Here we are, the last day of February and our last post for flash fiction february 2013. Thanks so much to Jennifer Holland, our last contributor, for her piece on breechblock. Thanks go also to the rest of our writers who joined us in writing flash fiction this month: Jennifer Rice Epstein, Michael Sheehan, Mary Woo, and Katherine Hunt! Stay tuned for more bibliomancy and more writing and more flash fiction in 2014.
breech·block (ˈbrēch-ˌbläk), n. the steel part of a breech-loading gun which when open permits loading and when closed receives the force of the combustion of the charge.
It started out as a game, where I would hide parts of my father’s rifle around the house on the nights he got drunk. The rifle was this old 1875 Martini Henry he shot off when the woodpeckers came around the roof. Most of the parts I stole were small: a split pin here, a muzzle cover there. Whatever I could manage to disassemble while he listened to his radio in the garage or argued with my mother in another room. My father was never what you would call mild-mannered, except for when he had a hangover and it was just easier to play along, lifting up sofa cushions and shaking out books while I said “Hot” or “Cold.”
By the time I reached middle school, the drinking got to a point where he didn’t get hangovers anymore. He and my mom were pretty much separated by then, though my mom still wore her wedding ring and slept on one side of the bed. My father showed up at the house occasionally, like a failed actor reprising the role that made him a star. I missed him while he was gone, but hated him when he came back. Once, he stayed away for almost two months, and I took the whole rifle apart, distributing the parts in all the places I was sure he would never think to look. I knew if I told him what I’d done he would get angry, so the next time I saw him, I had my answer all prepared. “You took it with you last time you left.” He looked at me for a very long time, searching his mind for this memory that did not exist. Finally, he just turned to the window to gaze upon my mom, who was whistling to herself as she pulled socks and hand towels from the clothesline. That was one of the last times I heard her whistle, before he stopped showing up for good.
Years later, my mom came across an old rifle part inside a board game that smelled of decomposing cardboard. The house was up for sale and we were packing up her things. “Look,” she said, holding it up. There were many things she was already starting to forget, I didn’t think it would mean much when I said it was a breechblock. “I know,” she laughed, and I caught a sudden glimpse of little silver fillings in her teeth, glinting like buried treasure from some half-remembered world.