Scout Lantern
Claudia Smith

The falcon carried her for many miles, over wheat fields, highways, and city lights. Years later, that night would come back to her in shots, firing off in her head, pop-gun memories. She was a child then, and so the cities were like flickering candles on a cake, and she was not afraid of the flight.

When her son calls out for her at night, she carries him into her room. He twitches, says mommy, and she strokes his damp hair. She will not take him to the forest. He sleeps in his own room, with three night lights and a scout lantern. But she wakes, every night, as she did when he nursed, her body carrying her to the blue and green room, and there he is, every time. She'll smell his clean skin, or adjust his coverlet.

One night he wakes to tell her there is a robot outside his window. A giant robot he says, a dark robot with one claw.  "He doesn't have hands, Mom," her son says, "he goes like this. He goes like this." He crumples his forehead and stares. They look out the window, and she remembers a friend telling her to check the closet, to spray glitter water, to banish monsters. But she is afraid. It's storming and the neighbors are gone. She would like to carry him to her room, put the phone by the bed, turn on the lights and the television, the radio too. It could be there, a man, or something cold, waiting. There's an odd smell, like plastic burning.

Claudia Smith's 2007 collection, The Sky is a Well and Other Shorts, is being reprinted this month in A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women, from Rose Metal Press.

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Photo detail on main page courtesy of Gwyn Fisher.

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