Tommy Dean

Everything in Nature Longs for Safety

A father and daughter stand at the edge of the lake. Early May, the sand is still gummy from the spring. The breeze cold and sharp, the water too frigid to even put their toes in. The orange ball buoys rock back and forth sealing them in, demanding that they go no further. They’re not here to swim, but to run.

The father puts his arm around her shoulder, but this feels wrong to both of them. Their moments of familial intimacy were over the day her mother entered into hospice care.

The father drops his arm, shoves his hands into his pockets and kicks at a bottle cap wedged in the sand.

“I guess there are some things I’m supposed to say.”

“What can anyone say?”

“About life. And death, too.”

“We could pretend. Pretend we already have. I’d be okay with that.”

“Would your mother?”

The girl bent at the waist, stretching, touching her toes. “Not sure, actually. But Daddy…” her voice breaks, water, even on a lake, climbing over itself to reach the beach. Everything in nature longs for safety. “How much longer will it matter?”

“Days, I guess. Though those doctors have been wrong before.”

“I hate them a little. Is that wrong?”

“No, hate’s good. It’ll keep you warm, keep you moving even when you want to stop.”

“That’s what I should do? Move?”

A track scholarship. Division II but it will pay the tuition.

“I’ve been wrong about a lot of things. I’d like to be right about this.”

The girl pulls her ankle back, still stretching. She switches legs and counts to ten. Both feet back on the ground, she bounces from the balls of her feet to her toes like a rocking horse recently dismounted.

“Could we run now?”

“Go ahead. I need… Go on now just watch your step.”

He reaches out a hand to pat her on the head, to pull her close, but even as a child she was too busy to ever sit for long. She’s halfway up the beach, his hand balancing between sky and sea, trying to grasp a ghost.

 

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Tommy Dean is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. A graduate of the Queens University of Charlotte MFA program, he has been previously published in the Watershed Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, r.kv.r.y, Boston Literary Magazine, Foliate Oak, and Gravel. Find him @TommyDeanWriter on Twitter.

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