Winner of the 2015 SLS MTL Flash Fiction Prize
Clap taps my shoulder; rubs my hair and calls me baby; holds her breath under the covers before coming up for air, gasping, reaching for my face in the darkness: a game we play, like looking at each other through a mirror until our eyes start to water. Clap brings me breakfast in bed when I don’t ask and it’s twenty past midnight and we just finished a plate of starfruit.
Clap? I ask the hallway. Clap, is that you?
Clap’s gone. Cops took Clap away.
Clap’s back. Clap says we got to get the fuck out of dodge. Specifically, she says, Grandma’s house, let’s move. We move.
Clap gets on Lake Shore Drive and everything feels like a movie. Stop saying that, Clap says. This is real life. This is deep shit. Clap didn’t bring: her books, her plates, her pots and pans, her favorite lamp and her only lamp, her clothes, her toothpaste, her picture of Mom and Dad, her picture of Mom and Dad and her and me and our favorite dog and our only dog; Clap didn’t bring the purple towel she screams and cries into when she goes into the bathroom and thinks I can’t hear.
Shit, Clap says when we hit a red light outside Soldier Field. It’s three o’clock and dark and the Bears aren’t playing. It’s three o’clock and dark and Cops pull up next to us. Be cool, Clap says like Clap is in a movie. Cool I can be. Cool I am. A drunk driver ignores the red light and Cop, doesn’t slow down. We see them go ‘round the bend. We hear sirens long after we don’t see sirens.
Clap? I must ask. Is the shit too deep? Is the river flowing too swiftly behind us? Too swiftly in the opposite way we should be headed?
Yes, Clap says. Okay, I say. You’re the boss, Clappy Clapper Clap-Clap.
We see the drunk driver a few miles up. He’s blown through a railing and twisted around a light pole. There’s the Cop: throwing up in the grass, yelling into his radio for an ambulance and Jesus, between upchucks.
And there’s Lake Michigan behind the wreckage, behind the vomit, behind a thin line of trees moving in the wind. Did I notice the wind before? Was that why Clap told me to bring a coat? Anyway, there’s the wind and there’s the lake. Cool we slide past. Cool we be.
Clap? I have to ask. Can’t we just get a boat and live off the water?
You can’t swim, Clap says. Oh, right, I say.
We don’t make it to Grandma’s. At the gas station, Clap screams when the Cops kick down the bathroom door. I’m not an accomplice; I’m an orphan with no big sister.
What’s there to say about Clap that hasn’t already been said about crabs in a barrel or cornered dogs?
Chicago isn’t all that bad. It just does bad things to okay people.
Gabe Bump is from South Side, Chicago. He currently lives in Florence, Massachusetts. He misses Chicago Public League basketball.