Nostradamus sits in darkness, rocking his chair by the front door as his errant daughter Madeleine sneaks in. She startles when he flips on the lights.
He holds a bronze plaque that says “2:46 a.m.,” which is of course the actual time.
“It’s getting old,” Maddy says. She smells like cigarettes.
Her Dad quit opening mail in early middle age. Maddy holds up envelopes and Nostradamus guesses the contents.
Junior year of high school she says, “Guess what, Dad? I’m—“
“—pregnant,” he finishes. “A girl. Seven pounds, nine ounces, one blue eye and one brown. A linguist who also collects butterflies. Have her watch for signs of diabetes.”
Maddy says, “Damn. Damn. Damn.”
Nostradamus is already over it, eating a sandwich above the kitchen sink.
Madeleine hears one day that the country’s declared war. She rushes to her father with the news. The kitchen table is covered in scribbled parchment.
“The complete history of the war!” he tells her, “Such supreme folly, this one.”
She couldn’t tell him anything.
All the other Dads were early European versions of bumbling sitcom Dads, morons of obliviousness, objects of both pity and chiding ridicule.
Sure, it’s nice to know the order that the ponies will finish at the track. Cool to know which year the Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl. But a girl could use a father, one who makes a few bad calls, one who isn’t holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments while she’s learning sin.
Todd Mercer won the first Woodstock Writers Festival’s Flash Fiction contest, and his chapbook, Box of Echoes, won the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press contest. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, is forthcoming from RHP Books. Mercer's poetry and fiction appear in Apocrypha & Abstractions, Blue Collar Review, The Camel Saloon, Camroc Press Review, Cease, Cows, Dunes Review, East Coast Literary Review, Eunoia Review, Falling Star, 50-Word Stories, The Fib Review, The Lake, The Legendary, Main Street Rag Anthologies, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, One Sentence Poems, Postcard Poems and Prose, Postcard Shorts, Right Hand Pointing, The Second Hump, and Spartan.