This was in the days before people would break a window to get a kid out of a hot car. We would make up stories about people who passed on the sidewalk while Daddy was in the hardware store trying to decide about screws. My sister saw royalty everywhere, while I mostly spotted preachers involved in crime. If we were lucky he parked in the shade, but even there the heat would build, until what we saw took on a brightness like the edge of tears. Our stories would trail off, and sometimes it would seem that people were telling their own stories without a word. And just when we began to weigh the risks of rolling down a window against orders, Daddy would be there, crossing the street to us with a brown bag. Cool air washed in and we were off. Back then big cars had big steering wheels, and they had to be turned several revolutions with the flat of the hand before turning a corner could be accomplished.
She makes him a cake. She imagines that he will be most surprised by the fact that she knows it is his birthday.
The first knock at his door brings no response, so she knocks again. After a while she walks back home with the cake. And it occurs to her that returning with a gift ungiven always makes a mark on a life. A small one perhaps, but one that can spread and start to touch everything.
That night she cuts a thin slice and eats it, standing at her open kitchen door. Chocolate, with a fluffy coconut frosting. Then she puts the rest out on the back walk for the birds.
All night she dreams of shadow creatures arriving to remove parts of something she can’t quite see.
Daryl Scroggins taught creative writing and literature for a number of years at The University of Texas at Dallas and The University of North Texas. He and his wife, Cindy, recently relocated to Marfa, Texas, where they pursue art and writing projects. His poems, short stories, and creative non-fictions have appeared in magazines and anthologies across the country, and his most recent book is This Is Not the Way We Came In, a collection of flash fiction and a flash novel (Ravenna Press).