Fiction

 

TO HOLD WATER

When I cup my hands under the faucet, the water finds the cracks between my fingers and slowly pushes through. No matter how tightly I squeeze my fingers together, the water seeps, dripping down the drain. I try, anyway, to capture that precise moment when it looks like my hands are holding water—and transfer it to a glass, but the amount that remains is not enough to drink.

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            The line moves forward, and every five minutes a sound like thunder rumbles overhead, but it might as well be an explosion, the way my nerves crackle and sizzle, as the rollercoaster hits the tracks at 85-miles per hour. Screams carry in the wind, before dying down, and the crowd in front of me moves forward again, driven by anticipation. But the heaviness of buttered-popcorn-vinegar-fry-air settles in layers inside my stomach and churns. I look at you, my twelve-year-old only—on the school field trip to the amusement park for a science and engineering lesson—but there are no worksheets, no lesson plans. The chaperones are only here to ride the rides, but I’m here because I want to hold onto you and keep you safe—and my worry concerns the other parents. How awful for my child, they say. So I ignore the stories about the wheels that fall off; about fiery crashes; about tumbling from great heights, twisted bodies unrecognizable in the aftermath, except for the shoes that remain—and I move forward with the line, you right in front of me, sizing up the seats, counting the rows in order to ditch your mom and sit with your friends.

            On the tracks, we inch upwards, the ratcheting and clicking pounding in my ears. You raise your hands in the air in front of me, just like your friends, ready for the big drop down, but the safety bar around me has gaps between my chest and my shoulders. It’s the gaps, the spaces in between, that scare me, and I’m a grown woman, yet the bar doesn’t go all of the way around my chest—doesn’t hold me in—and from where I’m sitting, it looks like everyone else is strapped in tightly, but you and I—I don’t think we’re made the same way.

            On the drop down, my stomach plummets and levels out. We turn to the right and then to the left, suspended over tree tops; I’m pushed far to the edge of my seat, and I see another space—a u-shaped opening where child-like slips of paper could slide through, tumbling over the tops of trees—and there, over the trees, the ride jerks, screeching to a stop, and I remember the story of the father who carried his child down the tracks of a rollercoaster that stopped at the top of a hill, and I can’t carry you anymore. You’re too tall; you’ve outgrown me, and my arms are not long enough to reach out in front of me to save you when your safety bar lifts up, for no other reason than mechanical failure, and you find the cracks and slip through. 

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            By the pond, where the path opens up to clear skies and grass, I dip my hands in the water and in the reflection, I think I see your face—your smile, your eyes wide with delight—and I keep filling my hands with the water, knitting them together tightly to bring it to my lips, but the liquid slips through, seeping between the cracks of my fingers before I can even drink you in. 

 

Cecilia Kennedy (she/her) taught English composition/literature and Spanish language/literature in Ohio for 20 years before moving to Washington state with her family, which includes a very demanding cat. Since 2017, she has published her stories in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies in the United States, Canada, Ireland, and England. Her work has appeared in Maudlin House, Coffin Bell, Idle Ink, Tiny Molecules, Streetcake Magazine, Sirens Call, Wrongdoing Magazine, Rejection Letters, Open Minds Quarterly, Headway Quarterly, Flash Fiction Magazine, Kandisha Press, Ghost Orchid Press, and others. The Places We Haunt (2020) is her first short story collection. Additionally, she thoroughly enjoys being a volunteer adult beverages columnist for The Daily Drunk, a proofreader for Flash Fiction Magazine, and a concept editor for Running Wild Press. Twitter: @ckennedyhola

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