Toby fired jagged grit into the pond. Watched ripples do the hokey-cokey. Grandad’s precious carp scattered with every splash. Idiots came back though, too stupid to realise it wasn’t food he was shooting at them. Their long strong bodies moved like snakes. Snakes with insect wings flapping. Tissue-paper delicate. Their scales flared against the mucky green water. Nearly got one that time.
Everyone else was inside, clucking over Finley even though he didn’t even do anything. Well, that wasn’t true. He stole. Stole time, stole people. Toby had asked Grandad to look at his model, the one he’d made at school. He’d thought Grandad liked astronauts. He’d made craters out of pipe cleaners and paper mâché. Had glued all the cracks in his knuckles shut trying to get it to look right.
‘Later,’ Grandad had said.
Mum had been busy stroking Finley’s cheek and telling him he was her best boy.
‘Later,’ she’d said.
Later, later, later. Somehow that was worse than ‘just give me five minutes’. Least then they could be caught in their lie. But any time until the end of time was later. The planet could crash into the stars, spin out of existence, and start the next Big Bang, and that might still not be late enough for them.
Toby grabbed a fistful of gravel, lilac baby teeth clattering. Hurled them as if they were sizzling hot. Smiled when more than one fish flinched from the attack. He eyed the smallest creature. Imagined what mottled skin might feel like between two tight hands, how easy a fin would be to tear. The hairs on his neck stood to attention.
Head drumming, he stepped back, dried his hands on his shorts. He smoothed over the shingle, covering the bald spot he’d created.
Mum told him to watch Finley. Fingernail moons slicing into his palms, he skulked by the doorway.
‘Tea won’t cook itself,’ she sang.
‘Not hungry anyway,’ he sniped.
Toby scowled at the pudgy, uncoordinated arms reaching up out of the basket. Each coo sending shockwaves. Rolling one final purple bullet between his fingers, arm tensed.
Martha Lane is a writer by the sea. Her flash has been published by Sledgehammer, Perhappened, Bandit, Reflex fiction, Briefly Zine, and Ellipsis among others. Balancing too many projects at once is her natural state. Tweets @poor_and_clean.