Flash Fiction by Christopher Ghattas

My father says my problems are not problems.

What do you know? I think.

“What do you mean?” I say.

He turns to me. He grumbles about his car engine and his dead wife and something called a praws tate. 

“My dead mother, you mean.”

“What’s that?” he says.

“She’s not your dead wife. She’s my dead mother.”

He starts to unbuckle his belt. 

“I won’t cry,” I say, lifting my chin, trying to seem tall.

“Let’s see.”

He snatches at my shirt. I jump back, so he catches nothing, but I do not run; I just want him to know I could get away.

As he kneels and folds me over his thigh, I feel his leg muscles tense and know his hand is raised as high as he can manage. I escape; I think of my mother. I think of our walks to the outdoor market, where she used to take me on Sunday mornings. She had very little money but always dropped enough drachma into my pocket for two plums, because she knew plums are my favorite. Nearly every patron of the market seemed to be late for something and none paid us any mind. Each rushed by with fruits and nuts and jams, dry, red dirt swirling around their ankles as they passed. My mother and I would meander through the crowds to the white steps of the Greek Orthodox Church, eating and laughing at silly things I cannot quite recall.

I think of one Sunday morning when the air was dry and still—when my clumsy fingers let both plums fall to the ground. A young girl, running to keep up with the long strides of her father, stepped on one of the plums. She did not notice. 

“I am sorry,” I said. I could not look up from the glistening pulp pressed into the dirt.

My mother knelt down in front of me, smiled, and said she was not hungry that day. I argued at first, but then I ate the good plum. I curse myself now for eating it. How could you take hers? I shout in silence. I tell her I am sorry and ask her to come back. Or if not, I think, can you not bring me to wherever you are? I wonder where that is and if there are plums there. I wish for there to be.

I open my eyes and see two small pools of water merging on ground. My father seems satisfied.

“It’s not for you,” I tell him.

“Nothing ever is,” he says.

Published 21st April, 2023.

Christopher Ghattas is a biochemist with the CDC and has a B.S. in English & Rhetoric as well. He is a published author and photographer, and his upbringing under an immigrant Greek father and large family afforded him with many stories. Moving frequently inspired him to journal about his travels, which grew into a love of writing fiction and creative nonfiction from a young age.

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