2nd Place Winner – Flash 405, February 2022: “Routine & Ritual”
And the thunder is a lullaby or maybe what the world sounds like from inside the womb, reverberated love song, ocean and drum. The cars make their noise, rough and acerbic, their music swells and passes like a pounding heart. Today, my parents are moving from the house I grew up in. My mother called this morning because something miraculous happened: in the couch cushions lay the spare key to my boyfriend’s car, the one I’d lost two years earlier. I heard my brother’s voice in the background, and I felt that family pulse back to life like a home movie, and wanted to be there and be seven again, just the four of us, no one grown. It’s got to stop somewhere, my father once said as it rained in the backyard but not in the front. Even the weather can be put in boxes. The air this morning was so heavy it felt like loss, the humidity so high it had to break, and broke. The rain starts to slow and people creep out of their hiding places. The boy who is growing up next-door tries to ride a skateboard, falling in the wet dirt. A woman passes with her gray dog. By now my parents have handed off the keys to the strangers who will live in those rooms. I imagine them standing in the empty front hall for the last time, just before they shut the red door. I wish myself back to zygote, pure biology, unknowing of breath and rust. A man walks by carrying a plastic bag. He’s not alone, though he speaks to no one when he says, Ain’t nobody gonna fuck with me, ain’t nobody gonna fuck with me like a plea.
This piece is a perfect example of a story where nothing happens but everything happens. The action is small: the narrator reflects on their parents moving out of their childhood house. But the move marks the inevitable change and aging of a family, and in that context, all the small scenic observations in the story are so poignant: the boy next-door learning how to ride a skateboard, the woman passing by with her gray dog, the air “so heavy it felt like loss, the humidity so high it had to break, and broke.” I especially love the poetic leaps between ideas in this piece, including this beautiful employment of a dad-ism: “[I] wanted to be there and be seven again, just the four of us, no one grown. It’s got to stop somewhere, my father once said as it rained in the backyard but not in the front. Even the weather can be put in boxes.” The final three words transform the quote that comes before them, and they do the same to the piece as a whole.
Quinn Forlini (she/her) has writing published in Catapult, X-R-A-Y, Jellyfish Review, Longleaf Review, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA from the University of Virginia and lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Photo Credit: Trinity Nguyen