by Adam Lock
Rebecca glances out of the kitchen window to see Karl looking up at the sky. A woman crouches to speak with him, pointing at a plastic toy house, in which other children are playing. There is the sound of thunder. The children, except Karl, scream.
‘It’s for sale,’ says a woman in a long green dress.
‘Really?’ says Rebecca, scanning the kitchen. ‘It’s lovely.’
‘Isn’t it?’ another woman says, lifting her sunglasses onto her forehead, running a hand along the kitchen worktop. ‘Mahogany.’
The woman in the green dress leans into Rebecca.
‘He’s a surgeon.’
Rebecca drinks from her wine glass and tries to remember their names. When David told her about the playdate, she said she didn’t want to go.
‘You should go,’ he said. ‘He needs to make friends before starting school. Making friends is important.’
His words, she thought, were aimed more at her than Karl.
The woman in the green dress points at Rebecca’s shoes.
‘You wore a lovely pair of heels the last time you were here. What were those? I said to Tracy how lovely they were.’
Rebecca glances down at her pumps. ‘Nothing special. Just an old pair.’
She looks outside to check on Karl. He’s arguing with a girl. Rebecca places her wine glass on the worktop.
She carries Karl into the garage, next to the kitchen.
‘What did I tell you?’
‘Was her,’ he says.
‘You won’t make friends if you don’t play nicely.’
Karl points at a huge fish tank on the other side of the pool table, next to a rack of pool cues. ‘What’s that?’
She sighs, watches him run around the pool table and point at each tiny neon fish in turn.
‘Can we have fish?’
She follows him, watches the fish swim one way and then the other, their change in direction communicated between them somehow.
‘And who would take care of them?’
She strokes the curls at the back of his head.
The strip light in the garage flickers and there’s more thunder.
‘Thunder,’ Karl says and runs outside.
Rebecca walks towards the door to the kitchen and hears the two women talking.
‘…she left small crescent shaped marks all over the wooden floor.’
‘Oh my God.’
‘Geraldine says she distinctly remembers asking everyone to take off their shoes when they came through the front door. No one was wearing shoes. Except her. Do you remember?’
Rebecca looks down at her shoes. It was the party, two weeks ago. David insisted they go. She didn’t want to take off her shoes. There were women in bare feet, men in socks.
‘Geraldine was livid.’
Heat moves across her shoulders and chest. Her throat tightens. She takes a deep breath and opens the kitchen door. The two women look at her, then at each other. Rebecca lifts her wine glass and finishes it, leaving a red wine crescent stain on the worktop. She pulls a paper towel from the roll and wipes the stain, but can’t remove it. She takes another deep breath, and without looking at the women, walks outside.
On the lawn, Karl is staring at the sky.
There is more thunder, a loud crack.
The women and children move quickly, shouting, taking things inside.
Rebecca sits on the garden bench and Karl sits on her lap.
‘I like thunder and lightning, Mommy.’
She waits for the next flash. Inside the clouds is a pulse of silver.
‘Count,’ she tells Karl.
He counts out loud.
‘…Nine,’ Karl says.
‘There are two sorts of people in this world, Karl: those who love thunder and lightning, and those who don’t. Try to make friends with those who do.’
‘Daddy hates thunder and lightning.’
She places a hand on his back, feels his warmth, his small rib cage swell and contract, the pattering of heartbeats, the same excitement in him, as in herself, as in the sky.
Adam writes in the Black Country, UK. He recently won the TSS Summer Quarterly Flash Competition 2018, and the STORGY Flash Fiction Competition 2018. He was placed third in the Cambridge Short Story Prize 2017, and has been shortlisted twice for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2018. He’s had, or soon will have, stories appear in other publications such as New Flash Fiction Review, Lost Balloon, MoonPark Review, Former Cactus, Ghost Parachute, Spelk, Reflex, Retreat West, Fiction Pool, Ellipsis Zine, and many others. Website: adamlock.net. Twitter: @dazedcharacter.