by Robert Helfst
Five years ago, your mother burst into a cloud of fireflies and disappeared into the night. Ever since, you’ve tracked the bugs in the backyard, searching for signs of her.
You capture them, trying your best to cause no harm. Each smashed abdomen crushes you, even as you admire their strobing photocytes.
Your father’s too busy with his drinks and sorrow to worry about the 13-year-old chasing fireflies.
If you can’t bring her back, maybe you should follow. Each summer night, you pray for transformation, seeking out her essence in the growing glow of the night sky.
The old man is considering how it would feel to walk into the ocean and not turn back. His trousers are heavy with seawater.
He longs for his wife—her smile, laugh, how she’d warmed their home. Now, his house stands quiet and he is cold.
He spies her favorite kind of seashell, a pinking queen conch. He remembers their dates: shelling, laughter. He thinks it would fit between her photo and urn.
He pauses, considers the waves that would bring him back to her. He wonders whether to take the shell home or with him into the tide.
Robert Helfst earned his MFA in fiction writing from Butler University in 2017. His work has appeared in BULL: Men’s Fiction, Necessary Fiction, Booth, Pulp Modern, and elsewhere. Robert lives in Indianapolis with his wife, son and daughter, three dogs, and three cats. You can find him at www.roberthelfst.com and on Twitter @roberthelfst.