He Did A Stupid Thing
Randall Brown

He’d bought the pipe and pot from the wood carvers by the hotel bar, snuck hits of it out of the bathroom window while the family went snorkeling in a cove, to a beach with bracelets, carvings, grills. They tied bracelets on his kids’ arms, trying to get them to buy. They offered them weed, mushrooms. The kids said no to everything, except a wood dog that reminded them of their mom.

While they were gone, he smoked out the window. The red flowers, the yellow birds, the white-capped blue—all of it shimmered into vivid existence. He waited for the world to tell him something he didn’t yet know. They returned early, his son yelling for him, a sea urchin needle embedded in his heel.

They handed him a needle and hydrogen peroxide. His son listened to Dark Side on his iPod. It’s something his wife would’ve done, a specialty of hers, splinters and stingers. It had gone deep, wouldn’t loosen. His son held his sister’s hand and the rest of the family watched from the pool. The world vibrated, he with it. He bit the inside of his own cheek, trying to find focus.

He closed one eye, saw only that hole in the heel, the needle. His daughter talked of the rotten lunch she’d gotten at the cove, unmelted grilled cheese. His son said his chicken fingers tasted exactly like that; then his son gritted his teeth and bit the towel. He picked away the dead skin, swabbed him, twisted the needle and squeezed the ankle so it wouldn’t move.

He reached for the tweezers. He held it up for everyone to see, this tiniest of urchin spurs. They ooh-ed and ah-ed. His son sat up, playful, pushing against him. He’d wanted to say it forever, and it slipped out, his missing of her, whether it was the pot or something else, he didn’t know, only that he could read their thoughts, that they’d never be enough for him, that they’d never be able to make him happy.

He should’ve thought of all that before. Aloud, his daughter said, “Ah Dad, you ruined it.” And his son hopped into the pool and sat on the bottom until he ran out of breath.

Randall Brown teaches at and directs Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live (Flume Press, 2008), his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field, and his work wiill appear in the Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction (W.W. Norton, 2010). He has been published widely, both online and in print, and blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net.

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