Day 21 – Short Story by L. Breen

He had been slamming his body against the glass pane for nearly an hour before someone came to the window — a boy in search of the afternoon breeze. The fly flew in, seeking a home in which he could spend the final day of his short life expectancy, Day 21. The fly had heard that in cooler weather, he might have had the good fortune of living longer, but he was born in the drudges of the summer heat, and there he would die. The fly wasn’t particularly broken up about it.

The boy was small, about 5. He was another obvious victim of August’s oppressive weather, wearing only his underwear and a white tank top, and his hair needed a good brushing. The boy didn’t seem to notice the fly come in through the open window, and upon spotting the ominous swatter laying on the countertop, the fly decided it was best keep a low profile. The fly nestled himself into a bowl of fruit, deciding the fragrant smell of overly-ripe apples as idyllic a place as any to take his final breaths. He closed his eyes, seeking to enter into a nap from which he would most likely not wake, but became aroused by the sound of struggle.

The boy was slowly dragging a chair from the kitchen table to the refrigerator, tugging at one side, then the other, until he reached his intended destination.  As the boy opened the refrigerator door, the fly could feel the coolness of its interior waft across the room. The boy stood atop the chair, his nose barely coming even to the top shelf. He began to push aside various Tupperware containers and juice cartons until he found what he was looking for, tucked into the back corner – the jar of mayonnaise. The boy stared at it for a moment, relishing in the jar’s mere presence, before grabbing it and tucking it into the crook of his elbow.

The boy jumped down from the chair, turned and began to walk directly into the fly’s direction. The fly tucked himself further into the crevasses of the fruit, worried he had been discovered. He had hoped his end would not come violently. The boy, however, veered just left of the fly’s hideout, opening a drawer cluttered with mismatched silverware. He pulled out a spoon, and proceeded to walk out of the kitchen, a noticeable excitement to his gait. If he had been reasonable, the fly would have seen this as an opportunity to again close his eyes and find his final moment of solace, but the boy had intrigued the fly, and so the fly followed the boy out of the room. His body felt heavier in the air than it had when he first entered, his wings like paper trying to keep a rock air born.

But the fly managed to find the boy in the laundry room just off of the main hallway. The boy was again too distracted to notice the fly’s entrance. The fly settled inside of an open hamper and watched with amusement as the boy struggled to climb on top of the dryer, one arm pulling all of his 40 lbs upwards, the other tightly holding the mayonnaise and spoon. Finally, after much banging, the likes of which the fly was sure had left a dent somewhere, the boy successfully mounted the dryer. With a triumphant smack, the boy pressed the “Start” button, and the dryer began to rumble beneath him. He steadied himself and opened the mayonnaise jar, holding the container directly under his nose. He closed his eyes, letting himself absorb the smell of the condiment, the sway of the old dryer. He was in heaven. Suddenly, he drove the spoon down into the white paste, retrieving a dripping mass of mayonnaise. He opened his mouth wide, inhaling the spoonful in a single bite. The boy let the mayo sit on his tongue for a few moments before swallowing, upon which he immediately reached for another spoonful. Even the fly found this ceremony odd.

The boy continued to eat the mayonnaise at a more casual pace, his body swaying back and forth as if keeping in rhythm with a trotting horse. The fly felt his eyelids begin to droop. The laundry was soft, and the dryer gave the room a pleasant warmth, different than that of the harsh sun.

Beyond the rumble of the machine and the clinking of the spoon, the fly remarked how quiet the rest of the house seemed. “The boy must be the only one home,” the fly thought. The fly never wanted to die alone, so he was happy to have the boy next to him, no matter how strange of a child he appeared. It was not even sundown, but the fly could feel his heart slowing, his blood somehow flowing with less purpose. Day 21 was coming to a decisive end.

Then, a crash. The sound of glass shattering. The boy silenced the dryer mid-cycle and held his breath. The fly wanted to open his eyes, but his lids were suddenly incapable of obliging, so he resolved himself to listening. He listened to the boy’s shaky voice calling out, “Hello?” The boy found no response. “Hello?” He cried out again this time with slight confidence, a cub hinting at the lion inside of him. Curiosity becoming irresistible, the boy jumped down from the dryer. His tiny footsteps echoed down the hall.

Suddenly, a scream. The boy’s. Long and loud, piercing the silence of the cavernous house, reverberating throughout the foundation itself.

In his mind, the fly was racing down the hall after him, helping the boy however he could, discovering what possible atrocity the child had stumbled into, but in reality, the fly never arose from his coffin of tube socks and grass stains, and the boy’s screams went otherwise unheard.

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