My family has the luck of a penniless black cat at a high-stakes casino.
When I was twelve, my mother, my father, and my older brother Jeffrey took a vacation to Hawaii. Jeffrey went surfing in the deep, blue ocean while I stayed ashore and observed jittery sand crabs as they popped in and out of the warm sand. I’ll never get the screams out of my head that I heard before I gazed out and saw the top of Jeffrey’s head and flailing arms sink into the water and never come back. When the paramedics recovered his body, his legs were painted with jellyfish stings.
After my brother was gone, my dog Sylvia became my only friend. She slept soundly by my feet every single night, licked my face in the morning, and longingly waited by the front door each day for me to come home from my soul-crushing days of high school. One day, when I was walking her around the neighborhood, she chased a squirrel into a colorful flower bed and ate a chunk from a Lily of the Valley. She never did come back from that, and I still haven’t decided where to put her ashes.
I truly admired the sun for a good portion of my existence. The sun makes the days brighter. The sun brings colors to life. The sun helps vegetables and fruits grow into their most nourishing forms. The sun also took my mother away. I still can’t comprehend how one tiny, unassuming mole could completely rob someone of their smile.
My father had a midlife crisis before he hit midlife, and I didn’t blame him. I just wish his parachute would’ve worked properly when he went skydiving over the Poconos Mountains. People at his funeral would say “At least he died doing something he loved,” and I would think to myself, that makes it even worse.
As for me, these days, I attempt to surround myself with the ugly things instead of the beautiful things. I just always worry that I’ll never be able to figure out the difference between them.
Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories appear in Reed Magazine, The Coachella Review, Maudlin House, Still Point Arts Quarterly, B O D Y, Ruminate, Wilderness House Literary Review, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, and more. His debut chapbook Tiny Universes (Selcouth Station Press, 2021) is available in paperback and ebook. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota.