No cones except for coffee.”

“It’s warm in here,” his father said. “I’m sweating.”

“Yeah, heat on full blast in May. Air-conditioner in the closet—maybe next time you’ll install it for me.”

“I could help,” Nicky offered. “I’m almost four.”

“That would be nice.” She went to the window in the living room and opened it a couple of inches. “Thomas will go right out if I’m not careful.”

“You shouldn’t anyway. Not with Nicky here. No window guards.”

“I didn’t think of that.” She massaged his father’s shoulders.

“I could be giving my son a complex.”

“That’s only when Mommy and Daddy do it.”

His father said, “Nick, will you watch TV with Thomas? Annie says there’s a show about wild cats. We’ll be right next door.”

Nicky settled in front of the TV, his mouth slick and sweet with ice cream. But watching TV with Thomas wasn’t great. Although Thomas looked meek, the cats on the show didn’t. Suddenly, Thomas started streaking around the room. His body got longer. His face got narrower.

He wasn’t a cute kitty any more.

Nicky went and stood by the bedroom door. He turned the knob. It was locked. “Daddy?” he called. Thomas hunkered beside Nicky and began scratching. “Wait one minute!” Annie called through the door. Nicky went to the window. That’s when he saw the horse and carriage standing at the light. Only this time the horse was Maggie, his friend from Central Park, who nodded her head if you offered carrots or asked her name.

“Maggie,” he called but she didn’t hear. He took his two hands, put them under the window, and pushed up as hard as he could. Thomas poked his narrow face through the window, shoulders straining between ledge and frame. “Maggie,” Nicky called louder. The light changed and the horse began trotting. “Maggie!” he cried with all his strength.

“Nicky,” his father yelled, “get away from there!” His father was shirtless and barefoot, followed by Annie, wearing a bathrobe. Thomas had squeezed most of his body out the window. Annie shouted, “Are you crazy? Thomas could be killed!” She grabbed his squirming fur and hauled him in.

“You’re a bad boy,” she scolded Nicky.

“Annie! He’s three. This was a bad idea. He’s not a bad boy.”

“I’m three-and-three-quarters!” Nicky began to cry. His father disappeared and returned fully dressed. He scooped up Nicky—like Annie had scooped up Thomas before—and carried him out the door and down the stairs.

When they arrived home his mother took him right away.

“We tried new ice cream,” his father said. “The walk knocked him out.” He hesitated. “What an imagination he has.” Then he kissed Nicky goodnight.

“There were horses,” Nicky told his mother as she put his pajamas on. “And wild cats. Mean ones. With black fur and shiny pink toes.”

“Pink toes?”

“Their baby was Thomas.”

“Daddy’s right. You’ve got some imagination, Nick.”

He wanted to explain it all to her, but he couldn’t.

Nancy Ludmerer’s
Issue 8, August 2017

stories have appeared in Kenyon Review, Cimarron Review, Literal Latte, The Masters Review (“New Voices” series), and other fine journals. Her flash fiction appears or has won prizes in New Orleans Review, North American Review, Fish Anthology 2015, Southeast Review, Grain, and Night Train. Her flash fiction “First Night,” which appears in River Styx, was also selected for The Best Small Fictions 2016. She lives in New York City with her husband Malcolm and their cat Sandy, a brave survivor of Superstorm Sandy.

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