Beneath the Surface
Brad digs the hole a bit larger than the length and width his body (six-ish feet deep). His dog watches from the window, the pane fogging, then clearing, fogging then clearing…
Brad puts a ladder in the hole and climbs down, lies face up gazing at the sky. A bird passes, eventually a plane. There are so many places to take off from and land somewhere else, Brad thinks. The plane appears so small. Distance reduces everything. All those people, those seats and trays, those brains ticking away—this and that, the wings, the fuselage, can fit in the flat of his hand. He’s always wanted to travel. To get drunk and dive into a river in Spain. Hell, anywhere else.
A bit of dirt falls onto his face and Brad brushes it aside. He takes out his cell phone and begins calling friends and family, chatting. Never once revealing this new earthy location. He has never felt more alive.
He fills the hole back in. Thinks sometimes you just need to shake things up. Thinks of what to plant in the filled-in plot. Perhaps freesias or sweet Williams (some nice smelling life-form). He’s pleased with himself that he didn’t need to mountain climb some sheer rock, or jump from an airplane with his heart fluttering like a caged bird in a hurricane. He lets Malcolm out and tosses the ball for him. He cannot determine which of them is happier.
Brad is a guard in a prison guard “cowboy rap” band. He writes most of the songs, having a facility for rhyming. Finds the clever near rhymes most compelling. There are bleeding jukeboxes, booze-dousings, bear traps with platinum hair, hard times blasted out with staccato cadences as each member takes a turn rapping at their monitoring station, while the others beat on desks and a turned over trash bucket.
But it all comes to a halt when an inmate in one of the cells floods his toilet bowl again in rancorous protest, utilizing this one weapon of outcry. Water is spilling from under the door and off the edge of the tier. It is an unsettling falls of sorts. Brad and his colleagues don their face shields and protective gear for a cell extraction. The inmate is in for a double homicide, so they are not taking any chances.
The prison jumpsuits are all orange, and Brad tries to think of a rhyme for the word orange, but can’t. As they climb the stairs to the tier, he thinks: door hinge, but can’t for the life of him, figure out in what context to place it, or in what kick-ass-tellin’-it-like-it-is songwith a pounding beat, a wimpy-ass orange/door hinge rhyme might ever survive in Brad’s world.
Robert Scotellaro's work has been included in W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, NANO Fiction, Gargoyle, Matter Press, Best Small Fictions 2016, 2017, Best Microfiction 2020, and others. He is the author of seven literary chapbooks, several books for children, and five full-length flash and micro story collections. He has, along with James Thomas, co-edited New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, published by W.W. Norton & Co. Robert is one of the founding donors to The Ransom Flash Fiction Collection at the University of Texas, Austin. Visit him at www.robertscotellaro.com.