Flash Fiction by Katia Noyes

Orange Tree

The daughter is here in a room, with the rain, waiting for her father. He is sick. Bent over. When she sees him, she will take his throat in her hands.

"I have no more words for you," she will say.

###

They sit in the window seats. The setting should be precious, even magazine pretty: It is a breakfast nook, and there is yellow honeysuckle outside the glass windows, an orange tree, and an artful crosshatch fence designed in the hopeful 60s. His skin is even more wrinkled than she expects. Her father tilts his head like a character in a Beckett play—kind of silly, bug-eyed, tragic. He wears a spotted, navy blue robe, and his grey whiskers are long. Her hands stay at her sides.

"I have a theory," he says.

"I know, dad. You've always had a theory."

They used to gather at the dining table for long lunches of Port Salut cheese and Lebanese bologna. He’d talk of English kings and queens. Here is where she might ache with sentimentality, romantic notions. Instead she looks at the concrete patio. An old, white microwave rests there. Paulo, his caretaker, has not gotten rid of it. He probably won’t till her father dies.

She plays Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World on her phone. She sways a little in her chair. He nods when she walks over to his side and takes his hand. 

"I'm glad you're still creative.” He acknowledges her. How odd. His brain is intermittent, like the faulty hardware on her computer.

Compassion is where to create a sacred place. She has held her father's hand; she will sing to him.

"This may be Nobel-Prize worthy."

"Yes, Dad."

She has heard about his need for prizes for fifty years. Compassion is a sacred place. She steps back in. Her father fades from her vision when she relaxes her eyes. Her ears soften, too.

"I know now how to travel, how in our lifetime to make it to other galaxies." His theory compels his repetition ad nauseam.

"How cool, Dad." She picks up the Times from under his pillboxes.

"Don't take that. I need to see if others are writing about my ideas.”

"Okay."

He lifts his reading glasses to gesture with them. "I want to tell Obama."

"Uh, huh.”

When did she become exhausted with his mind?

"It will solve all our energy problems. If I am right that is." He snorts and chuckles, as he often does when he slights himself.

She looks away.

"I told you about the two documentaries, right?"

"Yeah, that must have been exciting.” He was recently filmed about his role in designing rocket ships back in the fifties.

The daughter goes in circles, spending years on a second novel, every sentence rewritten hundreds of times. Her father spends decades on a theory about circling electrons, particles too small to see. God help him. And her. May she create a sacred place to say goodbye to his past, and to her own, and to the orange tree in the yard.

She used to sit on the gray weathered bench near the tree. Awkward and unbalanced, the bench was in the scary area, the area they never used, to the right of the house. The tree felt choked up, like a dead sculpture. Her brothers once hung fake oranges on it because it never grew real ones.

 

Katia Noyes is a San Francisco-based writer and editor. Her novel Crashing America was included in the Alexander Street Press landmark academic collection addressing LGBT thought and culture.