BY RANDALL BROWN
That Thanksgiving, my Uncle Nate’s esophagus could only handle sour cream. Even then, he threw it up, off the back porch. Afterward, he saw me playing one of my lonely-kid games, throwing a ball against a garage door, inning after imagined inning. He could barely talk, so he had to walk over and lean into my ear. He told me that’s the way to be, never dependent on anyone. He said when the silver angels came down with their subpoena, he wondered how he’d be judged, his own punishment a derivative of some yet unknown variable. This worried him immensely because he’d killed Germans, lots of them. He told me to wait, left, came back with a baseball glove. You, my son, are a catalyst for change, he told me, then whipped the ball hard, and it exploded into my hand. I didn’t flinch. I returned it to him hard, hard enough to bring tears and bile, harder than he’d ever figured.
Randall Brown teaches at Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live (Flume Press, 2008), his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field, and he appears in the Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction (W.W. Norton, 2010). He blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net and has been published widely, both online and in print, including online at American Short Fiction, Tin House, and Mississippi Review; and in-print in Cream City Review, Lake Effect, and Harpur Palate.