– Fiction by Pauline Shen –
Finalist of the 2020 Dreamers Flash Fiction and Nonfiction Contest.
A leaf breaks through the rainy mist and spirals to the gravel. “Nick, look!” Bria’s gaze follows the rock face up to where its peak hides in the fog. “See, Nick,” she shouts, “Look! I’m wearing it.” Bria opens her jacket to show off a faded orange logo. A crow flaps past, its caws echoing into the ether. Bria hikes along the trail, recalling sunnier times. “I remember that day…”
The adults in front chattered away while the radio boomed. For Nick and Bria, the drive started out as snoresville. There’s only so much two 6th graders could do in the backseat of a Ford Taurus clunking up a country road. “I spy with my little eye…” is beyond lame:
…something that is black and white!
Hafta say WHICH one!
That one? That one? That one? …That one!
Nope. Naw-aw. Phhppbbh! Ok—your turn!
Bria’s foot knocked the window crank, lowering the glass enough to vent their containment pod. Pollen spewed in and tickled Bria’s nose. She let out a colossal sneeze.
“Blow it,” harked the driver, “Use a tissue!” An adult arm reached back and lobbed a Kleenex box in Bria’s lap. Now the cousins had a new object in their clutches.
The game started when Nick trapped a piece in his window as a feeble attempt to shield his face from the sun. This morphed into each of them attempting to outdo the other in crafting backseat window streamers. The activity involved careful preparation by: curling each tissue into thin strips, cranking the window down just enough to feed them out, then hurriedly rolling it up to clench them in the seal.
A sudden roar came from behind. They twisted back, chins pressed into the upholstery. Three engines thundered behind the Taurus. Nick and Bria’s eyes bulged as these machines torqued into echelon formation, their pilots’ kicks and knuckles leading the way. No fool’s gear for these blokes. The beings aboard these choppers were decked out in full leathers—chaps and all! The tissue game was thoroughly forgotten. Now this! This was coolness incarnate. Their retinas drank it all in.
Inevitably, one of Nick’s tissues tore out and took flight in the aero stream. The cousins’ pupils followed the runaway strip as it blasted away and dissolved under one of the Harleys’ tires. The motorist glared at them.
Four eyes stared back in bewilderment, fear, and then, “Ha ha!” Nick shouted. Two more renegade strips broke free and careened toward the hogs. “Ha ha!” Nick shouted again and the two kids could not contain themselves. They began to flail, kick, cackle, and snort. Tears streamed down Nick’s cheeks while saliva escaped Bria’s lips. Slobbering, crying, wailing…
Bria chuckles as she recalls getting in trouble for, “throwing Kleenex out the window.” The two had spent the remainder of the drive swallowing their guffaws.
Later that same day, they found treasure. Bargain bin t-shirts—black with a bright orange HARLEY-DAVIDSON logo—beckoned them. They begged their moms:
Pleeeeze! C’mon! …Pleeeeze!
…Pleeeeze! Yeah, c’mon! Pleeeeeeeze!
At long last, Nick’s mom, Aunt Mae, shelled out the cash. These Real Deal tops swallowed the cousins whole, having only come in adult-size XL. Over the years, these beauties became traditional regalia for every occasion. Gotta wear the Harley tee! Rips, stains, and all.
“We had fun, eh Nick?” Bria emerges from the trail and shakes out her raincoat. She sees her aunt coming up from the house. Aunt Mae seems to shuffle more than walk. Her frame is bent-over. Her makeup is half rubbed out.
Aunt Mae’s voice strains, “You’re a ray of sunshine,” as she pads up through the yard. Her eyes search the path behind Bria. As she hugs her niece, her gaze lingers deeper into the trail.
A vision of her son’s excitement catches her breath. A Yamaha IT 490 painted orange and black with helmet to match! She beholds her son’s glee as he steers out from the trail’s head. The image lingers among the tree trunks before vanishing completely. Only bare branches and fallen leaves remain in its wake.
“I keep thinking I’ll see him here,” she sips at the air, blinking back tears.
It happened on a fog-enshrouded day. Instead of sticking to the trail, Nick came up to the road. That very road was known to 18-wheeler operators as a viable way to skip the weigh station. On that very day, at that very time, one truck sped down the bypass route. Its weary driver was just hoping to stay on schedule. Nick was just out for a quick ride. Neither saw the other one coming.
“I keep thinking…” A sunbeam pokes its way through the haze and warms her cheek. She clasps her niece’s hand. Together, they make their way down to the house. Friends and family are already gathered inside. They share cherished memories. Nick is here. In these stories. In these hearts.
About the Author – Pauline Shen
Pauline Shen has been a teacher, aerobics instructor, and bookstore shelf-stocker. She is an avid reader and supporter of her local public library. She and her husband live in London, ON. “Jubilee” is her first publication.
*This story by Pauline Shen is a Finalist in the Dreamers 2020 Flash Fiction and Nonfiction Contest. See the full results!
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