2 March 2002 | Vol. 2, No. 1
I am awake this morning and in the next room I think my sister Kelly is still asleep. I think that she is sleeping but who knows because she is not sending signals to me anymore. This is the story.
The father left us long ago. Not my father. He gave me looks and I turned into an orphan. I would never shave like he shaved, cough the man cough, or drive the car.
The father lived here until after I stopped wearing my big, black shoes. Those had the metal clamps. Those I liked. They announced me: big shoes, strong shoes. I moved like a parade in them. Mother and Kelly thought I wouldn't guess why he left but they always told me things with their eyes. Their eyes moved like little fish. It was me.
But their fingers told me things too: in the living room or right before bed or during the afternoon. The best place was in the den. Mother and Kelly'd sit close together, looking at the television. I'd play along for a while then begin to turn my head just a little—just a very little bit, the smallest turn you can imagine. Then I'd see them through my eyes real tight sideways. I'd look down at their hands and they'd be quiet at first. But while Kelly and mother watched the television the fingers'd talk to me and for the longest time the thing they said was that the father left us—the father left. Mother and Kelly, I found out, planned on never telling me. What the fingers said.
Father wore his name on his shirt and he'd come home right before supper and lie down. They changed easily those two. One minute they were very big then the father came in and they went small then they would grow big again over the food while he was quiet. They did that—big and little, big and little—all the time. Everything was afraid of the father. He never shrank. I watched the furniture become chairs, desks, and couches when he came in. Earlier in the day I'd be with them alone. They were alive! Very alive! They breathed and moved and talked to me. But when the father was home it stopped. And Kelly and mother shrank and our cat would leave.
When the father was gone forever, mother stayed as mother but Kelly became a man. Mother grew a dark mustache and she stooped. She tried to bring the father back by smelling his tobacco pouch or lying on the couch where he slept after work. Kelly stopped all of that—the search for the father. Mother forgot everything else. Kelly figured it was better to be a man. She started leaving in the morning all dressed up and mother made the meals. Everything in the house knew that Kelly was the father.
Then mother left when a lot of red lights and big men came. She went on a portable bed. Her hands rested on her chest and they whispered to me goodbye! Goodbye! We were so happy. Kelly pulled at mother but mother stayed behind her closed eyes. She went away from us forever that night and I know why—only Kelly never said a thing. She was dead!
Mother died before our cat grew big, before Kelly painted all the rooms, and before Kelly bought me my second pair of regulars. Kelly still leaves in the morning and while she's gone a woman opens the front door and we go into the kitchen and we eat together. She leaves, then later Kelly returns. I watch and watch and watch.
Kelly has wanted to come home and not find me here for a long time. I receive the signals!
I love the quiet and the listening. I like when Kelly forgets me, when all the furniture moves, and when I'm looking out the window and light comes into the room. Then the world becomes everything forever. Kelly doesn't feel it, though she's included. But if she remembers me then everything stops. The chair is the chair, the couch the couch, and the desk the desk.
This happened above all. A man ate with us. He didn't come over to cook or to help. He and Kelly came here together and Kelly acted different with me than ever before and the man kept sneaking glances at me and both their eyes swam around little fish. His fingers were so funny. They kept telling me about how his food wouldn't digest and about how he couldn't think of anything to say to Kelly with me sitting there. I ate but everything made me laugh. I choked on my food and kept laughing until it came from my mouth onto my plate. I tried to eat it again quickly. Kelly's fingers screamed at me no! I ignored them and kept eating it back up until she took my plate away.
She sent me to the den and I watched the night in the window for a long time. I became lonely. I knew Kelly was in the house. She'd scared everything. I tried to find her.
The door to the living room had never been closed before. I touched it and it felt warm. I saw darkness where it warped out from the doorframe.
I tried to scream. I kicked and banged the door. I knew Kelly was dying in the next room where she was with the man who felt embarrassed by me and who would become like the father. I opened the door and smelled something huge—old potatoes in the fruit cellar. The door slammed back at me and the light came on. I touched the door and it was cool. Everything in the house got more scared. I sat on the step of the stairway.
Kelly came out very slowly. She wasn't a man anymore. She was on fire. I was scared thinking she changed forever. I watched her grow tall and look at me from way high. Then something funny happened. I was up there with her looking at me. I saw a boy who had no words—a fourteen year old. I saw his eyes roll white and his back arch; and I saw his muscular throat contract. I watched his pants darken with liquid. I hardly recognized him. He seemed different from me. I was Kelly and I saw that he was nothing but the couch or the chair or the desk. I am glad I'm not her. I tried screaming and I returned to myself on the stairs, looking up at Kelly. She decided something. Then she was calm.
Kelly packed everything yesterday and I'm ready to go. She stopped being my sister. I have seen the man who can't look at me again. She changed for him. I know that.
Kelly hasn't told me where I'm going. I want her to understand something, but how can she? She doesn't listen to things other than words and I can't talk. I saw what she sees when she looks at me. For her, everything is different from what it really is.
About the author:
Kevin Lavey received a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and a master's degree from College of Notre Dame of Maryland. He now teaches in an inner city public school in Baltimore, MD. His short stories appear in Amelia, Dan River Anthology, Licking River Review, Z Miscellaneous, Samisdat, Slipstream, and others. Kevin won an Artist of the Year for Fiction 2000 Award from the Maryland State Arts Council. He also placed among the winners in the short-short story competition sponsored by Artscape, an arts festival in Baltimore; his entry is now included in the 2001 Artscape chapbook. Kevin has been a member of The Authors Guild since 1985.
For further reading:
Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 2, No. 1, where "Inside" ran on March 2, 2002. List other work with these same labels: fiction, flash fiction.