by chloe clark
It’s about twelve o’clock and we’re dropping pennies from the roof of the old schoolhouse. We watch them drop, flashing arcs of copper, into the waters that now edge up over the playground of our youth, when Mika Sterlitz says that she heard I’d been in jail. She calls it the slammer, though. I shrug, half nodding and half staring into the water below us. Imagining jumping into it, swimming away to some other place. The problem with me is that I can’t imagine what that other place might be. My sister always said I saw things as they were not as they could be and that was a fair categorization for her to have made.
“What did you do?” Terry Kilbur asks. She’d been on the edge of our friend group when we were little. One of those who wanted to be with the pops but had to make do with the weirds. I wonder who invited her here.
“Nothing really. Just fixed something needed fixing,” I say.
“I heard you killed someone,” Mika says. They all look at me and it’s hard for me to unspool time in my mind and see their child faces in the disappointment of how they look as adults.
“He didn’t die,” I say. It’s the truth. I never was a liar and they all knew that. He’s in a coma. Sometimes I wonder what he dreams about.
“How come you’re out, then?” Shelly Heroes asks. She leans over the roof edge, watching the pennies fall without ever throwing one herself.
“Extenuating circumstances,” I say. Those being my sister’s three broken ribs and lips split so bad that she still carried a scar. She said it was like having a permanent kiss from him, marking her as his. My sister believes in judgment and penance and paying for the sins of the father and all of that. I always told her that if Biblical wrath ever came, it wouldn’t be to judge the likes of us, it would be to say sorry. To say forgive me, I am the one who has sinned against you all.
No one speaks for a bit. We watch the water below. I think I see something below the surface, a flash of colored cloth. Peering closer, I see that it’s a fish. Some giant carp—startlingly vivid oranges and reds. The thing must be six foot long. Mika drops another penny, copper arcing through the air, and the fish leaps out of the water to catch it. We all “ooh” and then break into applause.
Mika’s phone rings. She’s got an annoying chirp-tone. She looks at the Caller ID and shakes her head. We all stare at her. I know what I want her to do. She tosses the phone. She had been one hell of a pitcher in high school and I can still see that aim and strength in her throw.
The phone splashes into the water and disappears. And then we’re all doing it. I hold mine a second longer than the others, wondering if I should text my sister. If I should say: where are you? Or if I should say: I’m okay. But then my phone is flying through the air, too, and I feel like someone’s scooped out everything inside me and I’m just down to bones and blood and it feels light and scary at the same time.
“What should we do next?” Shelly asks.
And we don’t need to look at each other. Mika goes first. She pulls off her shoes and drops her coat and she’s over the side of the roof. The water rises to meet her falling body. Then Terry dives as gracefully as if she were at the Olympics high board. Shelly is laugh-screaming as she does it. I’m the last. I look at the water, how far it goes. Out and out and out. I wonder what else is left above it.
The jump is quick, the fall is quicker, and the water is warmer than I ever could have expected it to be. The carp swims past me. It shimmers so up close. Mika is laughing, dog-paddling to stay above the surface.
I think of my sister. She was always the better swimmer and so I think she’ll be alright. I think of the hospital, where he lies, filling up with water and I hope he doesn’t wake up, doesn’t stop dreaming. I never wanted him to hurt, just to stop hurting her.
“Where do we go?” Terry asks me.
And I don’t know how to answer, what place I could imagine out there for us. So I say, “just somewhere else.”
Chloe N. Clark’s work appears in Apex, Gamut, Flash Fiction Online, Banshee, and more. She can be found online @PintsNCupcakes.
Art by featured artist Sirena Hildebrand.
Monsters and Lace was created by Sirena the Mermaid and Chris the Troll. They live in Lancaster, PA, with their many plant children, such as Mary the Mint and Bert the Dracaena. On any given day, you might find them romping through the forest, toting reflectors, camera gear, smoke grenades, and who knows what other props. The aim, is to tell a story via pictures, whether it be a hard road a friend has travelled, or a light hearted children’s tale. To view the world through a lens is a beautiful thing! To capture someone’s soul within a photo is a hard task, but one they aim to master.