The babysitter sets a plate of pancakes in front of the boy. She’s eighteen and wearing a short nightie. Fingers of sun stretch across her freckled face.
“Oh shit, kid, I got some ash on that,” she says, but the boy is already gobbling.
“I LOVE the ashes,” the boy says.
The babysitter gets her cigarette where it’s balanced with the bread knife on the lid of the peanut butter jar, comes over and taps more ash onto his plate. He swirls his fork around, blending it with the syrup.
“I LOVE the ashes,” he says again.
The babysitter sashays around the house, flicking ashes everywhere. The cat pukes on the rug. She says, “bad kitty,” and hurls him into the garage and slams the door. She throws a paper plate over the vomit. Lights the candle that smells of eucalyptus.
“What’re you going to do today, kid?”
“I’m going to the POOL,” the boy says. He slept in his swim trunks.
“Oh that’s great,” she says. “Maybe you should go RIGHT NOW.”
He has syrup on his cheeks. His belly protrudes over the top of his swim trunks. They are festooned with skulls.
The babysitter is looking at her phone, absently scratching her crotch. From the garage, the cat meows. The boy lets out a belch worthy of a longshoreman.
The babysitter looks up. “You’re still here?”
“I believe I’d like a cup of Joe.” He leans back in his chair, pats his stomach.
The babysitter opens the cupboard, stands on tiptoe to get a coffee mug. Her nightie rides up. The boy reaches his hand out as if to touch.
She was just supposed to take care of him the one night. His mother told them she was going to a convention in Tuscaloosa. She claimed to work on a construction site, directing traffic in a bright orange vest.
The babysitter plops the cup on the table, pours syrup to the rim. She looks at the boy. “Wait, kid, did you just grow?”
He stands, tipping over the chair. He towers over her. His swim trunks appear to have shrunk.
“Power pancakes,” the boy whispers. “Power pancakes!” he roars.
“What the FUCK are you going to do today, kid?” The babysitter stands on a chair and reaches her hand up to pat the boy’s head. She says, “Kid!”
The boy realizes the POOL is no longer an option. Giants have better things to do.
“We should call Mom,” he says. The babysitter has been calling several times a day. The phone just rings.
“About that,” she says. “I don’t think she’s coming back.”
A smile the size of a watermelon slice creases the boy’s face. He races around the house, knocking over the plant, the end table, banging his head on a doorframe. He springs the cat from its garage jail.
The babysitter’s holding the door open. Outside, the lawn is a carpet of sparkling emerald. He hoists the cat onto his shoulder. Ducking his head, he steps out and greets the world.
Kathy Fish’s stories have been published or are forthcoming in The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), Yemassee Journal, Guernica, Indiana Review and various other journals and anthologies. She is the author of four collections of short fiction: Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2013), Wild Life (Matter Press, 2012), a chapbook in A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness (Rose Metal Press, 2008) and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015). She has recently joined the faculty of the Mile High MFA at Regis University in Denver where she will be teaching flash fiction. She blogs at www.kathy-fish.com