Tommy Dean ~ A Weight of Risks

The hel­met lays in the mid­dle of the snow plow scored street, its plas­tic cracked and bruised like a piece of fruit dropped from an ele­va­tion. The silence of an exper­i­ment gone wrong, vapors dif­fus­ing, pulling away all the oxygen.

In the store, two hel­mets in his hands, hop­ping from foot to foot, the boy can’t decide. One dec­o­rat­ed with flo­res­cent plas­tic in the fan of a mohawk, the oth­er embla­zoned with for­est ani­mals, their eyes dewy and drip­ping. The father on his phone, check­ing for reviews, safe­ty rat­ings, an excuse to buy one over the oth­er, weigh­ing the risks as if there is an ounce of truth left on the inter­net, in the world. Each breath an act of consumption. 

Math is a vio­lence, a cal­cu­la­tion that hunts even the most pre­pared. Rules like bones are bro­ken every­day as the bod­ies of minor plan­ets col­lide in the most casu­al of ways. 

A neigh­bor, unnamed, stands in the shad­ow of his pic­ture win­dow play­ing with the soft, grey hairs on his chin. He once was, he once was, he once was repeat­ing in the cylin­der of his brain that won’t catch, that won’t quite fire. 

Another hel­met, black, dinged from falling fiery beams, rat­tles against the hook in the lock­er. Jacket comes off next, but there is some­thing he is for­get­ting. An anniver­sary. A child­hood friend’s birth­day. The suck and squeeze sounds of the res­pi­ra­tor. A home with an emp­ty chair, but a house full children’s laugh­ter. A dis­cor­dant soundtrack. 

Science is insid­i­ous. Rules nev­er bro­ken, only dis­cov­ered. The heart only beats so many times. None of them saved or transferred. 

The women gath­er around the base of the porch, a mur­der of crows, look­ing for some­thing shiny in the bedrock of neigh­bor­ly con­cern. Janice is shushed when she starts with the vers­es, anoth­er ques­tions a song, but the door nev­er opens, no mat­ter how much they knock, feet fret­ting over the cement, won­der­ing if their duty is fulfilled. 

Math and sci­ence the apos­tles of log­ic, crack­le like the feed­back from an untuned gui­tar strummed by unskilled hands. The father’s reli­gion, a weight of risks, cir­cles his neck, his fin­ger scrolling back and forth across the reviews, a yo-yo of sec­ond guess­es pho­to­syn­the­siz­ing into the roots of his bewilderment.
Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two chil­dren. He is the author of a flash fic­tion chap­book enti­tled Special Like the People on TV (Redbird Chapbooks, 2014) and Covenants (ELJ Editions, 2021). He is the Editor at Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine. He has been pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in the Bending Genres, Atticus Review, The Lascaux Review, New World Writing, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His sto­ry “You’ve Stopped” was includ­ed in Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020 and the Best Small Fiction 2019. He won the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction. Find him @TommyDeanWriter.