by Rebekah Postupak
It showed up on my porch at the most inopportune time, weeping and mewing pathetically.
My sister and I stood staring at it for a while, me, silently, and my sister with the perpetually distracting toothpick in her mouth, gnaw, gnaw, gnaw.
“You gonna take it in?” she said, gnaw, gnaw.
“I don’t know.” I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it, nor my ears from her chawing.
“Can’t just leave it there.”
She twirled the toothpick with her tongue, flipping it so she could start at the other side. This particular toothpick was from earlier this afternoon, I think. Her record for a single toothpick was eight hours, but that left her tongue with such splinters, she made it a personal rule to change them out every seven hours whether they needed replacing or not.
I hadn’t minded it so much when she used to soak the toothpicks in flavored oils. The cinnamon one smelled quite nice, in point of fact, and had I any interest, or teeth for that matter, I might have contemplated trying one out myself. Some of the others weren’t so pleasant. Lemon reminded me too much of furniture polish, or at least what I remembered furniture polish smelling like, back when we cleaned things. Chocolate was just silly; if you’re going to eat chocolate, then for heaven’s sake, eat chocolate. Don’t soak little bits of wood in it and pretend there’s any real sort of pleasure possible from that. But when our bank account ran empty, so did the oils. Now it was nothing but plain old wood, whittled into picks by an obliging neighbor.
“So, what then? It’s coming on night and the teapot’s not gonna boil itself,” my sister said, chew chew chew, flip, chew chew chew.
I didn’t answer, instead turning my eyes to the sky where a faint orange contrail from a sky dragon was exploding into tiny blossoms. This used to be my favorite time of day. Sometimes two or three sky dragons would cross at once, and their contrails would spiral like a whirlpool, so beautiful, so graceful. That had been nice.
Chew, gnaw, chaw, flip.
“You even know what you’re making for supper?” she asked, chawgnaw.
I looked again down at the porch, back at my sister, chaw chaw, back at the porch. The little dragon looked up at me hopefully, the growl in its stomach like the comforting rumbles of an approaching thunderstorm.
Back at my sister, chew chew gnaw, with the toothpick in her mouth.
Hey, no, wait.
Not lousy timing.
431 words. Written for the weekly flash fiction contest #FinishThatThought, with the required opening sentence and incorporating optional judge’s elements of a teapot, contrail, and spiral.