“For my birthday,” Emma told her parents, “I’d like to hike up The Forbidden Trail and have a picnic.” Emma’s father grabbed his camera and took pictures where she posed against the rock formations, standing next to the large trees, near the railings but never close to the edge. When they had to start back to beat dusk she begged for one more picture.
“Dad take one with me and Mom,” and they stood on the edge of the Cliff looking out, across the ravine, backs to the camera and then Emma said, “Mom take a picture of me and Dad. Now, pose for one last picture and that will complete my day.”
So, Emma posed them, “I want a great hugging picture,” she said. Her mother with her arms around her husband’s waist, head on his shoulder, her father leaning his head down on hers, facing away from Emma towards the George and the river. Emma came up behind and adjusted their pose, had them take baby steps, toes touching the cliff’s edge.
Emma turned from her parents, their smell of fear and then the sound, that none of them had ever heard before, pebbles rolling, then rocks, her parents hugged each other tightly, and then the sound of boulders and Emma, the good daughter, the honor student, the one with the manners and perfect attendance recalling seeing her mother and the neighbor man naked in the woods behind their house and her father on his knees with her gym teacher, Mr. Raymond, his face in the teacher’s crotch. Emma turning around after taking the picture saying, “Got it!”
The sirens, the screaming, from her parents, and then Emma running yelling towards the cliff’s edge as other hikers ran down the hill towards the parking lot began calling on their cell phones to the police, ambulance, and the first one there was her gym teacher in a policeman’s uniform running and zipping his fly and then a familiar image of a naked man wearing only a fireman’s hat.
Emma stood, head down, ashamed as she held out her report card to her parents who looked at it together and said tsk tsk when they saw the grades and the truancies and her father said this calls for punishment and her mother said yes, punishment and they took the camera from Emma and made her stand on the cliff’s edge with her eyes closed and apologize for not being the perfect daughter but the apology sounded like screaming. Screaming that started loud became louder and then distant and Emma’s parents said tsk tsk as the screaming subsided. Then Emma and her parents held hands and laughed as the three skipped down to the family car eating Mallomars.
Paul Beckman’s latest flash collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press) was a finalist for the 2019/2020 Indie Book Awards. Some of his stories appeared in Spelk, Connotation Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, Necessary Fiction, Litro, Pank, Playboy, WINK, Jellyfish Review, and The Lost Balloon. He had a story selected for the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology Lineup and was short listed in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition. Paul curates the FBomb NY flash fiction reading series monthly in KGB’s Red Room (Currently Virtual).