portion of the artwork for Shelagh Power-Chopra's fiction

The Story of Flying Robert
Shelagh Power-Chopra

Peter told me he lost his parents at an early age. Define an early age? I asked, wondering why he didn’t specify the exact age. Well, I was between ages—just on the precipice of ten. If I were ten when they died it wouldn’t have been such a tragedy. Ten is the golden age; you twaddle into adulthood, arms out and lips puckered and that’s the rub; the gravy, the thick cotton candy in the throat.

I was blinded by a tornado, he told me, a wiry, furry funnel trailing after me, a wicked wind gathering moss and homes, cows and tennis rackets and the rest of the mishmash we all contribute to. And my parents—god bless their souls—were never weather people, “How’s the weather there, George?” never crossed their lips, so buried down in books and radio and heads turned to the comforts of the inside.

So, my Father steps out to fetch dear mother some sugar for her coffee and he skips to town, decides on walking, for the sky was bright and big and caught him off guard in its beauty. My the world looks big, he thought, so concave and constructive, he sighed, and didn’t feel any of the bits of hail that sailed over him, the gruelly combs of ice that flew past him, the sashes of something spinning nearby.

How do you know what he thought or said, I asked Peter, you weren’t there. No, no, I wasn’t but I know his mind. We Baskers all have the same mind. Naive with a layer of sludge but it’s a grand sludge—delirious and imaginative and you can always trust it.

I wasn’t so sure of that. Peter was hardly trustful but it was true that he never noticed his surroundings, and I could imagine him lost in the woods, circling the pecan trees looking for home. The wind whipped around and lifted my father; struck forth its dark fingers and carried him off. We never saw him again. We did find my mother later after the tornado had gone. She was sitting in her armchair, still reading her poetry, the house collapsed around her. Her last words were:

What a wind! oh! how it whistles
Through the trees and flowers and thistles!

That’s a sad story, I told Peter. Storm stories aren’t reassuring. Storm stories are the kindest, he said, bring in the woes, the misfortune, but one can always withhold the actual mess. And where were you during the tornado?

Writing my treatise on life in the basement. I knew the storm was coming and I tried to warn them but they always had their heads in the clouds—those folks, those willful roamers. We roam from city to city, from pretty girl to pretty man and we never stop. But what will we do when the world ends. When the world ends?

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 34 | Fall 2011