Short Fiction ~ Adam Kelly Morton
Honourable Mention, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 10
Lana’s asleep beside me when my cell rings. I kiss her naked shoulder and reach across her to my bedside table.
It’s Rob. He tells me that Ricky’s dead.
The ice at the park was too soft to skate on, so we were in our boots, taking slap shots. Over on the hill, kids were tobogganing. We could hear their shouts over the echoes of our stick blades cracking, pucks thudding into the stained white wood.
Then one of my shots went sailing over the boards, right to where Rob’s eight-year-old brother Ricky was pulling his sled up towards the chalet. The puck hit him in the face. I dropped my stick and ran over to where he had collapsed.
There was blood all over the snow.
“You going over now?” Lana says, leaning on our bedroom door frame.
“Yeah,” I say, pulling on my shoes.
“How old was he?”
“My god,” she says.
We hug, and I walk out of our apartment into the May sun. I drive over to Rob’s folks’ house back on Harmony Street. My mom still lives a few doors up. I knock on Rob’s porch door and step in. Their living room is full of silver-framed pictures of Rob and Ricky.
Rob’s mom, Lorna, comes in from the kitchen. “Hi Alan,” she says. “Can I get you something? Tea? Water?”
“No, thanks,” I say.
“Okie doke,” she says.
I watch her go back into the kitchen, and I sit down on one of the green felt armchairs. Everything in this room is green or silver. Clean.
Rob walks in from the hall. “Hey,” he says. I stand up and give him a hug. We sit back down, with Rob on the sofa across from me.
“You okay?” I say.
“I guess,” he says.
I lower my voice: “What happened?”
He stands up. “Let’s go downstairs,” he says.
We walk into the kitchen, past Lorna, who’s spreading margarine onto white bread. We go down the stairs, through the family room in the basement to the storage room. On the way, we pass the open door to Ricky’s room. I can see his posters of Vanilla Ice and Color Me Badd in there.
In the storage room—full of tools and mason jars full of pickled things—Rob points up to a wooden beam in the ceiling. “He hung himself,” he says. “We found a note. He was having trouble with school and with his girlfriend.”
“Holy fuck,” I say. For a second, I feel bad about having sworn. Then I realize it doesn’t matter.
I hadn’t seen Ricky in years, but he had always been a shy kid. Whenever we played Dungeons and Dragons or board games he was quiet, just kind of following along.
Rob tells me I should probably go. I nod, and we go back upstairs. When we get there, Lorna says, “Do you want a baloney sandwich?”
“No, thanks,” I say. “I’ll have something at home.”
“Okie dokie,” she says.
I give Rob a hug and tell him I’m here for him. “Thanks, Al,” he says.
More than anything, I want to see my mom. I walk up the street, and in through the old front door. She’s is in the kitchen, still in her yellow bathrobe, watching Coronation Street on the black-and-white TV. When I tell her how Ricky died, she says, “Jesusmaryjoseph.” Then she’s quiet for a while. “Do you want a cup of tea?” she says.
She puts the kettle on to boil and gets out one of my old mugs—a graduation mug with a trophy printed on it that reads ‘Certified Smart Son’.
“Well,” she says, “I’m not all that surprised.”
I don’t understand what she means.
“You know what Ricky was like: so shy and never showing any emotion. His mother is the same way, you know.” She takes a sip of her tea as though it’s case closed on the subject. When my tea is ready she gives it to me, along with some chocolate chip cookies. We’re sit there for a long while.
The next day, Mom and Lana come with me to the visitation at the funeral parlour. I kneel down in front of Ricky, lying in his coffin, wearing a black turtleneck. He looks the same as when he was a kid—pale, soft skin and parted soft-brown hair. He still has the dimple on his left cheek from when I hit him with the hockey puck.
I cross myself, stand up and walk over to Rob’s parents. His father’s eyes are red, and he uses both hands to shake mine. He tries to say something but can’t. When I reach his mother, she says, “Thanks for coming, Alan.” She smiles. I smile back.
I walk out to the car with Mom and Lana, holding Lana’s hand. She puts her head on my shoulder, while my mom takes hold of my elbow.
“Well,” Mom says.
We drive back to Harmony and get out of the car. In the driveway, Mom hugs us both. “I love you guys,” she says. With my hand on her back, I can feel her sobbing. “I’m glad you have each other,” she says–her face pressed into my chest.
Lana and I keep holding hands as I drive us back to our apartment. On the way, we pass by the park. They’ve planted Japanese maples around the perimeter, all purple with spring leaves. Down where the ice rink used to be, they’ve built a playground.
The ambulance arrived to take Ricky to Lakeshore General. Blood was still pouring out of his cheek, and the EMTs were trying to staunch the flow with gauze.
“I’m so sorry,” I said.
As they wheeled him into the back of the ambulance, Ricky looked up at me. He smiled a little, and gave me a thumbs-up.
He was going to be okay.
Adam Kelly Morton is a Montreal-based husband and father (four kids, all seven-and-under), who teaches acting and writing for a living. He's had stories published in Canada, the US, and the UK, and has an upcoming piece in A Wild and Precious Life: A Recovery Anthology, to be published in 2021. His debut collection was released in May, 2020. Adam is currently working toward an MA in Creative Writing from Teesside University, UK (distance).