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The Dot on the Sky

November 21, 2013

For Terribleminds.com’s flash fiction challenge Find your favourite opening line.

I chose “At first it was just a tiny dot in the cool blue afternoon sky” by ZTS.

 

 

At first it was just a tiny dot in the cool blue afternoon sky.

Marnie only noticed it because her son Harold was standing in the front yard with his head tilted back, squinting fiercely to hold something in focus.

“Mama, there’s a smudge on the sky,” he greeted her without breaking his focus.

In the sky, honey.  Things can’t be ‘on’ the sky.”  Marnie shaded her eyes and squinted herself, trying to resolve the dot.  It didn’t fly, or move.  Whatever it was hung there; a stationary blemish in the otherwise perfect blue.

“Clouds are on the sky.”

“No hon, they’re in the sky too.  You wouldn’t say a bird is on the sky now would you?”

“Birds fly in the air, above the ground.”

“In the air, there you go. The sky is just like the air, so you have to say ‘in’.”

“No, it’s not. And that-” Harold pointed “is definitely on the sky.”

Marnie sighed, amused, and let it go for today.  “What is it, can you see?  You have better eyes than me.  Is it a weather balloon?”

“It’s not a weather balloon.” Harold cupped his hands around one eye; an improvised scope.   “It’s just a blurry sort of smudge.” He dropped his hands.

Marnie gave up on the dot and instead studied her son’s face.  He had an expression, halfway between puzzled and calculating –  she’d seen it before when he was stuck with his maths homework, and he wasn’t quite sure if he couldn’t see the solution, or if there was a mistake in the problem itself.  He was a bright kid, and focussed too; just now he didn’t notice his mother’s admiring smile.  “I’ll keep an eye on it, Mama.”

“Ok hon.  I’m going to go inside and start tea.”

 

 

Later in the afternoon the dot had grown, but still sat in the same spot on the sky.  Harold watched a cumulus cloud, bright white, drift behind the smudge.  He lost it for a an hour or so in a bank of dark grey rainclouds, and he imagined that they had scrubbed it away; cottonwools cleaning the other side of a window.  But the clouds passed, and there it still was; a troublesome bit of grime interrupting the darkening dome.

 

 

When Harold’s father Patrick came home from work, he found Harold on the patio, staring intently at the sky.  His thumb marked a place in the paperback novel forgotten on his lap.

“Hey Kiddo, whatcha looking at?”  He squeezed Harold’s shoulder by way of greeting, and couldn’t help but follow his gaze upwards.

“The smudge on the sky.  I think it just got bigger.”

Patrick squinted, and could just make something out through his glasses.  “Oh yeah,” he agreed, somewhat vaguely.  “What is it?”

“Dunno. It’s not getting any closer.  Just bigger.”

“How can you tell?” Patrick could actually see several blots on the sky – he took his glasses off and tried to clean them on the edge of his shirt, with his briefcase still dangling from his fingers.

Harold shrugged.  “Been keeping an eye on it.”

“Doesn’t sound like a much of a way to spend your day off school, Kiddo.”

Harold nodded thoughtfully, but didn’t break his gaze.  “I think it’s important.”

“If you say so.” Patrick replaced his glasses and glanced at the cover of Harold’s book.  It showed men in uniform firing lasers at robots or aliens or both in the desert under an iron grey sky.  Patrick had chosen it for Harold, and was pleased to see him reading it. “Good book?”

“It’s a little far-fetched.  It’s ok.”

“Is it? Well at least it’s ok.” Harold didn’t see his father’s grin. “Where’s your mother?”

“Making tea.”

“Mm, yum.  Casserole?”

“I think so.”

Patrick lingered a moment.

Harold spared a glance for his father before returning to his observation. “I’ll come in when it’s ready.”

“Sure thing, Kiddo.”

 

 

By the time tea was ready, dusk had hidden the smudge. Amongst the spread of suburban stars, it blended into the blankness in between.  Harold strongly suspected that it was still there, though, and even thought he could still see a bit of grey a shade or two lighter than the usual night sky colour, but his neck ached from looking up all day and his eyes were itchy.

“Eat up, hon,” Marnie smiled at him.  “Your show’s about to start.” She’d forgotten all about the smudge.

Harold made a gallant effort with his vegetables, and excused himself to the living room. He put the television on at a moderate volume, and his parents could only just hear the epic opening chords of the theme song.

“He’s such a good boy.” Marnie mused with a smile.

“He’s taken to the sci-fi too.” Patrick said by way of agreement. “I hope that means he’s going to be a programmer like his old man.”

“Oh! That reminds me,” Marnie turned towards her husband, with her brows raised.

“The dead pixels?”

“Yeah.”

“We’ll get it fixed before morning.” Patrick grinned as he stood and started  clearing the plates. “If not, well, we’ll just have to have a cloudy day tomorrow, despite the forecast.”

“Ah well,” Marnie answered her husband’s grin with one of her own.  She gazed at the back of Harold’s head; he watched the LCD television screen as intently as he had watched the sky outside.  “It has to rain eventually.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 21, 2013 8:41 pm

    Great story! So the parents knew all along….!

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