He cannot stop smiling, giggling even as he gazes down at you holding the mysterious can of oil. He says, “close your eyes,” which you do, and stretch out your arms as he also asks you to do. Something hard falls into them. Your eyes open-- a rectangular box, unwrapped so you already know what it is—inside, a key attached to a red ribbon. Your dad holds it up as he meets your gaze.
“Do you know how to use this?” You nod, but your dad shows you anyway, turning the metal rods at the sides of your skates, loosening them, before placing the ribbon with the key around your neck. “This is where you keep it.”
You tell him you will never lose it as he crouches to help you slip on and tighten your skates, securing them around your sneakers with the half moon tips. You are so excited you can barely wait to step out the door, tap, tap, tap, tap, and be seen in your brand new skates, sailing down the driveway, over the speed bumps, away, away.
Your dad helps you balance coming down the front steps. “And off you go,” he says.
It is your birthday. Your hair flies wild. Your knees strain, arms swing wide, mouth stretching, unhinged with joy. But before you have rounded the corner and can see the sea where you both swim every day, you realize what this means.
You will have to choose between being with your dad, being lifted high and placed on his shoulders then on his back so you can both surf waves back to shore. Or you can sail these streets alone on your brand new skates. The first on the block to own any skates, you figure your dad would want you to be a big girl, which means being on your own. Which means going on and on and on, further and further away from the dad you love, your father, who has today given you the gift of no choices.
Arya F. Jenkins is a Colombian-American poet and writer whose fiction has been published in journals and zines such as About Place Journal, Across the Margins, Anti-Heroin Chic, Cleaver Magazine, Eunoia Review, Five on the Fifth, Fictional Café, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Matador Review, Metafore Literary Magazine, Mojave Literary Review, and Vol. 1 Sunday Stories Series. Her fiction has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks. Her short story collection is Blue Songs in an Open Key (Fomite, 2018). Her website is: https://aryajenkins.wixsite.com/aryajenkins/contact