Teacher tells us in the event of a nuclear attack, we have to fight our natural urge to run to windows and watch. We’re like that, curious. That’s why we practice duck and cover, duck and cover, duck and cover. We don’t know, ever, if it’s real or fake, so I guess even the real time will feel fake, and I’m sure there’ll be a real time because my family watches TV from supper to bed, me and Mom on the couch, Dad in his recliner, all of us with our little metal trays of meatloaf or hot dish, and all that news of the bad guys launching hunks of metal into space.
Mom makes supper every night but hardly eats a bite. I’m not allowed to waste food because of poor starving children somewhere, but Mom slides so much of her meal into the garbage then goes to the bathroom for what seems like forever. I guess that bathroom’s maybe like her fallout shelter. I know that because she told me she goes in there to think, to get some peace and quiet. But I know the TV’s loud enough you can hear it in the bathroom. You can hear it everywhere. I hear it as I fall asleep.
We’ve got a little fallout shelter. Dad insisted. Mom said she wouldn’t want to live in a world of nuclear winter. Dad said we live in northern Minnesota—how much worse could winter get?
He’s always got some question like that, every time Mom says something silly. I’m learning from him, what to say when girls are silly. I guess I believe Teacher when she says we’d watch the nuclear blast because I can’t help watching from the top of the stairs when Dad slaps Mom.
Mom and Dad and Teacher and the news all say we’re the good guys. But I wonder how good we can be if we need a fallout shelter in the backyard and another in the bathroom just for Mom, if so much food goes to waste as Mom’s stomach rumbles on the couch. I wonder if we’re the good guys, but the adults say we are, and the other boys are sure, so I believe them.
Kate Finegan recently published the chapbook The Size of Texas with Penrose Press. Her work has won contests with Thresholds, Phoebe Journal, Midwestern Gothic, and The Fiddlehead, and been runner-up for The Puritan's Thomas Morton Memorial Prize, shortlisted for the Cambridge Short Story Prize and Synaesthesia Flash Fiction Prize, and longlisted by Room. She is Assistant Fiction Editor at Longleaf Review. You can find her at katefinegan.ink and twitter.com/@kehfinegan.