When the Fathers Were Gone

Faith’s mother cries, tangled up in her sheets, running a strand of straw under her nose. “Your father’s left,” she says. “And I don’t know what that means for us.”

A few years before, Faith had made a pillow out of straw, stuffing the honeyed fibers into a Hello Kitty pillowcase. She wanted to live like Rapunzel. Long-haired. Beautiful. Alone until it hurt. But her mother kept her hair cut short. This is more appropriate for a girl who lives on a farm, her mother said. 

Her mother doesn’t know what to do with the chickens, the cows, the murky oil in the tractor that refuses to start. “If I’d had known it was possible, I would have left years ago,” her mother says. She throws the seed like buckshot, while the chickens flap and cluck. Too hungry to avoid the abuse. 

Once, Faith stood on the step-ladder in front of her mother’s bathroom mirror, lipstick smeared across her face. Powder caked like flower dusted onto her cheeks. “I’m Snow White,” Faith said to the image of her mother in the mirror.  Her mother watched from the doorframe, arms crossed. Faith, unnerved by the silence, spat out, “I’m tired of looking like you!” Days later, her mother showed her footage of Diana, the strobing lights of police, and the flashing of cameras. This is what people do to princesses, her mother said. 



Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two children. He is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. He is the Editor at Fractured Lit. He has been previously published in the BULL Magazine, Atticus Review, The Lascaux Review, New World Writing, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His story “You’ve Stopped” was included in Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020 and the Best Small Fiction 2019. He won the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction. His interviews have been previously published in New Flash Fiction Review, The Rumpus, CRAFT Literary, and The Town Crier (The Puritan). He has led writing workshops for the Barrelhouse Conversations and Connections conference, The Lafayette Writer’s Workshop, Bending Genres, and for Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash. Find him @TommyDeanWriter.