Lost and Father
Flash Fiction Contest Winner, selected by Annie Liontas, written by Kim Hagerich
Lost and Father by Kim Hagerich FLASH FICTION CONTEST WINNER
One day I sit with my children and say, “Your father has burned out, and we must find a new one before our whole brood dims.”
They don’t emit the expected byproducts of sadness: piles of salt, chiffon, mallard squawks— or else I think sadness looks like something other than what it does, their mother who has never felt it firsthand. Or perhaps it is that our burned-out father was not fleshy but conceptual, something we aspired one day to attain. We had been practicing. We laid an empty suit at the head of the table for together breakfast and pinned its shoulders to the topmost slat. On sunny days, we set him up in the yard. There were days when the children would visit vocational spaces: firehouses, office buildings, anthropological digs.
“Will our new father be a real father?” asks Sport, because they go by fatherly names.
Oh, but how, if we failed to secure a first? We might as well fall for some cheap placebo with paternal aftertaste, envelop ourselves in a bubble of completeness. We read the storybooks about special families. We’ve no reason to suffer. The toddlers hawk scones and lattes on the curb and the elder children are perfect role models. I, for my part, stay clear of vice, fancy dance and the wallet stretches.
But Alexandra-SweetPea is still hopeful, still discontent with our geometry hanging open. Alexandra-SweetPea has posted signs for a missing father.
“We’ll have to say that he’s not ours,” I tell her.
Father Junior disagrees, “A father justifies the lie.”
“There are tests,” snaps Sport. “They send fathers through a maze of children by nose alone.
We all smell of milk.”
5a. Might we be accused of shoplifting?
And if we often bring our father to the museum in springtime then:
5b. Might he be used to deface a painting?
And if, in the future, we journey abroad with our father then:
5c: Might he blow up a submarine?
And our father bulges at the elbow and our father is slipping out, the suspect blaze on the screen is a knot of our father, our father sets off detectors, and we trip on our father, we are enclosed a lifetime in his name.
Kim Hagerich holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She was a finalist for the 2016 Kathy Fish Fellowship and her story “My Husband, His Stunning Dermaflorescence” won the Montana Prize in Fiction judged by Susan Steinberg. Her writing has appeared in Invisible Ear, CutBank, and NANO Fiction. She has recently returned to the U.S. after having taught English in Guatemala, Korea, and Japan.