Flash Fictions by Catherine Kwalton
I don’t remember the day of the week but I remember it was the day after he died.
I remember my parents walked into the house and the air was different. Like the room knew something I hadn’t yet. I heard my grandmother’s voice carried through the first floor corralling my siblings to the living room. I was sitting on my brother’s bed when she came to get me.
I remember we sat on the stuffy couches of the living room. I always thought three couches were too many, but we filled them to the brim of discomfort that we could have used at least three more. I remember being itchy. And I was thinking to myself how earlier that week my mother was told there was progress in his state and how she told us “everything will get better” and we believed.
I remember sitting next to my sister and my mother was sitting next to her. And she looked so soft and pure even though I could tell she hadn’t slept or showered in a long time. And my little sisters who could barely speak were running around the room tickling and giggling each other and they weren’t tall enough to see dad’s hollow eyes.
I remember my brother not being there.
I remember my mother said that he went to Heaven and God was his family now.
And my dad never hugs me but I remember he squeezed me so hard I thought I’d burst like a helium balloon.
I remember feeling like glue. I needed to be unstuck from my dad and from this room and from the itchy couch. I remember leaving the back door because it was closer than the front and tying my tennis shoe laces and running around the block maybe three times.
Then I came and laid in the grass of my front yard by myself. And the sun was piercing my eyes so I had to shut them. But I caught a glimmer of yellow and knew it was him. I kept them open and stared at the sun until I cried.
I remember coming back inside and no one was in the living room or on the couches but they were in the driveway now. And my uncle who I hadn’t seen in over a year was there with his wife and they shook my hand like it was a business meeting.
And I remember everyone being together besides my brother. And how he never would be.
I remember feeling like a desk fan. I was circling in myself. Turning, faster, faster. I felt easy and light and fast and forever. But then I started to laugh. I remember feeling guilty because I shouldn’t be laughing when my grandmother was weeping.
Then I saw my sister taking care of my little siblings and I felt guilty again because she was so kind and gentle and all I did was run and laugh.
I remember seeing so much when my eyes were so fat with water that I felt like my world had become a globe and something was stuck on the stand making it spin and spin and spin so it couldn’t stop.
But how that day and the day before and the days following and especially the day his 24 inch casket was in front of me the air was different, except now I knew and couldn’t forget. Even though I don’t remember the day of the week.
I remember washing my hair, upside down over the bathtub.
Wondering if the bubbles close to my scalp could wash away my impure ambitions.
I remember reaching the warmth, pruning my fingertips, twisting my hair and the faucet.
How I wanted to submerge myself until oxygen was forgotten.
I don’t remember why I’d been determined to forget how to swim.
All I could see was pink fizz and my mother’s hands clenched to my dripping shoulders.
I don’t remember what happened after that.
But I sleep with a snorkel now.
I remember being 12.
I remember feeling 17 because he was.
I remember tasting tobacco for the first time and smelling how soggy it made us.
I remember being 4.
Wanting to be 9 because he was.
Tying my hands with his jump rope because I was the robber and he was the cop.
I remember being 14.
I remember feeling 19 because he was.
I remember swallowing little red pills in the attic of our smoky basement with faces I didn’t recognize.
I remember being 6.
Wanting to be 11 because he was.
Trying to rollerblade so we could race to the dollar store and he’d buy me chewing gum if I won.
I remember being 16.
I remember him not being around.
I remember the caller ID of an unfamiliar area code and an operator speak of “violent inebriation” and dates we could visit.
I remember why.
I remember broken glass shattered on the floor of our hallway.
I remember screaming and then sirens and seeing him stand with his hands behind his back like he would in church. Except this time he wore metal bracelets fettered to defeat.
There used to be a time when the sky was cloudless and my head was doubtless.
When white teeth and plump lips filled our faces but now I’ve run out of chapstick.
There used to be a time when open arms greeted every room but now they’re crossed and not like a crucifix.
When wilted words fed hungry hearts but now you say you’re too full to go out to dinner.
There used to be a time when bare feet were careless of the mud but now I haven’t seen your toes in months.
When I’d keep my eyes open for hours just to look at yours but now I can’t stop blinking.
There used to be a time when sweaty hands held onto the last pinky finger but now you say gloves are in fashion.
There used to be a time for everything and for everyone and I guess it’s my fault I never wore a watch.
The First Time I Tasted Alcohol
I remember the first time I tasted alcohol.
I was seven years old and my mother was there.
I walked down the aisle of my church wearing the whitest dress I owned and felt proud to look like a bride. I walked to the sound of music that you weren’t suppose to dance to even though I would wiggle my foot sometimes when no one was looking. I walked with a boy who was also seven years old but who was much shorter than me so he didn’t look the way I did. We all walked two by two and it made me think of the Bible story with the arc, and it made me happy because I was really into zoo animals at the time.
I held out my hands and a man who was also wearing a white dress gave me a crispy white circle and told me to eat it. I kept it in the roof of my mouth until it dissolved because I felt weird about eating a person.
Then I tasted alcohol for the first time.
My older brother told me it would make my belly warm and my head heavy. But I couldn’t stand the taste so I kept it in my mouth and let it stain my teeth.
I remember walking back to the big wooden bench with that boy who was shorter than me.The boy kept pressing and rubbing his thigh next to mine when we were praying on our knees.It made me feel like the alcohol did but I don’t think he noticed because he was too short to see my face anyway.
But I remember looking down at my chest and seeing a little plum colored spot on my white dress. And I thought it must have been the alcohol and it must have dribbled out from my mouth and through my teeth because I hadn’t gotten braces yet and there was a lot of gaps.I was so upset that I ran to the bathroom during a part you’re not suppose to and I just sat there. I sat there staring at the little plum colored spot on my white dress and felt funny about it. Because the more I looked at it the more it looked like a giraffe and that made me happy.
Catherine Kwalton is currently an undergraduate student at Eastern Michigan University.