This is the way it happened: Robbie jumped out of the hayloft and hit his head. Or, he was pushed out of the hayloft and hit his head. Or, he was goaded out and then hit his head. Or, he fell out of the hayloft and hit his head. The fact is: he hit his head, and they all agreed it wise not to tell their mother.
High up in the hayloft, Robbie looked down on the pile of fresh hay. The sweet smells; stark blue skies ringing outside the barn door. Dust sparkled in the air around him–and his brothers romped all around. Hand-me-downs, crew cuts, hard-soled shoes.
Robbie wondered at the pile of hay, and then everyone looked over the edge–like reading tea leaves. The hay seemed to promise a future. Endless and fun.
And so they jumped. Robbie wasn’t the first, but perhaps the biggest. And somehow–whether he decided or was decided upon–he found himself floating up above the mound, suspended for an instant, legs cart wheeling, his mind blank and full stars.
And then he plunged, down through the scratchy mess, and the floor rose up like a promise. He hit the floor and his head, his spine clinking. Inventing problems for the not now.
That day, Robbie lay stretched out—spread-eagled—trying to make himself into an ocean. His younger brother was falling, like an angel, from the sky.
Sherrie Flick is author of the flash fiction chapbook I Call This Flirting (Flume) and the novel Reconsidering Happiness (Bison Books), which was a semi-finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Her flash fiction appears in many anthologies including Norton’s Flash Fiction Forward and New Sudden Fiction. Her stories have appeared in North American Review, Ploughshares, Quarterly West, Northwest Review, Prairie Schooner, Puerto del Sol, Booth, and others. Her food writing appears regularly in Pittsburgh Quarterly.