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Today's Story by Madeline Mora Summonte

All Kenny Jackson wants to do is fly

Kenny Jackson

All Kenny Jackson wants to do is fly. He fingers the loose button on his school shirt and stares out over the roofs of building after building. He wants a cape, wings, magic powder. Not the stuff the older kids sell down in the schoolyard. That stuff only makes you fly inside your head. He wants the wind to whip his hair, the clouds to coat his skin. He wants to fly high enough to not hear Mama’s cries, to not feel Unc’s fists.

He slides the worn toes of his shoes right up to the roof’s low ledge. He’s just a kid but he’s not stupid. He can’t fly. The magic doesn’t exist in his concrete world. Still. He stretches his arms out like Superman, closes his eyes and smiles at the endless possibilities of the darkness. He tips forward, just a little, not enough.

The roof’s door bangs. Kenny opens his eyes. He spins around, a crack catching his heel. The sky rocks above him. He flails his arms and steadies his body, but not his mind.

Unc lurches out. He’s the worst of Mama’s boyfriends. The drink in his blood makes him mean, and mean makes him strong.

Kenny’s fingers worry the loose button like a tongue worries a loose tooth. He glances down over his shoulder at the alley below. Nowhere to hide, nowhere to go. He plants his feet at the roof’s edge.

Unc mutters, moves closer. He talks to himself, to people who aren’t there. Alcohol gives them shape though, gives them skin. He’s not always mad at Kenny; sometimes, it’s at whoever’s ghosted over Kenny.

Kenny stays silent. No response will be the right one. He stares straight at the tuft of chest hair sprouting from Unc’s yellowed undershirt.

Unc reeks of body odor and burnt sausage. He grunts and claps Kenny on one shoulder, squeezes. Shakes him. Kenny’s teeth rattle. He wants to scream but the stink, of fear and of the man himself, swarms like bees into Kenny’s mouth. Unc bends him back over the edge.

Kenny clutches at the undershirt.

Unc shoves him, lets go.

He grabs Unc’s arm.

Unc flails back, spits at Kenny.

Saliva gobs in his eye, but Kenny holds on with both hands.

Unc sways, his balance taken by the booze. He spins, as if to leave.

Kenny pulls – himself forward, Unc backward.

A crack catches a heel.

Skin scrapes over the rough edge.

A scream hurtles through the air.

The silence that follows is sudden, sharp. Kenny’s button, free at last, spins on the ledge.

A sweat-stained palm slaps it flat. Trembling fingers fumble it, then slide it down deep into a dark pocket.


Madeline Mora-Summonte reads, writes and breathes fiction in all its forms. Her story, “The Empty Nest,” is included in Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer (W.W. Norton, 2010) Visit her at MadelineMora-Summonte.blogspot.com.


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