The Hardwood Floor

By James Thibeault 

They don’t know until I hit the hardwood floor. I make my knuckles crack, then bleed. I scream. The neighbors hear and call. Police and sirens surround me, checking for bruises and scars, but don’t look too hard. My father tells them, “She stressed herself out.” The neighbors don’t call again — not even when I attack the floor later that night. He doesn’t give me scars, I tell myself, except the ones I make. But those don’t count. Those are my fault.

In the morning, he’ll make me breakfast.

“Is my perfect girl hungry?”

He sizzles bits of bacon to cheer me up. It doesn’t anymore.

“We’ll head to the beach at 1?”

“I want to relax, Dad.”

“Sunday’s relaxing, we’ll have fun.”

My father pours the bacon grease into a coffee can. He places it with the rest in the corner. There are fifteen filled with bacon grease. When it gets to twenty, he puts them in a crate. Then he’ll start over.

“You slept in today. We didn’t go for our walk.”

“I know Dad, but I’m tired.”

“Fine.”

He takes three slices of bacon, rationed to me, and eats them uncooked.

“Dad, don’t do this.”

“You don’t care about me so you don’t care about this bacon.”

“Stop it.”

I walk to my room. He follows. Three steps behind.

“I’ll read you a story to fall asleep.”

I turn around at my door. He looms. He stares at me and smiles—tears well up in him.

“My daughter is so beautiful. You don’t ever have to grow up.”

I slam the door. He knocks.

“It will be hard to fall asleep while I knock.”

I cover blankets over my head. He shouts.

“You better open this door right now!”

I’m in a grass field. I look up to see star—

“Let’s talk!”

Countless stars. Alone in the field, feeling the br—

“Now!”

Plaster above. Thin walls and hardwood floors.  I shout back.

“Leave me alone!”

“Open the door.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Are we doing this again?”

I cross my arms to my chest and rock. My body shakes.

“Please, stop now.”

“Don’t grow up!”

“Stop!”

“Let’s go to the beach like we always do.”

I hum. It’s messy and out of tune, but anything to st—

“We can hum together.”

He hums. It’s “Hush Little Baby.” I cry.

“You can’t cry your way out of this.”

I gasp to let in air. My shirt soaks with tears.

“You can’t shut yourself out.”

Why won’t he leave? There’s never a moment when I—

“The beach. Like before. With Mom”

I punch the pillow. I fight it, strangle, choke it. It has to die. This little piece of—

“I know Mom made better bacon.”

Shit! Beach on Sunday, bacon. Where can I—nowhere to grow. Un-watered seed. Always having—screaming, can’t leave, can’t go. Repeat! Tomorrow’s my today. My moment, his, where can I, never, always, now, here forever, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow—scream.

I hit the hardwood floor.

About Ritta M. Basu, Editor

Ritta M. Basu is the editor of FewerThan500.com, a web journal dedicated to the literary genre of flash fiction. With a background in journalism and higher education communications, Ritta enjoys the craft of writing and the beauty of its brevity. She lives with her husband and their Akita near Chicago.
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