My son stands at the end of the driveway, the tip of his rubber soles balancing in the shadow between roadway and cracked cement. Safety an invisible line I think, I demand, I can control by saying, “Be careful”, but the wind, the universe, the controlling variables of our lives, don’t give a fuck, so I count the steps in my mind, brace myself to sprint, holding back my body, because this is independence, this imaginary tether I’ve created, a facsimile of trust, when why would I ever let him go? The road is too scary, a version of a video game, where we don’t respawn, we don’t rematerialize to make the same mistakes again, where we learn the algorithm of nature, of drivers distracted by another algorithm of beeps and chimes, alerts of someone wanting attention, that dammit this driver can’t afford to give in this tensed second of my son’s life, of my life, a patterned doomsday of coiled muscled emotion that borders on mania, released in the fragile prayer, of being careful. A haunting from the living, those ten feet that one day I’ll never bridge, or jump, or stumble through, or climb, or plow ahead, hands on my knees, a gap yawning.
TOMMY DEAN — Tommy lives in Indiana with his wife and two children. He is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV (Redbird Chapbooks, 2014) and Covenants (ELJ Editions, 2021). He is the Editor at Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine. He has been previously published in Bending Genres, Atticus Review, The Lascaux Review, New World Writing, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His story “You’ve Stopped” was included in Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020 and the Best Small Fiction 2019. He won the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction. Find him @TommyDeanWriter.
Art by CARISSA MCQUEEN — Carissa began attending studio art classes at 7, and tagged along to a California College of Arts summer atelier in junior high where she learned printmaking and attended her first life drawing class. She paints mostly while traveling, and is excited to collaborate with literary and musical artists in 2021 to interpret new themes and experiment with techniques. She loves brilliantly adapted novels, sailing and speakeasies. You can find her living in Los Angeles with her 6-speed Mini Cooper and a tiny but mighty butterfly garden. Or raiding her sister’s supply closest for brushes and gel medium.