Wednesday 14 April 2021

Flash Fiction - Epiphany by Clark Zlotchew



   There you are, five years old, left in the care of a baby-sitter for only an hour in a nearby playground.  Marcy is a fifteen-year-old neighbour.  You heard your mother’s instructions to the girl, including not to give you any sweets because it might ruin your appetite for dinner.  

It is a very hot day, the kind that turns the roadway into a melted sea of sticky macadam.  When the ice cream truck stops, Marcy buys a chocolate fudge popsicle and begins to eat it.  You have just jumped off the swing to stare at that delicious ice cream. You want it but your mom won’t let you have it. And it’s so hot today. Not fair!           

            Marcy watches you as you longingly gaze at that popsicle, and she finally says, “Aw, I know you’d like a popsicle too, Richie, but your mom said you were not to have any sweets before supper.  I’m sorry.”  She shrugs and affectionally touches your cheek.

            The heat causes the popsicle to start melting and trickle slowly down the stick onto her hand and wrist and drip onto the ground.  But your attention drifts from the coveted popsicle to this very pretty girl.

            Marcy, all smiley and brimming with affection, bends down to get closer to your face and speak to you.  She asks all kinds of questions, laughs good-naturedly at your answers --even though you don't think you’re being humorous-- and pats your head and shoulder.  When she touches you, it sends a soothing vibration all the way down your spine and into your pelvis. Soothing, yet exciting.           

            There is something about her...  She makes you feel weird.  Not bad weird.  No, a good weird.  Yet…  You just cannot understand it.  She seems so interested in you and your thoughts.  And her face is so pretty.  You want to look at her forever, at her magically beautiful face, with its dark-chocolatey eyes and black lashes, framed by a curtain of dark brown, almost black hair that reaches past her shoulders.   And at her tanned arms against the white of her summer dress, her bare, magnificently curved calves below the hemline, above it, the shadowy suggestion of full, smooth thighs…   You are captivated by the mystery veiled yet intriguingly suggested under the diaphanous fabric of her clothing, the outline of her body --slender in some places, curvaceously wide in others-- even the glossy texture of her skin...  She seems to glow...

            Her long, dark hair surges forward, framing her face and grazing your forehead, as she leans over to talk to you.  An intoxicating fragrance emanates from those tresses.  Your attention shifts when you notice she keeps slipping her foot in and out of her sandal as she speaks to you.  Her foot is so graceful; the instep is deeply tanned but the arch is much paler.  And her toenails are painted red.  You have a frightening urge to kiss that foot, but simultaneously feel shame for having that desire.

            You are only five years old and have not a clue as to why you have those feelings.  Marcy is just an ordinary teenage girl, but there is something magical about her, something unfathomable.  She seems to radiate a kind of luminescence, a force, a magnetism...  If you knew the word, or even the concept, you would think she is a goddess.  To your childish mind she is divine, in the literal sense of the word.

            And her speech…  The way she speaks to you, the caressing tone of voice, the lilting intonation, even the quality of her silky-satin voice, has a deep effect.  Listening to the music of her voice as she speaks to you is mesmerizing.  It soothes you, like the smooth hand of a woman stroking your neck.  You are enthralled, hypnotized.  You cannot budge from the spot, from her magnetic presence.  If she were to ask you to go home with her, you would.  Gladly.

            You experience pleasure gazing at her, hearing her voice and having her touch you...  But all that produces a kind of irritation as well, an itch in your soul that you cannot scratch.  It makes you yearn for something to happen.  Something… Yet you haven’t the remotest idea of what that something might be. 

            As she speaks to you, she touches your head, your cheek, your arm, while smiling so warmly, showing white teeth framed by luscious pink lips.  And through all this she continues to lick her fudgy popsicle, and suck on it, moving it back and forth between her pursed lips.  When she notices the melting chocolate dripping down her wrist she raises the popsicle to a point higher than her mouth, turning it so that the wooden handle is higher than the ice cream, in order to catch the drippings on her extended tongue, and she then applies that pink tongue to her wrist to lick the sticky-sweet molten cream so it won’t run down and dribble onto her white cotton dress.

            Marcy finally notices your gazing at her mouth as she holds the popsicle to her lips. She erroneously assumes it is the ice cream that holds your attention, and, despite your mother’s instructions, offers you some.  You let her place the end of the melting cream against your lips and bite off a piece, the piece that she has just been licking and which has just been in her beautiful mouth.  This thrills you for reasons you cannot comprehend. The experience is ineffable.  It is a kind of communion, even though, child that you are, you would not understand that word.  You feel a mysterious connection between yourself and Marcy.  Between her and yourself and something invisible but immense and powerful.

Only three of Clark Zlotchew’s 17 books consist of his fiction:  Two espionage/thriller novels and an award-winning collection of his short stories, Once Upon a Decade: Tales of the Fifties (Comfort Publishing). Newer work of his has appeared in Crossways Literary Magazine, Baily’s Beads, Scrutiny, The Fictional Café and many other literary journals of the U.S., Australia, U.K., Canada, Germany, South Africa, India and Ireland from 2016 through 2021. Earlier fiction of his has appeared in his Spanish versions in Latin America. Zlotchew is Professor of Spanish SUNY Fredonia, Emeritus.



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