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2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 7

Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today's prompt is to write about a discovery.

We’re a week into the challenge. Woo! Let’s keep it going!

Flash Fiction Challenge

Today’s prompt is to write about a discovery.

Remember: These prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.

(Note: If you happen to run into any issues posting, please just send me an e-mail at mrichard@aimmedia.com with the subject line: Flash Fiction Challenge Commenting Issue.)

Here’s my attempt at creating discovery:

Family

“Dad! Dad, I found a monster!”

Bill swiveled in his chair. The joints creaked ominously but held fast. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah!” Kevin’s mouth stretched wide, tongue poking through the hole where his canine tooth used to be. “Come see!”

Bill groaned and levered himself out of the chair. The sand was hot beneath his feet. Zoe met his eyes over her cell phone. Between them, half-buried in the sand like a forgotten Cheeto, was her boyfriend. He let out a stuttered snore.

Kevin grabbed Bill’s hand, grating sand into his palm. They made their way to the grassy dunes. As they mounted the first crest, Bill spotted his son’s prize.

“That’s a horseshoe crab.” He squatted next to it. His right knee protested.

“A crab?” Kevin reached out and poked its shell. “But it’s got a stinger.”

“It’s not a barb, it’s a rutter. It helps him steer in the water and flips him back over if it gets stuck on its back. It’s harmless.”

“Oh.” Kevin’s expression deflated.

“Oh, but, uh, it’s also really old,” Bill blurted. “I think the species is, like, 200 million years old. They haven’t changed too much in all that time.”

“Like a dinosaur!”

Bill nodded, shoulders relaxing. “Yeah, exactly.”

“Cool!”

The crab dragged itself through the sand. The front of its shell lifted before it inched away from them, the shell collapsing back down to the sand. After another moment, the shell would lift again. It was horribly boring, but Kevin crawled after it, eyes glued to the ridged dome.

“Do the mothers raise the babies or do they leave them behind?”

Bill stopped breathing. A seagull screamed above them.

“Dad?”

“Uh, I think they lay eggs in the sand and go back to the ocean,” Bill said.

Kevin nodded solemnly. “Like turtles.”

“Yeah, bud. Hey, why don’t we go back and put more sunscreen on your back quick.”

Kevin groaned but allowed his father to take his shoulders and steer him away.

Zoe was hissing something at Marcus when they got back to the chairs, but her mouth pinched tight when Kevin flopped down on his towel. Bill offered her a smile, but she looked away with a huff. He sat back in his chair and closed his eyes.

“I’m feeling ice cream,” Marcus announced.

“Yeah! Creamery!” Kevin howled.

“Me and Kev could go get some cones and bring them back here?” Marcus offered, voice as smooth as an actor on opening night.

Bill nodded at the beach bag where the water-proof wallet was spirited away and tossed Kevin his shirt. “Nothing for me, thanks.”

Marcus touched Zoe’s hair before he scooped Kevin up under his ribs and carted him, squealing and squirming, toward the ice cream cart. Bill twisted to watch them until they were over the hill and out of sight. Then he turned back to face the sea.

“Aunt Maria called,” Zoe said.

Bill ached for a cigarette in a way he hadn’t since his mid-twenties. He stretched his leg out in front of him, wincing as his knee cracked. He clenched his jaw before relaxing it again. “I wanted to give your mother a chance to tell you herself.”

“She couldn’t even invite us? I mean, it’s summer vacation. It’s not like you would have forced us to stay home.”

“I know,” he said.

“We didn’t even get to meet him or his kids. And now they’re supposed to be my step-family?”

“I know,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

Zoe’s face was disgusted and yearning. She had her mother’s electric blue eyes, but Bill’s round chin, his stubby nose. She’d been an awkward pre-teen, but her face had softened somehow. He could see the echo of her babyhood there, as well as the shadow of a woman in the making.

“I don’t want you to apologize for her,” Zoe said.

“I’m not apologizing for her. I’m apologizing because I know what she’s doing to you.”

Zoe looked away. The ocean beat its fists against the sand.

“Let’s hold off on telling Kevin until we’re at home. I want him to enjoy it here.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Down the beach, a baby let out a miserable wail, startling a seagull into fleeing the scene. Bill watched as the baby’s mother plucked her off the towel and kissed her chubby cheeks, knocking the baby’s sun hat off kilter in the process.

“When you were that age, you cried all the time. Drove us nuts. I used to lay you down across my forearm and walk around our apartment, just walk for hours and hours.” Bill grinned pantomiming her infancy, curling his shoulders in and cuddling his arm against his chest. “And you’d just keep screaming and screaming until you ran out of air or passed out from exhaustion. And then I’d just keep walking, too afraid to wake you up and make you miserable again.”

Zoe looked at the stranger’s baby and then back at him. “Dad.”

“They had horseshoe crab ice cream!”

Kevin tore into their space, kicking up sand and causing his sister to screech. As Kevin babbled about the ice cream scooper and got melted dairy all over his towel, Marcus ducked under the umbrella.

“It doesn’t actually have crab in it,” Marcus said. He held out a cone to Zoe.

“I figured it was a gimmick.”

Bill watched as Marcus flopped down next to Zoe. She held Bill’s gaze for another moment before turning away.

“Did you know that horseshoe crabs have blue blood?” Kevin said. “Dad, we should go find it and take it home!”

“Ew, no!” Zoe said. “You can’t just take some wild animal off the beach, Kevin!”

“Relax. Maybe later we can go look at the hermit crabs in town,” Bill said.

“Cool!”

Marcus laughed and took a large bite out of the side of his ice cream. A seagull landed close to them, an interested gleam in its eye. Bill laid his chair back and pulled his hat over his face as he listened to his son talk and talk and talk.

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