Fifteen Minute Fiction: Bright Blood

15 minutes. No editing. No fixing. Raw.

Write about something that made you cry.

I don’t cry quite as easily now. But when I do, watch out.

I’m out in the bushes, standing against dark, against dark. The light inside the house is bright, warm, a buttery yellow. I’m on the side of the house away from it, so the light spills out into the yard and not onto my pale face.

I tried to come back, once.

I knocked on the door, and my Dad answered. He didn’t say anything for a long time, but then he came out – never once inviting me in – and nearly knocked my off the stoop when he hugged me.

I was so cold that he seemed to be broiled. My first thought was, He’s sick, he has a fever, but that wasn’t it. I just wasn’t at that steady 98-point-some degrees. Not anymore. Never again.

“I can’t come in,” I said. Technically, I absolutely could. I didn’t have to be invited. But seeing the walls and the paintings and the mirrors and the bowls and the crystal-cut antiques…it would be too painful.

“No, no, I didn’t think so,” he said. “I saw. In the paper.”

I reached up then, poked a hole in the side of my head like I was fishing for a plum in a pie. “Two shots. Pow, pow, that was it.”

“When there wasn’t a body…” He started crying, his old face doubling up into folds and wrinkles, crushing itself with grief. “I knew.”

“I can go anywhere now, though,” I tried to say. I tried to will the side of my mouth up into a smile. “Texas, Utah, Nebraska. All the places I’ve never been. I have all the time in the world.” I wanted that image to comfort him, the thought of a hundred sleepless nights on the road, practically skipping through the stillness.

“There’s that,” he said, after he had rubbed his nose with the back of his hand.

There were other questions, then: could I turn into things? What did I do before dawn? How hard was it to stomach the taste of…?

“It’s not so bad,” I said. “If I close my eyes.”

“Where do you get it?”

“Farms.”

He had a look like I was using some sort of euphemism. I quickly said, “No, like, I go out into cow pastures at night. Like tipping. Only…” I moved my jaw up and down.

“You always did like burgers.”

We laughed.

I was glad, then. As much as I had hated becoming a young woman and going through high school and even a bit of college without a mother to tell me what was normal and what wasn’t, I really liked the fact that I would only have to say goodbye once.

“Can I get you anything?” he asked. He was turning around a bit, toward the kitchen at first, then back towards the hallway that led to my room. Well, what was my room before I went off to school.

I couldn’t bear to tell him that I didn’t need anything, so I said, “In the parlor closet, I have my good winter hunting coat. Can I have that? The one with the snap hood?”

He disappeared, and I hated myself for wanting to go, then. But even with the speed and the strength, I wouldn’t have gotten far enough away not to hear his anguish when I wasn’t there anymore. So I watched an airplane move in a slow blink across the sky, and he came back out in it.

I could smell every deer I had ever carried, every pheasant, every fox. I could taste the musk coming off of them, see the fading light in their eyes, the slow pilgrim’s progress of death.

“Bye, Dad.”

He hugged me again, all bear-fisted and red-faced.

I thought I’d be gone but I’m here. Pulled to the light of the life I used to have, so full of everything I never thought I’d miss. He’s in there, still. And I’m glad. But I can’t keep from crying.

Watch out.

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