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Author: Jason Jackson

Sleepover

I come back from the bathroom and I wake Jamie.

“Mate,” I say. “Let’s climb onto your garage roof.”

He doesn’t say anything, just scratches his head. His room smells of sweat and the sweets we’ve been eating. I don’t wait for him. I just say, “C’mon.”

The landing light’s off, but his mum’s bedroom door isn’t shut, so we’re tiptoeing, whispering.

“Look,” I say, pointing into the bathroom. “We can fit through that window.”

“Why?” he says.

“Have you been on the roof before?”

He shakes his head.

“That’s why,” I say.

I put one foot on the toilet bowl, the other on the sink, and I push the latch. There are bottles on the sill, so I put them in the sink.

“We won’t fit,” says Jamie.

My hands are on either side of the open window. “I can’t believe you haven’t done this before,” I say, and I pull myself through.

The roof is flat, made out of gritty grey stuff that’s rough on my bare feet. It’s a warm night. I’m thinking about Jamie’s mum. How she bought us take-away pizza. How she was going to blow up my airbed with her mouth until I told her I’d brought a pump.

Jamie’s next to me. “What now?”

“It’d be cool to sleep out here.”

He walks over towards the edge of the roof, but he stops short. “How high is this?”

“We could jump.”

He turns to me. “I’m going back in.”

“I could push you off.”

He tries to laugh. “Yeah, right.” He goes back to the window. “C’mon,” he says. “It’s just a roof.”

I walk over to the edge so that my toes are over it, and I look out over the estate. There’s no wind, a clear sky. The moon is huge. “Don’t you think everything looks different from up here?” I say.

But when I turn around he’s already climbing back in.

I sit down and dangle my feet over the edge. I can hear him whispering my name from inside, but I just close my eyes and hold my breath.

I know I won’t breathe again until he’s gone.


Flash Fiction by Jason Jackson
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Space Shuttle

He’s reading his paper and you’re watching the documentary. Soon he’ll sigh, put the paper down, go upstairs, and you’ll stay here, watch the end, then something else. The Greeks, or something about the war.

On the screen, they’ve reached the point where they invite a civilian to fly into space. There’s a competition. A teacher wins. A woman. Overnight, her face is on every billboard in America.

He looks up for a second, not at you but at the screen, and you say, “You remember this?”

“Nope.”

“It’s horrible. Watch.”

“Why you watching if you know what happens?”

“Just watch.”

The smiling faces of the crowd at the shuttle launch. Flags waving. A band.

He says, “Oh, it crashes, doesn’t it?”

“It crashes, yes. They all die.”

“Stupid bastards.” He goes back to the paper.

The camera focuses on the schoolteacher’s family. Her husband and their kids. They’re smiling. Waving flags.

“Look,” you say.

But he doesn’t, so you sit there alone and watch as the engines fire, and the huge, impossible flames force the metal shell and the people inside off the ground. The shuttle catches the winter sun, glistens, twists, and continues its climb.

“After seventy-four seconds . . . ” says the voiceover, and you watch as the flames suddenly flare, and then the shuttle is just gone. There are some firework trails in the sky. Some black spots of debris fall back towards the ground.

He’s not watching as the camera cuts to the faces of the family of the schoolteacher. The father is holding one of their children, a young girl.

She’s still waving her flag.


Flash Fiction by Jason Jackson
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Stone

Ours was never a beautiful town. The same streets, the same shops, the same pubs as anywhere. The same people too. Strong, saddened folk. Not given to optimism. Stoics, drinkers. Violent, given half a chance. There are good people everywhere, and those who are not so good, and one town is not so different to another. But I have lived in many places, stood on many beaches, and the sands which lie at the edge of our town, the waves which wash against them, and the stunted cliffs above them, are like no others for a man like me.

When I was younger, I’d walk along the beach at night, imagine myself romantic, feel myself windswept, see myself from above, the hero in the final shot of a film.

But like all heroes, I had to leave, and the night before my leaving I picked a stone from the beach. It sat well in a closed fist, and had only the significance I imposed upon it by seeing it, selecting it, washing it in the waves and slowly kissing it with salted lips.

In the morning, I had it with me as I left, and this is not a story about anything other than that leave-taking, and my return.

Some will tell you that fifty years is a long time in the life of a town, and it’s true: things change. That first day back I found myself lost amongst streets once familiar, and I looked upon strangers in a town I had always, in my heart, called home.

I was soon at the beach, the water’s edge, soon taking that old stone from my pocket, shaping to throw.

But no.

This is how it ends: as the tide pulled in, I crouched at the edge of the waves, and I placed the stone amongst others at my feet. I closed my eyes, thought of the places I’d been, and when I opened them again I couldn’t tell if the waves had taken my stone or if it sat there still with its brothers, relieved of the burden of significance a fool had placed upon it half a century ago.


Flash Fiction by Jason Jackson
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