Flash Fiction – Glitter

“Are you sure you want that?” I asked my son.

The subject of my son’s newfound affection hosted purple spots on plushy pink fur, with eyes round as a full moon and full of pink glitter.

This is not my son.

My son is a Lego guy, ceaselessly building and destroying tiny ships, cities, or worlds. He is a dinosaur boy, with plastic dinos like vicious caltrops for me to step on. He has other plush toys but none of them are new anymore. And none of them are pink.

“Yes, Mom, I’m sure,” he reassures me, confident in his masculinity.

“You’ll have to buy it with your allowance,” I said, a last ditch effort to make him consider his purchase.

“Okay!” He agreed readily and ran back to the front of the store (for at this time, we’d left it well behind. My distraction tactics failed.)

Further conversation reveals that his little friend Angela had one. Now I understand.

We bring it home. I capitulated, telling him he didn’t have to buy the toy himself. Now I get hugs both for the toy AND for the saved allowance. It’s a good tradeoff.

He wants to sleep with the toy, whom he has named Glitter. (A stretch – it was on the label.) “Glitter will protect me from bad things that happen at night.”

I stop. My stomach bottoms out. “What bad things?”

My son shrugs. He often does this, refuses to explain how he feels or what he means. I don’t press. It makes him withdraw farther.

In the morning my son wakes up, bright as sunshine, with disheveled hair and a brilliant smile. “I was right! Glitter protected me from the bad things!”

I brighten. It’s impossible not to be impacted by his smile. And if all he needed was a pink stuffed animal to make him feel safe, it was well worth the price.

Later that afternoon, I took a walk to stretch my legs. I worked from home, and my son was away at school, playing with Angela and their other friends. Or maybe learning.

Walking back towards the house, I see it. I stop walking. Staring in disbelief.

Scorch marks slash across my son’s window frame. Long, black marks that start at the roof and end at the first floor. These are not the burn marks made by children playing with matches. These are the black, ashy remnants of… what? Fire from above? That couldn’t be possible.

I can’t see the plush clearly, but the bright pink blob sitting in the windowsill looks vigilant, somehow. Ready.

Back at the store, I had a hard time reconciling my boy wanting a girl’s toy. I thought myself a feminist, but it took my son’s views on gender to make me realize I learned to see girls as equals. Not him. He’s always thought of them as such. Illuminating as it was, it was a hard conversation to have.

Not nearly as hard as this one would be, though.

Flash Fiction

The early sunset plunged the world into a winter chill. Caroline hurried to her car, gripping her keys and hoping to avoid trouble. In the employee parking lot, weak sodium lights filtered down on her trusty Corolla. The paint was chipped, but it was solid under the hood.

The businesses in this part of town strove to be legitimate. Both the real estate agent and the insurance office had professional lettering on their floor-to-ceiling windows to attract customers. The cremation office, the pot emporium, and the dicey tax place did not. Combined with the generous helping of homeless people who haunted the place after hours, it was clear to see who had won.

“Nice car.” Caroline heard an unfamiliar female voice behind her. She’d been the last person out of her office, who could this be? She turned and gasped. She could have been looking at a full-length mirror!

The woman standing before her had long brown hair, a garishly patterned dress, and tall brown boots. She completed the look with a blue plaid coat, the same one Caroline wore right now. Their blue eyes met. “What’s going on here?”

Her doppelganger sighed. “Remember when you sent in your blood and hair samples to lookupyourancestry.com?”

Horror blossomed in Caroline’s mind. Curiosity and a 50% off coupon sealed the deal. It seemed like a steal at the time. She just hadn’t realized what a steal it was.

“That was two years ago! That isn’t enough time for you to…” Caroline gestured at her clone. “You should still be in diapers, shouldn’t you?”

Her clone arched a brow. Caroline remembered how many hours she put into looking at a mirror, holding down one eyebrow, raising the other, just so she could learn how to do that. Her sister could do it naturally, which had driven her mad at the time. “I don’t have the time, and you don’t have the scientific background necessary to explain this. You didn’t read the Terms of Service, or you wouldn’t be so surprised.”

“Nobody reads the Terms and Conditions!” Caroline snapped. She was the last person out of any of the offices in this park. She was on her own.

Still clutching her keys, she backed towards the Corolla. She wanted to grab her phone, but the service in this business lot was terrible.

“I know.” The clone stepped forward, pulling a gun from her pocket. “You’re Caroline Sanders, born September 24th, 1969, in Walla Walla. Your favorite color is purple, you shop at Goodwill for your clothes, and Steve dumped you last night because he caught you cheating on him.”

The memory of their last fight replayed in Caroline’s mind. She had never been so confused, until now. Caroline heard the gun go off, saw the muzzle flash. In her final moment, she wondered what the clone would do with the life she’d just stolen.