by Tommy Dean
Faith and her Father are standing in the yawning mouth of the barn, the dust a cascade of falling stars in the late afternoon light. His shoulders shake, as he holds out the box of matches. Gasoline surrounds him like a shroud. I sloshed it everywhere, he says. The hay ruined, the tractor seat saturated, the ground muddy at the corner posts, her cemented handprints coved by the shit and piss of butchered animals. We could wait, accept fate, he says. A lightning strike, a trick of physics when I least expect it. Faith kicks at the chicken prints scattered across the sandy ground. She used run between them, dancing in their fury of wings while she held her breath and dreamed of the ocean. The surprise might help with the lie, she says. She holds up a single match trying to line up its eye with the sky-marbled sun. I’d settle for an act of God, she says, raking the match head across the striking surface. A flare like a splash of sun on a gem stone. We never did get you that horse, he says, shaking his head. The fire eats the stick until it grazes her fingertip. He stomps on it, masking stick and sand under the heavy molded rubber of his boot. I guess I’m not done with surprises yet, he says guiding her back up the hill toward the house. Faith agrees to stay the night, to sleep in the haze of knowing the barn could erupt at any moment, that she’s passed her father’s test, and nothing can hold her to this land anymore.
Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two children. He is the Editor at Fractured Lit. His chapbook, Covenants, will be published by ELJ Editions in November 2021. He has been previously published in The Lascaux Review, New World Writing, and Pithead Chapel. His stories have been included in Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020. Find him @TommyDeanWriter