The One You Don't Pick
Andrew Roe

There was a Mommy and there was a Daddy. They lived together, the three of them. They had a house. They had some things but no pets. Time went by. Before you knew it, it was Christmas time again and they forgot to put up the lights outside.

The girl wondered: What would happen if she had to pick one over the other? If someone showed up at their door one day and said to her: "You have to pick one. And you must pick now. And then I'm going to take the other one, the one you don't pick, away. Forever. You will never see this person again, for as long as you live."

This someone is tall and blurry and wears a long black overcoat that almost touches the ground. And this someone has a hat and sunglasses. You can't see anything but nose and mouth and hints of veiny ear lobes. The voice sounds like a machine. It's not like any voice she's ever heard in her life, not in movies, not anywhere.

"So who do you pick?" the someone says, waiting.

The choice is not hard. She doesn't have to hem and haw. She doesn't have to pretend. Because she's thought of this moment many, many times. She's thought of what it would be like and who she would choose. And now it's come, this moment, now it's finally arrived like the first day of summer vacation, it may be a dream or not a dream, she's not sure, but it's as real as anything else.

She watches the Daddy leave, and is not surprised, is not relieved or happy or anything like that, but feels the weight of this one decision crash upon her like a big giant wave, how it will change everything after, how it's something you can't ever get back, and she doesn't move, she fights the power and pull of the wave and digs in deep and holds her ground and doesn't fall over, remains standing in the doorway, and she reaches for the Mommy who is crying and crying and will be crying for some time, until they close the door and go inside and sit down on the sofa and begin to talk about their new lives, just the two of them, and what that will be like in the days, weeks and years ahead.

Andrew Roe has had fiction in Tin House, One Story, Hobart, PANK, Blip and others. He lives in Oceanside, California.

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Detail of illustration on main page courtesy of Spaceman Bob.

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