A piece of flash fiction written for Chuck Wendig’s challenge. It was to pick from a list of titles, and write a story in 1,000 words. So, without further comment.
They Sat Outside Eating Cake
Two gangly kids sat on their front porch. Both of them digging sticks in the dirt below. Justin was twelve and his brother Seth was nine. Justin was showing his brother how to draw three dimensional figures in the dirt.
“Justin, you must be the smartest teenager in the whole world.”
“Thanks little brother, but I’m not a teenager yet. I got six more months and then I’ll be there.”
“You’re gonna be great at it. I just know you will.”
“Thanks little bro. I hope you’re right. You know, little man, there is something I need to talk to you about.”
Seth suddenly looked at his brother excitedly. He only called him “little man” when he had something important to say. He didn’t always know why it was important, but he knew that was his signal to pay especially close attention.
“You know,” Justin said. “Things aren’t great around here. I’m not sure how long we’re all going to be together like this, but I have the feeling it won’t be for very long.”
Somewhere inside the house, as if on command, something hit the ground. It was quickly followed by another crash. Justin put his arm around his little brother.
“I know things should be different, little man. I know that someday they will be. I wish it could be that way now, the way it used to be. You’re too little to remember all of that. Everyone was happy. Someday it’ll be like that again.”
Behind them, two adult voices shouted at each other. They had been talking in heated tones until now, but they were suddenly more heated, more urgent.
Justin held his brother closer to him. He wanted to keep his brother as close to him as possible. Less because he was feeling especially brother like, and more because he wanted to keep Seth from seeing the tears forming in his eyes.
“Do you think they’ll ever stop. You know, what they are doing now?”
Justin wanted desperately to tell his brother that everything would be fine. But for some reason, at that moment, he couldn’t tell his brother that lie. There was something about the day that made it all seem worse than normal. The two adults, who were supposed to be their protectors, were locked in a battle for supremacy. Neither one of them would win.
“I don’t know, little man, I just don’t know.”
Seth started to cry. Justin had let his feelings slip. But he was tired. He tried to protect his little brother from the insane war their parents continually raged. Tired of the lies he continually told the school about them being late and why it was that his mother or father didn’t pick them up from school on time.
“Justin, you’re not going anywhere are you?”
“No, buddy, no matter what, I’ll always be with you. I’m your big brother. We have to stick together. It’s important. What good is a teenager if he doesn’t have an annoying little brother to follow him around all day?”
Seth smiled at him. “You’re the best brother a kid can have; you know that?”
“Where’d the cake come from?”
“I made it, just for you.” He told his brother that little white lie.
It was a pathetic piece of cake, but it was cake. He bought it on his way home from school that day. He wanted to make sure that they had something to put a candle in to sing happy birthday to his little brother.
The cake was expensive for Justin. It wasn’t much more than a day-old piece of cake he got from the bakery in town. But, to pay for it, he’d foregone milk at school, all week. He insisted on drinking water from the fountain with his peanut butter sandwich.
But, instead of singing happy birthday, he knew his parents were already fighting when he got home. He found Seth, like always in these situations, sitting on the curb. A little boy, staring into the rocks, trying to ignore the battle being waged behind him inside the house.
“You’d better eat, Seth. I made that cake with some magic flour you know.”
“For really?” Ever since he’d learned to speak, he’d say it that way.
“You bet. I bought it off a guy at school who said that if you ate the flour, then you’d grow up to be a superhero.”
Behind them a door slammed and an enraged voice banged on it from one side of the door. The screams grew more intense, more hateful. The banging on the door became kicking.
“What kind of powers do you want, little man?”
“I’d like to fly, I think.” Seth seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. “Justin?”
“I want you to share this with me.”
“Why would you give up half of your piece of specially made, magic birthday cake?”
Inside the house, something large hit the wall and pieces of glass could be heard hitting the floor. Several other things sounded like they had taken flight and landed in various places in the room.
Seth’s eyes were full of tears. He looked at Justin as the tears let loose and streamed down his nose. “Because, if I’m going to fly, you need to be able to fly too. Cause, you’re always going to be here to protect me. I can’t fly without you Justin.”
Justin threw his arms around his little brother in time to cover his ears as a sudden explosion inside the home. Moments later a second explosion came from the same area. Then the ruckus was replaced with a sudden stillness in the air that seemed unnatural.
“Okay, little man, let’s eat some cake okay? I promise, I’ll never make you fly by yourself unless you really want to.”
The afternoon sun began its lumber into evening. For a moment, two brothers, sat outside their home, eating cake.