by Gay Degani

Small TV with antennae. Saturday morning cartoons. Cowboys and Indians. Roy Rogers. Gene Autry. Buster Crabb! Black and white. Shorts and halter tops. Annie Oakley hat. Cheerios with spoons full of sugar. No more snoring in bedroom, but not quiet either. Squeak. Groan. Door stays closed.

Steel skates, saddle shoes by front door, but the skate key is missing. No pliers in the utility drawer. Outside, fog rolling in from the ocean. Face misted with salt. Nose cold, damp. Palm fronds drip, grass glistens. Sidewalk waits. Shiver. No key. No skating.

Neighbor’s bicycle, locked. Chili-boy’s tricycle has no third wheel. Bare feet pad down the cold center walkway between the apartment buildings. The street crammed with parked cars. Nothing moves. Quiet. Very quiet. Wait. Down the hill, the surf barely riffles. One step, two steps in bare feet down that hill. Pebble pokes. Ouch! Car drives by. A whisk of air. Rock slapped from heel. The hill declines.

Sun pokes through gray, dries the air. Deep breaths. Nose itches. A small street crossed, the beach a block away. Freedom. Pleasure. Grin. Fast cars, no crosswalk. Another street to dare. The ocean thumps, the beach somewhere down below. Indecision. Doubt. Has the bedroom door opened yet? Is the bowl of milk still on the floor in front of the TV? Move ahead or turn around? Cars go by. Someone honks.

Fog gone, morning heats toward noon. The hill is steep. Sweat beads. Breath struggles in and out. A boy with red hair waves from a car window, sticks out his tongue. Sun glints off the bumper. The trudge goes on, sidewalk warming under bare feet.

The apartment building. Mom in her nightgown on the tiny cement porch. Dad in the doorway in his underwear. No one is smiling.

Yet. Yet. Yet.

Gay Degani has received nominations and honors for her work including Pushcart consideration and Best Small Fictions. She’s published a full-length collection, Rattle of Want, (Pure Slush Press, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016). She occasionally blogs at Words in Place.