I. Julius played piano in the old folks’ home, Monday and Saturday afternoons, accompanied by the sound of creaking joints. His mother called him Jewel–yuss. A clear Saturday morning, Julius, still drunk, drove his hybrid right into the lobby. Tabby the nurse was flattened. Immediately Julius realized what he’d done, cried, tried in a fit to put Tabby back together. No one in Oliver had ever gone to jail so willingly. Sometimes people come to read him the Bible, which only has music for harp and lyre.
II. I was walking through Devon happy, and here was this speckled baby gull who’d fallen from his nest. The legs worked fine but the wings didn’t. He stood in the same spot screaming. Uncle said the bird was like this when he walked past yesterday. The bird was begging its mother but she wouldn’t come down from her nest to feed him. Someone tried to save him but didn’t finish. The bird didn’t smell right to his mother anymore, and his screeches got quieter and quieter even during the few moments I took to stand there and watch.
III. Most of the joy we had as children came from a man named Pickle who was born without a good brain. Our parents gave us dollar bills to give to him so he would sing us a song. Pickle sang so loud. Eyes closed, mouth wide, spit flying. Pickle loved to sing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “Like a Virgin.” It wasn’t for twenty years that I remembered that joy and realized how cruel we’d been. And by then my wisdom wasn’t worth those smelly dollar bills.
Mary Ryan Karnes is an M.A. candidate in Creative Writing (Fiction Emphasis) at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. You can find her work in Product 30 and forthcoming in Yalobusha Review. Her flash fiction piece “Louise (Weezy) Heller Recalls What Stuck” was recently recognized as a semi-finalist entry for American Short Fiction’s flash fiction contest.