Entry #3 for NYC Midnight's Flash Fiction Contest
Genre: Science Fiction
Setting: Public Fountain
Object: Paper Airplane
Five friends in Brooklyn decide to give the local thrift store a whirl. A magic item ruins an otherwise most excellent Sunday afternoon.
Walking down Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, Elvis turned to Clementine, eying the Japanese Koi swimming up her arms, notes that she looked especially retro-chill today.
Clementine glances down to her sensibly-heeled Flapper shoes, muttering “Thank you honey-bear.”
Levi rolls his eyes, hooking one thumb behind the strap on his overalls, “How quaint.”
“Shut up Levi.” Elvis punctuated his words with his cane sometimes, as he did now. People felt he had more gravitas when there was a striking sound to accompany syllables.
Walking behind them, hand in hand, Homer and Violet could feel the tension building between the two men.
Elvis and Levi had been in a polyamorous relationship together with Clementine for about a year, until a fight had broken out over Levi not replenishing the group’s almond milk often enough. Clementine had chosen Elvis, citing his authenticity, having spent two years as a subsistence farmer with a collective in Buffalo.
“I saw the Pinback reunion last week at Knitting Factory,” Violet interjected, trying to change the subject, “They were alright I guess. Better before everyone knew them for sure. They still had meaning, you know?”
Homer’s huge tangle of a beard bobbed in approval, “Yeah they were better before.” Homer was sensitive about his weight, and found that when he was agreeable people were less likely to talk to him about the hazards of unhealthy eating.
They were on their way to Beacon’s Closet, a vintage clothing store right next to the bespoke olive oil shop that Levi owned. Or rather, the bespoke olive oil shop that Levi’s family owned, as Elvis often liked to point out. People loved that Elvis raised his pinky in an effete manner when he would say this at house parties.
Homer was telling them about the brewing operation running out of his Sunset Park basement. “See the trick is if you use vegetables restaurants throw out you can ferment all kinds of things on the cheap. Shit, I’ve made pepper beer, pineapple beer…”
Inside the shop, crowded with racks of clothes that stank of rejection and old cotton, the teller briefly glanced up and went back to reading Kindling Quarterly. Elvis assumed that was meant to be ironic reading. Then he saw the bundle of sticks next to her and gave a solemn, thoughtful nod.
The store was narrow, low ceilings and pale yellow lighting. Rifling through the racks of old clothes, shoes, sunglasses and hats was a pastime for this group. A sacred space where they could feel pride at being so thrifty. Plus it was a constant conversation topic. People love it when shoes have a good story.
Levi saw it first, drifted forward as though gripped by a dream. His mouth slacked open, slurring a dampened sing-along to the Arcade Fire song currently leaking out of the store’s sound system.
Elvis, failing to command Clementine’s opinion on a cravat that had the most delightful pattern of tiny cat heads, turned to Levi.
“I think this is the bee’s knees, whaddya think Lev? Lev? Levi? Levi!” Elvis followed Levi’s eyes and direction toward the object, bathed in flesh and rose light, appearing to rotate on its perch.
It was a wool newsboy cap, perfectly balanced on an aluminum-foil stand. Grey checked pattern, with the brim slightly tufted where it had been tugged and worn. Probably in some Chinese factory, thought Elvis.
Elvis didn’t find the idea of Levi getting something he enjoyed copacetic, and fancied himself to be the kind of Stand-Up-Guy who took deliberate action on things he didn’t find particularly copacetic. People liked that about Elvis.
And that’s why Elvis quickly strode in front of Levi, snatching the cap off of the cheap foil stand and affixing it to his head in one fluid motion. As he was pulling it upward Elvis did notice some odd markings, symbols he didn’t recognize lining the inside of the cap. China, he thought.
Elvis doffed his new cap, bowing before Levi. “Looks like I’ve got myself some new glad rags for tonight’s dance, eh partner?”
Levi’s shock at being interrupted shifted as the room filled with a steady, low, vibrating rumble. Violet and Clementine looked over as Levi began to point, shout and gibber uncontrollably.
They stood and watched as Elvis was surrounded in a column of swirling black and purple particles. He pressed his hand against the inside of this cylinder, pulling it back quickly as if burned. Elvis became more and more faint, until finally he wasn’t there.
And just like that, Elvis disappeared from all their lives forever.
Clementine cried for a while, listening to Ella Fitzgerald and drinking a lot of Homer’s latest cactus based home-brew. She started dating Levi again about two months after that day in the thrift shop.
Homer found some success with his beer. He married Victoria and they were very happy for about a year. Tragically Homer died when a tank brewing fermented puffer-fish husks exploded.
Victoria is now dating Levi and Clementine, the three of them living in a commune/urban gardening center in Bushwick.
For whatever reason no one really considered Elvis’ disappearance to be that strange. There was no security camera footage of the event, and only a few eyewitnesses. Papers ended up saying they were weirdos, “Hipsters” who probably snorted cocaine.
Elvis opened his eyes to take in a cloud of dust and Ford Model-A’s rolling by. A pile of newspapers loosely bundled in twine hit the ground, kicking dirt from the road onto his vintage black & white oxford dress shoes.
He stood, knocking dirt off his pants with the cap and staring around in a resplendent daze. Everything was sepia toned and jittery - like an old film. He tried waving his hands in front of his face, flipped them around to rub his eyes. Nothing changed.
Suddenly it dawned on him - he had traveled back in time. Finally, Elvis thought. I’m first.
Published by: Ryan in Uncategorized