Summer days. Breeze through the fingers. The feeling of lake water around my ankles.
Soon September. Gathering books. Father’s call. Climbing into the car.
My first phone… carefully placed between books in my bag.
Father pulls away and I walk up to Rob. We join the throng of other eleven-year-olds slowly mashing their way through the front doors of the middle school.
Rob and I float through morning hours, dazed and sleepy. The phone stays in my bag through math and history and PE. We join the other students in the cafeteria at lunchtime. Smiles. Everyone with a new phone. Coaxing from Rob, I show the table. Everybody makes happy noises. Caitlin shows me an app. William plays songs from his playlist. We gather together in a lively knot… then guiltily steal away to afternoon classes many minutes late.
Social studies. English. Soon recess. More phones. Giddy laughter. Pictures snapping. Profiles created. Passwords shared.
A wind begins to blow across the sports fields. Dust fills the air. Hands outstretched, feel toward the exits. Teachers’ voices snap with anger. Bags forgotten. A final bell rings and we pour from the doors. I kiss friends’ and sweethearts’ cheeks farewell.
I stop at the curb, uncertain, seeing no marks of my father’s car, though I had, hadn’t I, texted him? I pass my hand before my eyes wearily as I search. A figure stops next to me, a middle-aged man, but with a faintly familiar face.
“How nice to see you again,” he says.
“Yes, it’s been such an age since we met,” I say.
He goes along his way, and I turn back to the street. Such differences! Where were the crossing guards? Where the marked, painted signs? Instead, all is a buzz of electrical insect whizzing as vehicles cross haphazardly across my vision.
All since this morning? I step along the sidewalk, feeling a distant pain in my back. I wander a few steps, looking feebly for a way across, finding none. An ambulance blares its siren and several cars honk. Airplanes tear across the sky, flashing advertisements in their wake. I remember when this was all wide-open fields. Now buildings of every size loom and cut across the sun. I look down. Somehow my phone is in my hand again, buzzing and flashing and filling with images and texts and shouts of anger. The crush in the street threatens to overwhelm the sidewalks. How was I ever to cross over?
I stand there for a long time. Finally, a young man approaches me.
“Grandpa,” he says. “Let me help you across.”
…has worked as a teacher in Hungary, Moldova, Romania, China, and Cambodia.
…lives and works as a writer in Minnesota.
…has been featured in various publications including Zoetic Press, Bag of Bones Press, and Mangoprism.
…has a debut chapbook of short stories out from Alien Buddha Press and a novelette (In the Beginning) coming out in May from ELJ Publications.
…enjoys books, podcasts, and long, slow films. Twitter: @ZaryFekete
WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “First Phone”:
Flash fiction is an art, more than just a minimal word count. Author Zary Fekete proves a master of the form here with this delightful piece. Rarely have we seen a story pivot so dramatically and so smoothly without causing the reader to miss a beat when it happens. And the last line creates the perfect—and completely unexpected—surprise for the reader, however you wish to interpret it.