KELLI SHORT BORGES: The Door To Father’s Den

Flash Fiction by Kelli Short Borges 

Wingbeats and Rainbow Laces 


The door to Father’s den is open today. I know I’m not supposed to be here, but Mama is downstairs in the kitchen, baking his favorite cake, and Father is working in the garage, tool box out, oily hands shoved deep inside the hood of a woman’s car. He told me she was a stranger when she came to drop it off. But how, then, is her picture here, pushed to the back of a drawer? Father’s also in the photo, his lips pressed to her ear. Maybe he’s whispering secrets Mama’s not supposed to hear.


No cake for you tonight Mama says and I say why and she says you know why and she stares at the door to Father’s den and I say please don’t tell him and I’m scared and she says well think about that the next time you want to snoop, but she looks scared like me. She sees my hand behind my back where my fingers crumple the woman’s picture, then my face crumples too and I say sorry and tears roll down my cheeks. I hand her the picture. Then Mama cries too.


There’s crashing and smashing and howling downstairs, and I cover my ears and run to my room and shut the door tight and now I’m playing with my dollhouse, which is my favorite thing because I’m in charge and no one else. Father doll is making dinner, and Mama doll is reading the little girl doll her favorite book, and everyone is smiling like dolls always do. After dinner the Mama and Father squish together on the little girl’s bed and tuck her in with a kiss, and now I’m tired too. I lay my head inside the family room of the dollhouse. It fits just right.


Mama’s sobbing wakes me. I look out my window and see her standing on the front porch, face puffy as a blowfish. Bruises like purple plums trail her arm. Father is stomping through the garden toward the street, crushing mama’s new azaleas. The woman from the picture waits for him in her car. She stares straight ahead, as if Mama isn’t standing right there. As if she’s a ghost.


Mama’s been in bed all day snoozing and when I wake her to ask about dinner her face looks like a blank piece of paper. I scrounge in the fridge but there’s only pickles and stinky cheese, so I call Lizbeth’s mom to get me. At Lizbeth’s we have takeout, and we get the giggles because we think Kung Fu Kung Pao’s a funny name for chicken, and we’re laughing so hard milk sprays from our noses. At my house when Father is there that means trouble and no dessert, but Lizbeth’s parents laugh too, and I wonder if it’s always like this in other people’s families. 


I’m in my room in Mama’s old wedding gown playing dress-up. It’s not white anymore, but brown-ish and stained, and it smells a little like old people, but it’s lace and twirly, so Mama gave it to me for my costume trunk. I listen to the Bee Gees and Jefferson Starship on my record player, and I twirl and twist and pretend to be a dancing bride. When I finally stop I look down and touch the stain on the waist of the dress. It’s red like blood, but I know it’s just wine father spilled. Mama says she scrubbed and scrubbed, but could never get it out.


Mama got me skates because now I’m big enough to have my own. They’re brand new shiny white ones with rainbow laces, and I’m so excited I jump up and scream and hug Mama so tight her face turns pink and she sputters and laughs. She says they cost a pretty penny, and you’d better take care of them young lady, and her voice is all I Mean Business, but her eyes dance. Lizbeth comes over and we skate all round the neighborhood, and Mama waves to us from the window. When we come in for dinner Mama says she used to skate too a long time ago, and she has a funny look on her face like she’s somewhere that’s not right here in the kitchen. She brings out an old leather photo album. Inside is a faded picture of a young blonde girl wearing roller skates with cherry red wheels, and she’s all gangly legs and smiles. I can tell in her smile there’s no sad at all, just happy. Mama runs her thumb over the photo’s curled edges, then finally closes the album and says time for dinner. I wonder when that little girl who was Mama stopped skating. I wonder if someday I’ll have to stop too.  


It’s my birthday today, and that means a party at our house and a homemade cake with rainbow sprinkles and eight candles on top. Lizbeth comes, and so do her parents, and I’m wearing my favorite yellow dress, the one that twirls. I’m so happy I dance a little jig. Mama hugs me, and she smells like Mama again, like cake and Jean Nate. She’s wearing her pretty summer dress, because no more bruises, and I think that’s why she’s smiling with her eyes again and not just her lips. She turns out the lights and brings out the cake all aglow, then everyone sings and Mama says “Make a wish.” I squeeze my eyes tight and wish that Father never comes back.


In the dream, Mama is skating again. Our driveway is steep and winding, but she flies down it, blonde hair fanned like wings. I look down and see I’m wearing skates too. I take off after Mama, then grab her hands tight and we spin in circles, faster and faster until we whirl off into the sky, the two of us a force, a blur of wingbeats and rainbow laces.

Kelli Short Borges is a writer of essays, short stories and flash fiction. A former reading specialist in the Arizona public school system, Kelli is a life-long reading enthusiast. She also enjoys hiking the Arizona foothills, photography, and traveling the world in search of adventure. Her work has been published or is forthcoming at The Tahoma Literary Review, The Sunlight Press, MoonPark Review, and The Dribble Drabble Review, amongst other publications. You can connect with her on Twitter @KelliBorges2

Flash Boulevard is edited by Francine Witte. Banner photograph Wes Candela.

Published by poetrybay

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