A fly landed on the hanging kitchen wall phone. Its futile buzzing against the sticky, yellowed paper made Sarah-Beth uneasy. A sign not to make the call? She walked to the screen door and poked her finger through the frayed mesh. “That truck’s all mine,” Sarah-Beth whispered to the gray tabby sunning on the back steps. Smiling, she thought about her old Ford hidden behind the neighbor’s barn. Dented like a can of expired peas on quick-sale, riddled with rust, most people passed by the truck, laughing at its cardboard “For Sale” sign. Not Sarah-Beth though. That heap of metal represented something precious: freedom.
It’d cost Sarah-Beth her savings: three years of watching snot-nosed kids and four seasons of digging up field potatoes. August heat taught her perseverance, and the former made Sarah-Beth patient. Undeterred by her momma’s constant berating for booze money, and needing to buy most of their nickel-and- dime necessities, she’d managed to save.
Sarah-Beth dreamed of another life—and didn’t fear finding it far from home. She only needed her driver’s license. Her momma wouldn’t understand this need to leave, being free. Momma was lost in that sad world of accepting things the way they were. There’d never been no daddy for Sarah-Beth. Still, she needed someone with the same last name to sign off on the testing. The only person she could turn to was Momma’s brother, Alfie.
Sarah-Beth taught herself to drive in the lumpy backfield. The pick-up ran like the summer angst of seventeen. But Sarah-Beth felt none of that tenacity. Just the thought of picking up the phone and asking for help made her lightheaded. She looked to the fly, now merely twitching, trying to remember the last time she’d talked to her uncle.
Alfie had a long moral thread that stitched up his backbone, giving him a high perch to look down on others. He never had good words toward his sister, avoiding her as much as possible, and consequently, Sarah-Beth. To Alfie, kindness toward his sister acknowledged approval of her sinful ways. Too many men, drinking and smoking, clothing not quite proper enough, but more than anything, he despised her lack of parenting.
But Alfie would do anything for someone in need—in spite of his own convictions. They only had to ask. Therein rested Sarah-Beth’s dilemma. She fingered the twisty phone cord and looked around the kitchen. Its walls were tacky in bacon grease, layered years from when Granny was alive. Sarah-Beth could feel herself getting stuck here. Her wings forever trapped. The cupboard door near the dripping sink hung open, revealing a container of Tang and a single sleeve of crackers. A winged roach crawled from beneath the broken stove. Sarah-Beth contemplated which was a greater vulnerability: asking or not. Wasn’t freedom worth more than fear?
“Hell, yeah!” she shrieked, plucking the fly loose. It flew to the door and crawled out through a slit in the screen. Sarah-Beth picked up the phone.
Shermie Rayne is a proud soccer mom scribbling out flash and long fiction—sometimes even poetry. Recent publications include Flash Frontier, Eye to the Telescope, and Silver Birch Press. Currently, she’s seeking representation for her completed middle-grade novel. Connect with Shermie on Twitter @shermierayne.