Short Fiction ~ Suzanne Hicks
Honourable Mention, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 17
“Goddammit!” Dad yelled as he punched the steering wheel. We were about an hour past the crater when he realized we’d missed it.
“We’re going back,” he said.
“We’ve gone too far. We’ll get home so late,” Mom said. We’d spent the week camping at Great Basin. The trip had been planned in the before time. Dad plotted our route back to Las Vegas, a longer, less direct one, to see the crater. He’d wanted all of us to see it.
“I didn’t drive all this fucking way in the middle of nowhere Nevada for nothing!” Dad’s voice boomed as he did a u-turn in the middle of the long stretch of empty highway. I snickered at his cursing like we always used to do.
When we reached the turnoff, a small sign marked the entrance to the Lunar Crater. My body shook as we inched along on the bumpy road. Mom let out a yelp when Dad punched the gas and we started to glide over the gravel. “Better,” Dad winked at me in the rearview mirror.
At the end of the road, Dad parked the car and we all got out. Mom waved us ahead saying she had to pee. When we reached the edge of the crater, I held tightly to Dad’s hand, uneasy, as I took in its massive size.
“Isn’t this amazing? You know astronauts trained here,” he said. “Hello!” he yelled as he stood at the edge of the crater. The sound traveled around and echoed back at us, helloooo! I looked up at Dad and he smiled down at me. “Try it,” he said.
“Hi!” I yelled. Hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi, the crater said back. I turned to look at the station wagon in the distance. Mom was sunning herself on the hood. I called out to her, but she remained still.
“I don’t think she can hear you,” Dad said. “There’s nothing for the sound to bounce off of out here.” I looked around at the desert, empty as far as I could see. I ran back to the car and Mom jumped up from the hood.
“You snuck up on me!” she said. I grabbed her arm and pointed to the crater.
“Come on, you’ve got to see this!” I stopped when I saw her frozen gaze. I turned to see Dad in the distance. His body bent over the edge, it looked like he was still yelling into the crater. I watched him walk away as he rubbed his hands through his hair, down his face. He ran back to the edge and dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands.
“We can’t hear him because there’s nothing for the sound to bounce off of,” I told Mom, my voice cracking into the void. She nodded, wiping her face and looked at me, her eyes watery.
“Let’s go sit in the car, baby. You’re gonna get a sunburn.”
Mom sat in the driver's seat and let me sit in the front next to her. She grabbed me a pineapple soda from the cooler. Her eyes remained fixed forward, but I kept my head down and traced the letters on the soda can with my dirty fingernail.
When Dad finally came back to the car he waved Mom out of the driver's seat. I got out and ran around to the back as he opened the door and nodded for me to get in, his face bright red and eyes puffy. I paused for a moment and stared into the backseat, empty and vast as the crater.
We started driving down the bumpy road and Dad pushed in the tape that was peeking out of the tape deck. I heard crackling sounds, mumbling voices, a quick burst of classical music, and then the strumming of a guitar; the beginning of Dad’s favorite Pink Floyd song. He turned up the volume as the car gained speed and it felt like we were floating. I closed my eyes, inviting sleep to get me home faster.
Suzanne Hicks is a disabled writer living with multiple sclerosis. Her stories have appeared in Milk Candy Review, Atlas and Alice, Maudlin House, Roi Fainéant Press, New Flash Fiction Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with her husband and their animals. Find her at suzannehickswrites.com and on Twitter @iamsuzannehicks.