If it Weren’t for the Lights

Hurricane Jacob prowls across the meteorologist’s map, but I’ve been disappointed by every man I’ve known, so I refuse to evacuate. I’ve opened all the windows to watch the rain pop and sizzle on the laminate floors. It’s not long before your bobbleheads find a current leading them out the front door and down the driveway. “Collectibles” you called them when we didn’t have enough money to eat, when we had to shit in the McDonald’s bathroom because we had run out of toilet paper. I begged you to sell the comic books, yes, even the ones featuring Spider-Man, but you traded them for courtside seats to a losing basketball team, sharing nachos with a former pop star, the one we had to name our daughter after, the daughter you see only on holidays that don’t involve gifts.

That’s okay. The action figures made a great faux nativity, Darth Vader presiding over the sacred birth of Yoda to the parents of Han Solo and Princess Leia, while Chewbacca served nicely as the only Wise Man.

When the boat comes, its small motor sounding like the serene rumbling of our refrigerator on sleepless nights, my daughter and I are on the roof of the house you abandoned. We wave your limited-edition replica lightsabers. In the gloaming, our daughter’s face brightens. She thinks you’ve come back, that all men have the potential to be her daddy. That men leave for important reasons, that men have just as many motives to return.

The bearded old captain guides his boat towards the dormer windows. “You all are lucky,” he shouts, flinging a rope. “I saw your toys from miles away. Nothing else would have caught my attention.”

I offer the lightsabers as a reward, but he waves me off. “Ought to stay close to the things that keep us alive,” he says, piloting us further into our neighborhood—which looks more like the ocean, the landmarks aquariumed by the flood.

The water teems with colorful debris. Legos bob like candy sprinkles on a giant sludge of baking cake. The boat speeds up, troweling through the confettied remains of your card collection; the bloated faces of sports stars paste against its sides, while swirling eddies claim the bodies of G.I. Joes and Power Rangers rather than our own.

Close your eyes, I warn my daughter, hoping to ward off the riches of destruction.


Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two children. He is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. He is the Flash Fiction Section Editor at Craft Literary. He has been previously published in the BULL Magazine, The MacGuffin, The Lascaux Review, Pidgeonholes, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His story “You’ve Stopped” was chosen by Dan Chaon to be included in Best Microfiction 2019. It will also be included in Best Small Fiction 2019. Find him @TommyDeanWriter on Twitter.

Bobblehead illustration by C.B. Auder (digital collage).

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