It’s that kind of day where you pray for a whisper of a breeze to kiss the beads of sweat that sting your eyes. You don’t move a muscle, lying on the dock, fingers trailing in tepid water. The lump of a secret too huge to swallow grows in your throat until you think you’ll choke. You squint at the bruise-coloured sky, blinking back tears caused by sun and sweat and nothing more ’cause it won’t do to cry.
Days like this go on forever, time slowing down until nothing matters anyway—if the day never ends then you won’t have to find out what tomorrow will be.
But the day does end. The humidity breaks and crashes with a rumble that shakes your bedroom window and wakes you from a restless sticky sleep that’s not sleep at all. Everything is blackness. You hear the lake getting angry, getting whipped into a frenzy by hot winds that want to tear off tree limbs and lick at loose siding until it rips away like a band-aid.
In the kitchen, relentless rain comes driving in to puddle on the linoleum. You sit up in bed, listening to the power and the anger, and remember camping with the cousins when it poured and you could hear the pop and hiss of beer bottles and hushed conversation while all the little kids slept and the parents huddled under a tarp around the fire laughing too much. That gentle, steady rain didn’t turn into a tempest until everyone was crammed into the station wagon in the morning with damp clothes and sopping gear and you looked into dad’s eyes reflected in the rear-view mirror and tried to forget the voice you shouldn’t have heard leaking through the sodden nylon.
“No, stop, please . . .”
This piece was first published online by Free Flash Fiction as part of the shortlist in Competition Two 2021.