One sunny afternoon when I was eight, my step-dad kicked my head off. I was as surprised as anyone. I’d been a weighted, human girl-child my whole life with two arms and two legs, one that knew how to tee a football for kick-off. Then I was light, excused from gravity, the wind in my hair. I launched away from the ball, now on its side by my body, toward that blinding spot in the sky only to hang for a moment or a week—I couldn’t know—before descent, before the thwack when I hit the grass and rolled to a stop by a garter snake who peed when it saw me and wiggled off. Of course my brothers hadn’t caught me. They’d gone long as they’d been told to, and a head is heavier than a ball. It wasn’t their fault. It wasn’t their fault they couldn’t do math or set a table or remember to toss his liquor down the bank on days when mom was gone or lie well even when their lives depended on it. Before I realized and they realized and the screaming and the sirens and the EMT who puked into the mint at the edge of our yard, I’d had the brief feeling of infinity. That’s what I tell people when they ask about the scar around my neck, when they joke that I’d make a perfect Frankenstein for Halloween (Frankenstein’s monster, I correct them because they’re assholes), when I tell them, the ones who are listening, that sometimes when you’re a weighted, human girl-child with a step-dad and two useless brothers, there are worse things than being just a head, untethered.

9 Comments

  1. Benjamin Niespodziany

    A great opener and great closer! Love the matter-of-fact humor here. The cameo of the pissing snake. “…the EMT who puked into the mint at the edge of our yard…” is gold. The line prior to that, with the math and the table and the liquor, I love how it begins, but it somehow throws me for a loop halfway through and I lose my way. This one might be nice as two sentences. Awesome flash

  2. Jesse Wilson

    “EMT who puked into the mint at the edge of our yard” is a vivid, cool image. I think you should mention less numbers up front. “I launched away from the ball, now on its side by my body” was confusing.

    • Traci Mullins

      So many fascinating images here. Your imagination really delighted me, and I loved so many of the lines. The head hitting the ground with a thwack next to a snake so started that he peed. The step-father and the brothers not catching her really conveys her place in the family. Loved the ending.

  3. Bud Smith

    Hello Kara,
    This was a really cool story, I like how lawless it is. A little girl gets her head kicked off and nobody really cares except maybe the EMTs and even then all they do is puke in the mint grass. Lovely. I felt the full mood of this and the deeper meaning just like I usually find present in your work, a strong anti-authoritative stance, a manifesto for the underdog and a song for the everyday forgotten, neglected, passed over. I think you are one of the original thinkers of the current flash fiction movement, always doing your own thing with mucho gusto. I wondered one thing though about this story and how it lands. She is an immortal creature who returns from the dead without ever dying, she becomes Frankenstein’s monster and even corrects those assholes who would get it wrong about the monster. The monster in Mary Shelley’s would flee society for the cold stark emptiness of the antarctic. The monster would get revenge (or seek help in its revenge) from its creator, its God. If the step father of the story and the brothers are presented as a thumb on the scale representation of some kind of brain dead patriarchal society then I wonder what there is to be said about the God of the story–not the real father, forget the real father, I mean the feminist overlord of the story, the story’s true matriarch. What is to be said about the Mother? She is the creator. She could perhaps be dealt with, bargained with, or at the very least confronted. I am almost thinking of a massacre here. I am thinking of Medea. In some myths she kills her children in others she at least kills her brothers. “After taking the fleece and sailing away, Jason and Medea were pursued by her father. To slow him down, Medea killed her brother Absyrtus, dismembered him and threw the body parts at sea; her father stopped to gather all the pieces and give his son a proper burial.” I am not saying for the narrator to kill her mother or for the mother to kill the narrator. What I do mean though, is this story seems to set up some revenge that I am thirsty for. The head kicker, the brothers who go long, the EMTs, the jokesters about Frankenstein, damn, they all deserve something

  4. Jack O'Connell

    The sentences are really good, I’m really impressed. They’re all different and packed with information and images and they twist and turn. I liked “now on its side by my body” and of course “then I was light”. The last sentence seemed to wrap things in a neat bow by recapitulating the opening and giving us a little moral, but the rest of the piece didn’t seem like it was about someone who ties things up neatly and gives morals.

  5. Saxon Baird

    Damn, this is so good, Kara. I love how you took a surreal moment and just ran with it. My only actionable comment is that I’d like to see what it would look like fleshed out into a longer story with more of a narrative arch. I think it works as is, but might be cool to at least see where it goes. Love it.

  6. Greg Oldfield

    Wow, Kara, this story rocked so many levels here. Loved the opening, the specific details of the father-in-law, the useless brothers, and the emotional restraint, all tied into the feeling of infinity, of weightlessness, as her head sails through the air. You accomplish so much in so little, and I’m intrigued by the character’s strength, maybe the change of this experience and how she evolved as a person. How does this boost her independence or improve her feeling of self-worth in the present? I wouldn’t suggest adding because the length and pace are well done but perhaps a brief injection of something more revealing that shows how she came out stronger on the other end.

  7. Bill Merklee

    Great opening, pulled me in and never let go. By the end, I had the impression the step-dad had (accidentally, I believe) killed her, that all the weightless imagery was her ultimate freedom, then the EMTs brought her back. And the ending is perfect and chilling and so very sad. I can’t think of anything to add or change. Awesome read.

  8. Rachel Pollon Williams

    This is so thought provoking. It absolutely works in this form but I could also see expanding it a bit and following some of its tentacles. More about the parents and brothers. What about her biological father? I know it’s a fine line between making things clear and letting a metaphor do its thing but part of me wanted a little more clarity, a hint, of what actually happened. If he actually kicked her head off did he mean it or was it an accident? Part of me thought the stepfather said something that blew her mind, didn’t actually hurt her physically. And I’m curious what happens to her in the aftermath of losing (then regaining) her head. So many possibilities!

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