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"Sadness stirs among the family, a sense that their collective fate rests in the balance of tonight’s tragedy."
I am experimenting with a new segment on Sports Politika dedicated to flash and short fiction. I’ve always wanted to find a way to merge my creative writing with my journalistic interests without compromising either, and I believe this dedicated section on the site—which will be updated on a semi-regular basis—allows me to do just that.
This particular story was written in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As always, if you enjoy what you read, please leave a comment and let me know what you think. I value all your constructive feedback more than you know.
The family is seated in the dining room, filling up on bread, wine, and an atmosphere of tension. There is silence—the sort of silence imposed by sudden tragedy. It is a state of emotional distress that many in the room have lived through before, one that accompanies the words “there’s been another attack.”
There are questions— “where did it happen?” ‘who’s responsible?” and “how many dead?”—but no answers. The daughter runs into the living room to turn on the news. The rest wait behind, preferring to keep their distance. They hear the daughter’s voice, “12 dead. At least 15 more injured,” she says.
“What about the shooter?” the father asks.
“Who was he?”
“Police haven’t revealed his identity yet.”
Sadness stirs among the family, a sense that their collective fate rests in the balance of tonight’s tragedy. They shift in their seats, anxious with anticipation, weighed down by a guilt that is not their own. They hope for the best but know better than to expect it.
The father takes another swig of wine and begins pacing around the dining room. He stops long enough to refill his glass before repeating the cycle again.
“Relax, Baba. It’s not going to be one of our people this time,” the son says, looking up from his phone for the first time that evening.
“You can’t be certain.”
“If it was, they would have announced it before the shooter’s body was cold.”
They consider the boy’s words. They know he is right but stay silent. Certain truths are better left unsaid.
“Do we know who was targeted? That may answer our question about the shooter,” says the mother, speaking for the first time since the news.
“It happened in the mall,” the son responds, now back to scrolling through news updates on his phone. “I guess the victims were all sorts just doing their Christmas shopping.”
“A Christmas shooting feels very our people, doesn’t it?” says the father, his face red with drink.
The family does not respond. A Christmas shooting does seem very insidious, they think—the sort of thing that will prove a point.
Several minutes go by before the father speaks up again, “Mark my words, that group will claim the attack in a matter of hours.”
“What makes you say that?” the mother asks.
“That’s their way: blow up locals so they blame the immigrants.”
“Not seeing any posts from them online—they usually claim attacks straight away,” the son interjects. “Honestly, Baba, you need to calm down.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down when they’re about to blame us for something we didn’t do”
“Who is going to blame you, Baba?”
“You know what I mean. They will use this as an excuse against our people. Mark my words.”
At that moment, the daughter reappears in the living room, “The shooter is a local man—Tyler something or other,” she says.
Something resembling a smile appears on the father’s face. ‘So, it isn’t one of our people?’ he asks.
“Not this time, Baba.”
“God is merciful.”
There is releif in the dining room now. The father pours himself another drink and sits back down in front of his dinner. The rest follow suit, their hunger restored.
They eat in silence. Their thoughts turn to the dead and their relatives who will have little to celebrate this holiday season. Finally, the father puts down his fork and knife and pushes away the glass of wine. He raises his hands and mutters a prayer for the fallen. Then, wiping a wandering tear from his cheek, he says in a voice barely audible, “What a tragedy. What a tragedy.”
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