Last week, the write-in prompt was called “Sleight of Hand.” I won’t be writing for this week’s prompt, so I thought I’d split the scene in two for today and next Tuesday, since you need the whole thing to see the sleight of hand. I actually found the prompt difficult because I’m great at sleight of hand for long fiction, but to do it in something that was about 1K was a lot tougher. The point isn’t really to be tricky, more about the author saying, “Look over there,” and doing something else while you’re looking. I don’t know if this was sleight of hand-y enough, but I enjoyed writing the piece.
Apollo is a character from Hero/Villain, but this would be set long before H/V takes place.
I’m used to the sound of explosions and the feeling of implosion.
When your dad has aspirations of becoming a superscientist, there’s a lot of trial and error, and the errors sometimes mean things get blown up.
When your mom spends your whole life telling you what’s wrong with you, you live your life around the void in your gut that keeps gnawing at your insides.
“Keep up, Apollo,” she says as she barrels through Dad’s cheap, rented workshop. I had paused to admire the sheer size of Dad’s latest experiment and to feel the electricity humming through the metal strut I touch in awe. When Mom speaks, I dutifully follow. But it wouldn’t be Mom, if that was the end of her complaints. “Watch your posture. And try to smile sometimes.”
The demands have the opposite effect on me. I hunch over more as that pit in my stomach grows, and smiling is the last thing I could do. I don’t know how she manages to fake smiles, to act like she’s happy when she isn’t. I try to ignore the feeling, to ignore her, and play with the screw I’ve picked up somewhere, tracing the threads with my jagged, bitten thumbnail.
She lets out a sound that’s between a sigh and a grunt and grabs my other hand, pulling me past my dad’s sole employee, Brendan. I like Brendan and his nerdy t-shirts–though I don’t know what his current one, “The Cake is a Lie” means–but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know I exist. He’s tightening some connections on the machine, which takes up a third of the room. I want to ask him what it is–Dad would never tell me–but Mom’s got a laser focus on Dad’s office in the back. He has a window into the workshop, but the blinds are drawn on it so he can’t see us coming.
Mom doesn’t even bother knocking before bursting in. “Kyle.” She shoves me into a chair under the window and leans across Dad’s desk so he has no choice but to look up at her.
“Diana, what are you doing here?”
“Delivering your son, who you were supposed to pick up from school today. The office called me to pick him up. I was in a meeting with an important director, and I had to leave because nobody could find you. You know what this could mean for me.”
Mom thinks she’s always on the verge of making it as an actress, but she’s only ever been in local stage plays, even though she’s always “meeting someone who can make her a star.”
“I’m sorry, I was busy. I forgot.”
“Yes, I can see how busy you are here”–she points to the papers he had been reading on his desk–“while that boy does all the work outside.”
I peek through the blinds to watch Brendan. If they’re going to talk about me like I’m not here, I’d rather be out in the workshop, where the interesting stuff is happening. Brendan’s stopped working on the machine itself. Now he’s on the laptop nearby, so it’s a lot less exciting out there too. I roll the screw between my fingers and listen to the stupid conversation continue.
“I have to do more than build the thing, Diana. I had a meeting with the head of the superheroes’ League. Do you know what that could mean for me? We’re always talking about your chance to make it, but this is real solid work, and that meeting could be the difference between me working in this rundown place for the rest of my life or getting a contract that could be worth millions and fund future experiments.”
“Please, you’d have to get one of those things to work first!”
I let the blind fling back into place and glance up at the two of them. They’re both red in the face. They’ve forgotten me, which is as bad as them arguing about me. Who wants to pick up Apollo? Nobody.
I slump down in the chair. I hadn’t even noticed how tight my fist was around the screw, but I release it and find an X imprinted on my palm.
“Every piece of superscience tech ever created had to go through several incarnations before it worked. They’re called ‘experimental’ for a reason.”
I wish I could go through a new incarnation. The Apollo experiment has failed.
Hope you enjoyed.
Lots of love,