Short Fiction ~ Linda Wastila
Honourable Mention, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 10
Dear Mom, you write, Boston is good. Your pen, the one you stole from the Holiday Hotel’s front desk, pauses over the postcard you stole in Faneuil Hall. You don’t write how your fingers go numb from cold every morning when you scavenge the green trashcans that line Newbury Street for tossed half-drunk lattes and bags filled with torn croissant and muffin crumbs. You don’t dig too deep in the garbage, though, never too deep. In fact, you don’t tell her where you get your meals; you don’t mention food or shelter or Nikko at all. You don’t tell her you’re writing from a damp park bench in the Fens where Nikko and a man, silver at his temples to match the thin stripes in his suit, have disappeared into tall waving grasses.
The music is great, Mom, you write instead. Musicians everywhere. We play in Harvard Square. We want to book a studio, press a CD because, Mom, people like our songs. People like us. And passersby do appreciate your music. They drop quarters, a bill or two after listening while they lick their chocolate mint ice creams. Good nights you rake in thirty, forty bucks but you don’t tell your Mom that good nights happen rarely, that usually police scatter you with their batons because you don’t have a busker license.
And the people are nice. I don’t know why you and dad ever left this city. Last week a lady who looked like your Mom—same age, same streaky blond hair, same hazel eyes which look at you with pity—fluttered a twenty into your guitar case. Since then, every night as you drift on the cusp of sleep, the way that lady looked at you burns red against your eyelids, and you carry that memory into your dream. The same dream you have every night while Nikko prowls the city, of how you fly above stars and circle the sun held aloft by a lightness, a freedom, and then how you fall, tumbling and flailing through clouds, while below you the green-blue marble of earth looms closer: mountains, trees, roads, your town, the church your father ministers and where you sing in the choir, the dirt path through woods to school, your house, and just as you brace yourself to crash through the roof, the angel swoops down, her white white wings swallow you with silver heat; she pulls you close, the angel, and her eyes fill with light and pity and compassion, and as you surrender into her she opens her wings and you spin to the ground, a sonic boom.
You wake the same way every time, your body twitching in the moldy sleeping bag you call home. Streetlight filters through the plastic bag draped at the end of the refrigerator box. The smolder of campfires opens the morning. You reach for Nikko, for warmth, for reassurance, to trace the angry red lines marching down his inner arms, but he’s gone. He’s always gone.
Remembering, you shiver on the bench. Nikko emerges from the grasses, alone, and pumps his fist in the air, green clenched between his fingers. You hear him mutter about getting a hotel room tonight if you can’t get into the hostel. You know, though, the money will be gone by then. He slumps beside you, the bills float to the bench, and cries.
You rub his back, pocket the two tens, and pick up your pen. Dear Mom, you write again. Boston is good. There are angels here.
Linda Wastila writes from Baltimore, where she professes, mothers, and gives a damn. Her Pushcart and Best-of-the-Net nominated prose and poetry have been published in The Sun, Smokelong Quarterly, Monkeybicycle, Blue Fifth Review, The New York Times, Camroc Press Review, The Poet’s Market 2013, Hoot, Every Day Fiction, and Nanoism, among others. In 2015, she received her MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins. When not working on her novels-in-progress, she serves as Senior Fiction Editor at JMWW.