Faith stands in the back yard, listening to the tree limbs creak, wondering what it would feel like to have one drop on her neck. She thinks she’d like to feel all the pain this world has to offer her at once. The unknown is startling, a shadow that creeps around her house, like the whispered names of the unborn brothers she’s never met. No documents. No pictures, but she can feel their presence. She finds them in the bent tip of the bladed grass, on the spectral shimmer of lighted chrome bumpers. Hot to the touch.

Since they hide and flitter, she tries conjuring up a pony, hands waving magically, lips mumbling phrases starting with Hocus Pocus and ending with divorce. The last one made her dad disappear except for every other weekend. The pony she wants more than her dad, and though this makes her feel guilty, she doesn’t give up until a pair of squirrels chase each other around the base of the tree and into the skinny arms that continue to hold up the sky.

She’s very interested in finding the seams of nature, to report the unraveling of the universe.

She waits for it to fall, for a star to settle next to their patio furniture, for one of her wishes to come true. Nature won’t bend to her will no matter how long she stares, eyes dry, until she cries, her mother’s voice a one-sided conversation with her best friend, Becky, who her father calls a drunk. But only on the weekend, only while sipping from an amber glass bottle that spins the light across the ceiling, a smoky planet she can’t reach but would love to visit.

When she tells this to her father, he talks about astronauts, the way their space ships blow up like firecrackers, how space is an idea, a way for scientists to gossip and spend his money.

Faith says she’d like to spend his money. Puts her hand out and taps her foot. Horses don’t just show up in the back yard, you know?

He holds his hand above hers, and she tries to ignore the way it shakes.

Can you feel that? he asks.

Yes and no, she wants to say, not sure which one is the key.

Some day I’ll teach you about electricity. I’ll tell you about life and disease, and the rot caused by oxygen.

Does it hurt? she says.

Only as much as you want it to, he says.

She waits, hand poised, wanting something to appear, something flashy and bright, anything but these lies aimed like streaking meteors meant to make her feel better.

***

Tommy Dean is the author of Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. His work has appeared in The Bull Magazine, The MacGuffin, New World Writing, Pithead Chapel, New Flash Fiction Review, and elsewhere. His story “You’ve Stopped” was chosen by Dan Chaon to be included in Best Microfiction 2019. It was also included in Best Small Fictions 2019. Find him @TommyDeanWriter.