Fiction · 03/04/2020

As On Earth

I get home and check my answering machine. My daughter always says, Dad, why do you have that thing? You’re the last one in kingdom come.

On it, there’s the sound of trumpets. It sounds like 10,000 of them, blaring away, and they play the sweetest melody. It might be one hundred horns or seven. I’m not the one to know, the one to know music.

I sit on my couch, put my feet up. It’s as if they are a thousand feet away. I feel as if the kingdom is come. My heart, it’s an instrument, for just an hour.

Later, I call my daughter. Dear, I say, I had a message. It’s the first in ten years.

Was it Mom? she asks.

Honey, I say. My daughter never got over it.

She sighs. I know, it’s silly. She isn’t coming back.

It was 10,000 trumpets, I say. Though the number may be wrong. I’m not the one to know.

It’s a recording? my daughter asks.

I believe it’s live. Alive? But yes, a recording, on my answering machine. If that’s what you mean.

There is the sound of wind from my daughter’s end. She lives on the sea and, I suppose, her door is open wide.

Maybe you can call back, she says. Do phones still do that? Star six-nine?

Not sure, I answer. It was the sweetest melody.

Huh, she says. Did you recognize it?

I’m not the one to know, I say. But in a way, it reminded me of you. How you used to shout as the sun went down, as the dark rolled in. Your voice, it was just like a horn.

She laughs. I was so weird, she says, as a kid. Me and Mom.

There is silence on the phone, except for the wind. You haven’t left me a message, I say, not in ten years. You hang up before you can.

I can’t, Dad. You haven’t changed the message since kingdom come. I can’t listen to her voice.

I’m sorry, I say.

It’s okay, Dad. There is silence on the phone.

Do you want to hear it? Not the message. I mean, not hers. The trumpets, I mean.

Not now, she says. I have to go. I have to walk on the beach.

The beach? I say. With whom?

There’s quiet on the phone. I know she doesn’t want me to know. The wind has died down.

You don’t know her, she says, her voice very low.

You can tell me later, I say.

I get off the phone and listen to the message, the horns, the 10,000 trumpets. My daughter is the one to know. Her girl, she’s in a band, that’s what I think I know. Her girl that walks on the beach.

My feet are so far away, at the end of the couch, a thousand miles away. They are there with my girl, her girl, in the sand. The trumpets sound. My heart is an instrument and, for just an hour, kingdom come.

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Joseph Young lives, writes, and makes art in Baltimore. His stories have appeared in many magazines and in the collections Always Never Speaking: 50 Flash Fictions, with Commentaries by the Author (RowHouse Press, 2019) and Easter Rabbit (Publishing Genius Press, 2009). Please visit his website for information on these books and on his many other writing and art projects: josephyoung.net.