Leaning against the brick wall, Robert smoked a cigarette. He raised his head up, staring at the wisps of smoke traveling into the night sky. When he returned his attention to the backyard of his apartment, he noticed a fallen star on the ground.
He coughed harshly, squinting at the tiny yellow creature sitting on the damp grass. It had no face, mouth, or eyes. Robert adjusted his round glasses, creeping up close to inspect the star, when it turned its head towards him. It tilted its head like a curious puppy, a strangely charming gesture. Then, it waved its arms and waddled towards him, fumbling like a clumsy fawn. Frowning, he crouched down and held his arms out, as though preparing to catch the star if it lost its balance.
It hopped into his cupped hands. Robert raised his eyebrows in surprise. It was airy and cold. Delicate, soft. Like a cloud. When he leaned in close, he swore he could hear faint wind chimes, or bells jingling.
Robert bit his lip and glanced around. He couldn’t leave it out here, alone and unattended to. So, he decided to take it home.
They passed rows of apartments. Potted plants and decorative doormats. Soccer balls and Barbie dolls littering porches.
His apartment was surrounded by chatter. Kids and their stomping feet, loud television sounds. The couple next door were always gossiping with their door open.
Luckily, his apartment was shelter from the noise outside. It was suffocatingly quiet, bare and empty. Plain walls and furniture, flashes of gray and black and white. Not to mention “small“—the kitchen, the living room, and the dining table inches away from one another. There was a small bookshelf in the corner collecting dust. Under one of the shelves were bunches of shoved newspapers. They were squished and crumpled against each other, except for one. It was ten years old, no reason for him to keep it. The headline alone was enough to send his mind into a downward spiral: “7-Year-Old Boy Drowns In River.”
Yet, it’s framed. Robert doesn’t mind if it grows rusty, or sticks in his mind like invasive mold. It’s the forgetting that scares him.
He looked around the room, trying to locate the star. It was climbing a window, propping its body up to the window sill. Taking in a sharp intake of breath, Robert briskly walked to the window and pulled the star away.
“Careful,” he muttered. It continued to look out at the window, staring at the moon high in the sky. Robert looked out too. “What’s so good about it?”
The star turned towards him. His body was caved in, tense and anxious. It squirmed in his hands, until he placed it down on the ground. Then, it hugged itself into the fabric of his pant leg. He let out a watery chuckle and reached down, patting its head.
It stayed by his side for the rest of the evening. Later that night, he was stirring a pot full of soup and veggies while the star sat on the kitchen counter, swinging its legs. The radio was on, playing some old-time tunes, and Robert whistled along to, “We’ll Meet Again.” The star seemed to be amused by it.
He went to set the dining table, three plates, and utensils out of habit. From the corner of my eye, he saw the star venture across the kitchen surface, staring at the bubbling soup, shades of brown and green, the bubbles like volcanic craters. It moved closer, right next to the steam of the pot.
It fell. Disappeared into a blob of shimmer, and he couldn’t stop it. His throat tightened, heart beating madly. He made a mess trying to reach it in time, shattering plates and knocking over the radio hard enough for it to smash on the ground. It continued droning, playing the same song in low, gravely tones with static seeping into the lyrics.
W-We’ll-m . . . meet a . . . g-ain.
His face is wet from tears. Every bone in his body was screaming to throw the pot away, flush all of this pain down the sink. But he can’t, that has always been the problem, he fucking can’t.
So, he did the only thing left.
Pour out a bowl. Lift the ladle with trembling hands. Tip the bowl and gulp it down. He can almost feel the rustic, biting cold of space. It’s quiet.
Rishika Parmar is a sophomore at CCSU, majoring in English with a Business minor. She is an avid consumer of flash fiction and poetry.
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