With Wings on His Feet
By Jeff Baker
The rain had stopped and the air was humid. Andre bounced on one foot, then the other and looked up and down the city street. He shook himself, feeling himself loosen. He’d never done it like this, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to run out there with the cars coming. He wasn’t a hundred percent sure it would work.
The light was red, the traffic stopped and the green “Walk” signal clicked on. Andre crouched down and ran. The footprints he left on the wet pavement sent up puffs of steam; by the time the steam rose more than an inch over the crosswalk, Andre was miles away.
A rush of cool air surrounded Andre like a whirlwind, cooling him as he barreled across the city in an instant. Cars seemed to be standing still, like a blurry photograph he’d seen online. He glanced down and saw the blur of his white socks and shoes. The shoes; the shoes he’d been given that weren’t like any other. In a few minutes, he left the city behind; he was on the highway but he probably wasn’t even in New York State anymore. He had practiced around the track when they had given him the shoes, and had run across the city before, but never gone this far. He stopped when he crossed a bridge and stared up at the sky. He didn’t feel tired. He’d get a bottle of water a few hundred miles down the road.
As the countryside blurred past him, he kept his eye on the highway signs, glad he’d memorized the route. He could see the trees and the fences and was glad for the blue sky; it had been raining in New York City before he started out, and he’d been worried about slipping in a puddle. Especially at a thousand miles per hour or whatever he was doing. He slowed down just a little; he’d seen a greenish sign up ahead: Now Entering Colorado. He sped up; he wasn’t sure about roaring up the Rocky Mountains and so, his next chance, he took the highway south. He’d hit the desert roads, maybe Texas through New Mexico where it was flat.
Andre wasn’t sure of the town, but he knew it was past the Colorado border, maybe in New Mexico when he slowed down with a screech and a cloud of dust, then walked into a convenience store, past a row of t-shirts for sale and grabbed a bottle of water. He walked outside the store sipping the water and gazed around. Flat and hot. A few minutes later, he crumpled up the empty bottle and tossed it in the trash can by the gas pumps as he accelerated onto the highway, the other cars seemingly standing still.
The desert blurred into pinks and reds and yellows. Andre could feel the heat through the swirl of cooling air. He wished he’d bought another water. He could see one of those truck stops out of the corner of his eye; he sped into it, grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler and sped out, the customers and clerks seemingly frozen in place. Then he thought the better of it, sped back in and tossed a buck on the counter by the register and sped off again.
He didn’t realize the glass doors to the truck stop and the cooler (which he’d opened at blinding speed) were shattering in the instant he left, though he was now miles away.
He coasted to regular speed by the beach, gawking at the Pacific Ocean. He stopped and stared, again taking it all in. He pulled out his cellphone and flipped to the GPS app. Directions to Hawaii. He stared out at the ocean; vast and wide, if he overshot, he couldn’t stop in the middle of the Pacific and check the device again. He really couldn’t even turn around without losing momentum on the water. But if he kept running, he wouldn’t sink: he’d done it before on a lake. He could just check into a hotel here in California. He stared at the ocean again.
Hawaii has hotels, he thought. He took a deep breath, and then streaked across the water as easily as he had on land.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I posted the first of these near-weekly stories on May 25, 2016, so I’ve been doing them for four years now. I’ve written about 52 flash fiction stories a year, most of them for Friday Flash Fics and its predecessor Monday Flash Fics. That’s at least 208 stories! Right now, I have a story in the pipe that started out as a flash piece in 2018, and I have a couple of series characters such as the denizens of Demeter’s Bar, and the wandering Bryce Going (who first appeared in a weekly flash story) who have also appeared in longer stories (some of them actually published!) Like I’ve said, it is great practice and I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn to write short stories. Lots of changes in four years; I’ve been through three jobs, I got married officially in late 2016, I started writing full-time this past January and we lost my Dad about two months ago. These stories have been a constant through it all.
So, I have to thank ‘Nathan Burgoine, Helena Stone and the other moderators of these weekly forays into fiction and all my fellow contributors. As well as all the readers; your input usually makes my day! And, my family. Mom & Dad, my Brother and his family, and my husband Darryl. Thanks to all!
As for the weekly posting of tales and yarns, I have no intention of stopping! As they used to say on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show: More To Come.
————jeff baker, May 23, 2020.