Sunday Drive

by Joe Kapitan

Eastbound on Route 422, between SOM Center Road and 306, is where all the leavers go to do their leaving.

The grassy berm is uneven, swampy for stretches, overwhelmed in spots by stunted pines and scraggly oaks. In summer, cattails conceal things. In winter, the walls of plowed snow. It is April now, and windy, in between masks. Nothing hidden but the sun.

We roll to a stop on the gravel shoulder.

She takes my hand. She squeezes hard. We wade into the wash of things they’ve left.

Cardboard box of squirming kittens, threadbare couches, bloody weapons of choice, shredded bras, gigantic panties, plastic sacks of anonymous trash, personal belongings of exorcised exes, stained mattresses, ponds of reeking diesel, bald tires, broken mowers, aluminum deck chairs, an old cancerous dog.

Just past the Rest Stop Five Miles Ahead sign stands the white wooden cross. Stapled to it, a photo of a baby girl. Strung from it, garlands of plastic flowers. Wanted and not. Did but didn’t. Someone planted this small confession. This is why we come, to learn what they knew. Many leavers are young, most are hurried, few linger, a mere handful return.

She needs some time. I wander back to find the old dog.

The old dog licks my hand, rolls over with difficulty, lets me rub his neck. His stomach is swollen fat with tumor. When he quiets, I hit him at the base of the skull with a rusted pipe.

I go to find her. I watch her carry the box of kittens in her arms, set it next to the cross. She covers them with panties.

She likes to visit the cross on Sundays. The earth here is soft. The clinic on Fourth is surrounded by concrete. Nowhere to dig.

See, this is what we should have done, she always says.

We’re so much smarter than that now.

Joe Kapitan frequents northern Ohio disguised as an architect. His short fiction has been published online (PANK, Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, etc.) and in print at The Cincinnati Review, A cappella Zoo, Bluestem and others. His goal is to write a novel by 2018.

 

 

What’s fun about writing flash? What’s not fun about it?

    To me, the things that are fun and not fun about writing flash fiction are the same—the difficulty in achieving interest and emotional substance within such a tight window. I can usually do interesting. Most people can. But what about diving deeper than interesting, down to emotional resonance and empathy? Creating emotional substance is especially hard to do in flash, but very rewarding when you pull it off. That’s the real work to be done. How can you accurately capture a character’s needs and desires in 400 words? How can you get a reader to care about that character in the span of 600 words, or say something meaningful about the human condition in 800 words? There’s nothing easy about that. But I’m a sucker for a good challenge.
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