Pinwheel {flash fiction}

I got my first pinwheel at a Fourth of July parade, sweating on a steaming curb. I was five years old at the time, and I could show you I knew it too, five pudgy fingers spread wide. Women on stilts with star-spangled pants tossed pinwheels to the kids below. I’d like to think I out-cheered the other kids, that I deserved the pinwheel, when it flailed glittering to the asphalt at my feet.

The air was so heavy and still that day and I had to run at full speed up and down the curbside to make it spin. The pinwheel whirred through the air, churning like a speedboat’s propeller. I don’t remember the rest of the parade, but I do remember how tired I was by the time my parents hefted me into my car seat. I could have gone to sleep, but I didn’t.

As the air conditioning kicked in and the sweat began to dry in my hair, I looked at the pinwheel in my lap. I hooked a finger around the automatic button and pulled. The window slid down and the car filled with roaring heat and my parent’s cries. But it was too late. I held the pinwheel out the window and watched it thrash wildly in the wind. Beautiful and defenseless. Then it was yanked out of my hand and steaked away, vanishing from view.

Just as quickly as it had come, it was gone. My parents rolled up the window and I sat in silence, unsure how to fill the pinwheel-shaped hole in my heart, a hole I was sure could never be filled again.

There was another pinwheel I saw once. It was blown into the sliding glass door that led to the balcony of our second-story apartment. It stayed like that, suspended on air against the glass for a couple seconds, its dog-eared blades shivering in the gale. Then it was whipped away.

The trees outside were bowed horizontal in false obeisance to the elements. Some of the bushes out by the road—if I recall correctly—had been ripped right out of the earth, root by root, until they rolled away in the makeshift twilight.

I would have been worried for my safety, that I might be plucked up and whisked away, but experience had taught me the house was stronger than the howl of the wind. Who cared if a couple bushes lost their footing anyway? I turned off the lights and plopped down on the couch, with a pillow on my lap to watch the storm through the sliding glass doors.

The wind and rain were so loud, I doubt I could have heard the thunder, if there was any. There wasn’t any lightning as far as I could tell. I thought about my parents, upstate, in the quite little house. The sky was probably still blue for them.

I waited and watched until my eyes succumbed to the softness of the pillows and the couch. I curled up and the storm all but evaporated from my consciousness. Then the quiet woke me up. Silence. Detritus, scattered and motionless on the street below. The light coming through the glass an untrustworthy yellow.

I moved to the sliding glass door and unlocked it, blinking. I stepped out onto the balcony in my socks and surveyed the street. It was still and sunny, but eerie without the sound of cars or birds in the trees. I looked up into the sky. Directly above me the sun peered down through a round hole in the roiling clouds. It wouldn’t last long.

As I locked the glass door closed behind me, I thought how funny I must appear in my socks on a balcony in the middle of a storm from where the sun reposed, way up there in the sky: a speck in the middle of a gigantic pinwheel. I resumed my seat on the couch with the pillow. I closed my eyes. Better to sleep through a pinwheel than to let it keep me up.

About Pinwheel

I began writing “Pinwheel” from a writing exercise to answer the prompt: End of summer. When I think of the end of summer, I think of the poem “Here Comes” by Shel Silverstein. The final lines of the poem contain the feeling I tried to emulate in this piece. The poem goes like this:

Here comes summer,
Here comes summer,
Chirping robin budding rose.
Here comes summer,
Here comes summer,
Gentle showers, summer clothes.
Here comes summer,
Here comes summer—
Whoosh—shiver—there it goes.

This poem combined with recent news stories about hurricanes to create the idea for this piece.



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