Faded Chrome Man by Jonathan Cardew

We were all searching for the meaning of life. My brothers and I. As the youngest, I was sent to the basement to find it.

“What does it even look like?” I shouted up.

“You’ll see when you see,” they shouted down.

I poured into boxes, rummaged the rickety shelving. I paused when I came across dad’s old badminton trophy, a faded chrome man in mid-swing.

He’d never come back for it.

Upstairs, my brothers were all playing Mortal Kombat on the Playstation. They were eating Cheetos, the flaming hot kind. They were good at doing nothing, my mom always said, like their dad.

“Hey!” I said, grabbing the Cheetos bowl from my oldest brother.

I pushed a few into my mouth, wanted to cry.

My brothers looked past me at the screen. Johnny Cage was winning. Big time.

Outside, mom was shoveling snow. It was deep January. Drifts leaned against the house like miniature ski hills. The sun had set, spilling pink into the clouds. I always wondered how clouds returned to normal, how they became white again.

I gave mom the trophy.

She fell to her knees, a soft impact in snow.

JONATHAN CARDEW — Jonathan is the author of A World Beyond Cardboard (ELJ Editions, ‘22). His flash fiction appears in Cincinnati Review, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and other venues. Originally from the UK, he lives in Milwaukee, Wis.

Art by JESSE LEE KERCHEVAL — Jesse Lee is a poet, writer, translator, and graphic artist. Her recent books include the poetry collection America that island off the coast of France, winner of the Dorset Prize, and the short story collection Underground Women. Her illustrated essays, graphic narratives and comics have appeared in Waxwing, On the Seawall, SweetLit, The Quarantine Public Library and the New England Review.