Fragility by Sara Dobbie

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1. Now
It’s noon on Sunday. You stand on your front porch, frozen, staring in disbelief at the schoolyard across the street from your house. The entire mangled front end of a car is in the air, its underbelly propped against the chain link fence of the playground. The fence is shrinking, crushed beneath the weight of the smoking vehicle like a piece of cardboard. Tire marks have burned through the wide lawn leaving swerving singe marks. Two young men are running down the street towards the river, neighbors shout obscenities after them, protective dogs bark while giving chase. You run down your front steps, head pounding, heart bursting. A woman from down the street whom you recognize, but whose name you do not know tells you it’s all right, no one was hurt. The police are coming. In the meantime, enraged bystanders are trying to catch the reckless bastards who did this. Your children emerge from inside the house, rush to cling to your legs, your waist. An elderly woman stands shaking her head on the sidewalk, “Someone could’ve been killed,” she says, and your children look up at you, wide eyed, for reassurance. You are shaking, vibrating with the realization that their lives are tethered to you only by threads of invisible gossamer.

2. Five Minutes Ago
You opened the fridge and reached inside to grab the container of carrot sticks, and also the strawberry jam. You wondered if there was another loaf of bread in the freezer. The strains of upbeat pop music and high pitched animated voices carried from the living room where your kids turned on the television set, even though you just told them to wash their hands for lunch. Annoyed, you marched towards them, jam jar in hand. You told them to turn it off, that they needed to listen. All three of them were dancing, wiggling and waving, and your temper softened, slid away in the face of their sheer innocence. You raised a stern eyebrow in an attempt to assert yourself, but then all of you turned at the same moment towards the front door in response to an impossibly loud noise, like a race car but faster and louder, much closer than it should have been. Then an explosion of sound, a smash or a crash like nothing you’ve ever heard, then shouting.

3. And Five Minutes Before That
You were picking weeds in your front garden while two of your kids played hopscotch on the driveway and the oldest one skipped rope on the sidewalk. You felt tired, and would’ve liked nothing more than to run a bath, to lay down in the water for a while. You thought about putting a movie on for them so you could at least shower. You heard the shrill cries of a baby from the schoolyard across the road, where a young mother rocked a stroller back and forth as her toddler aged son climbed up the ladder of the slide. “Mom,” your daughter asked, “Can we go play at the school?” Guilt washed over you because you didn’t feel like taking them, and for a moment you hesitated, wavering in your resolve as she clasped her hands and pleaded, begged you. “No, sweetheart, we need to go inside and wash up so we can eat lunch.” The cries from the baby at the schoolyard were joined by the whining of the toddler, whose mother must have told him the same thing. She took his hand to lead him home while pushing the stroller past your yard. She smiled at you, a silent apology for the fury of sound her children were emitting. You smiled back in solidarity, like you both belonged to some secret sorority of motherhood.


Sara Dobbie is a fiction writer from Southern Ontario, Canada. Her work has appeared in Re-Side, The Spadina Literary Review, and is forthcoming from Ellipsis Zine and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie.

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