Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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Flash Fiction
584 words
SHJ Issue 13
Fall 2015


by Katherine Kane

I watched her skipping down the path from the house to the pier, in her rainbow leggings and pink smock. On her way to be petted and cooed over by all the grown-ups. On her way to be cute and adorable, even when she just sat there like a stupid lump.

Too cute. From the moment she got off the plane she was too cute. “What an adorable child!” “How cute is that!” Relatives, friends, strangers. OK. So the kid is cute. Who cares? Wait ’till she turns nine and invisible.

Even before she arrived with her parents, I hated this little cousin from some desert place in Africa, wherever that is. I named her Don’t. Weeks before she arrived they started telling me I had to be careful of her. Don’t let her do this. Don’t let her do that. Don’t take her here. Don’t play with her there. Don’t whatever. Like it was my fault she couldn’t speak English and didn’t know about traffic and crossing at green lights. Like what did I have to do with it that she didn’t know what a lake looked like or how to swim or had never even been on a pier?

Somebody should have told her a list of don’ts. To start with, if someone lets you play with their favorite bear, it doesn’t mean they are giving it to you for keeps. And don’t break someone’s special treasure box right in front of them and not say you’re sorry. And don’t walk on someone’s new lace bedspread with shoes on. Even a five-year-old should know this stuff.

So here she was, skipping down to the pier in her rainbow leggings and pink smock. I was standing right in the middle of the pier, in a sagging spot where the water sloshed slippery shiny seaweed across. Halfway to the large deck at the end. Waiting.

Her skipping turned to panic when she got to the start of the pier. She looked at the swirling water. She looked out beyond me to the end of the pier, to the deck where everyone was sitting, drinking their cocktails and laughing at my uncle’s stupid jokes. She looked at me.

She had to get past me to get to where it was wide and safe and she would be pampered. I was the troll. What was my price?

The chatter stopped. The sound of water got louder as we looked at each other. The smell of the seaweed got stronger as we looked at each other.

Everyone started calling to her from behind me. She looked at me. I looked at her. She took a few steps forward onto the pier. The pier creaked. She took more steps toward me, one foot right in front of the other, arms out stiff and moving up and down like a tightrope walker. I watched her trying to aim for a space to get between me and the water.

Then I saw my father come out of the house and head toward us. Game over.

I moved to the side of the pier and turned sideways to give her space. She turned her eyes to cold. She turned her jaw to hard. She scampered toward me to get past. I grabbed her hand just as she went by, and ran with her to the deck. Everyone clapped and cheered.

I was proclaimed a heroine for helping her cross the treacherous passage. For just that moment I wasn’t invisible.


SHJ Issue 13
Fall 2015

Katherine Kane

lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Retired from the corporate world, she is now devoting her time to writing. She is the author of the nonfiction book Training The City Dog, proper petiquette for dogs and a survival guide for urban dog owners.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury