Flash Fiction in SAND 24

Lucy Zhang

What It Takes to Shatter Wood

She smashes her brother’s violin case into the drywall supporting the stairs because that wall is the cleanest, plainest of all walls, the perfect canvas for a most conspicuous dent. The violin case emerges unscathed. Only the wall and the big, black dent stand out—something her dad will surely yell about and her mom will speak to her about in low, serious, you-burned-a-bridge tones, and they will send her outside to cool off in the streets where she has learned to keep walking around the block and through the trails across the CVS parking lot to where the new neighborhood construction is, miles and miles of pavement and geese poop away, leaving her calf muscles a bit strained but nothing she can’t handle to stay warm. She will find the door unlocked by the time she returns and slip in like dust, scavenging at the table of leftovers from which her brother has already eaten all the good pieces of soy-braised beef and her mom has already finished all the A-choy fried with garlic and her dad has already inhaled the soft face meat from the fish head and she’s left with a palmful of rice and boiled eggs and overripe snow peas that are too stringy to swallow. She smashes the violin case because her brother’s playing sounds atrocious, like screeching owls who’ve just killed a mammal, which would’ve been tolerable if he practiced consistently so she knew when to evacuate the house, but instead he practices rarely and randomly and forgets the instrument the rest of the time even though the teacher can tell when a violin isn’t used, the wood not fully settled, the varnish structure still unstable, the wood and strings stagnated from neglect. You won’t get anywhere like that, she’d like to tell him but holds it in because she’d rather not listen to him play more often than necessary. Her parents pay fifty dollars an hour for his lessons and tell her to earn money from working at the downtown Good Taste Chinese restaurant for under-the-table cash since she’s too young for a real salary, and it’s just enough money to cover her school’s annual one-hundred-dollar activity fee so she can continue piecing together Lego Mindstorm robots. They can’t force her to pay for fixing the dent, she figures. She’s not old enough to drive to Home Depot and lug home a bucket of spackle. At best, dad will have her stand facing the wall, blocking the dent from sight while the rest of them eat dinner and discuss her brother’s plans to join the debate club, a month-long interest that has convinced mom he’ll “move to high places” with this level of ambition—even though, years from now, she will be halfway around the world preparing for her company to IPO in Hong Kong and her brother will be living at home stealing from her parents’ retirement savings for weed and she’ll mail them monthly paychecks while asking for very little in return—just that they ship the violin to her so she can drop it from the second floor, see if anyone hears it shatter.

Lucy Zhang writes, codes, and watches anime. Her work has appeared in Wigleaf, Apple Valley Review, AAWW, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbooks Hollowed (Thirty West Publishing, 2022) and Absorption (Harbor Review, 2022). Find her at kowaretasekai.wordpress.com or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen. This piece appears in SAND 24.