Returning to our regularly scheduled writer-ness, here is my contribution for this week’s Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge, called “Must Love Time Travel.” I’m starting to really dig these 1,000 word sprints for their sheer fun. So here’s my attempt for this week, called “The Barley Hill.”
The Barley Hill by Shoshana Kessock
Jake and Amanda sat at the top of Barley Hill at the very end of Noosum Street.
“It’s too big,” Jake whined. He didn’t like the way he sounded, like such a scaredy baby. He put down the handle of his red wagon and eyed Amanda from under unruly hair. “You do it.”
“Nuh uh.” Amanda was half a year older than Jake, and somewhere had grown an extra two inches on him since the beginning of the school year. She crossed her arms over her chest in a mighty impression of their teacher, Mrs. Tandy, and sniffed. “Mom always said gentlemen go first.”
“I’m no gentle man!” Jake pointed out. “I’m eight. And that hill is too big!”
He looked down over the edge of Barley Hill. Noosum Street was a one way street that ran from the railroad tracks on the far end of town through the nicer houses of Barley Hill Developments and all the way to the highway. In the morning it was the road that took all the parents away from Noosum Street and out to the city to work and at five o’clock it brought them all back. Beyond it lay a field of wheat as far as the eye could see.
Every day when the parents headed to the highway, they had to crest Barley Hill. Most of Jake’s hometown was flat as a pancake, but Barley Hill sat in the middle of everything like the biggest anthill all covered in little white houses. It stood out for miles; Jake often stared at it from his seat in his classroom across town. Most kids didn’t bother climbing the hill unless it was the Fourth of July or New Years, when they wanted the best view of the fireworks. But Amanda lived at the top of Barley Hill, the last house before the plunge down the far side, and so Jake walked the hill all the time. Amanda, after all, was his best friend. Even if she was a girl.
They sat under a wild tree across the street from her house. Jake could still feel the sweat down his back from the long walk up. They had Capris Sun pouches and apples and granola bars. Jake had dragged his wagon all the way up the hill to show to Amanda. He had told her about racing it against the Murphy boys over on Harrow Drive and her eyes had lit up. Jake had dragged the wagon all the way up the hill just to see her eyes sparkle like that again. Now he wasn’t so sure it was a good idea.
“I will get killed,” he said matter-of-factly. “My dad’s car has fights with this hill.”
“Your dad’s car wins,” Amanda retorted.
“My dad’s car can stop!” Jake picked up the juice pouch for a drink. “No way.”
Amanda leaned in closer and her blue eyes were sparkling again. “If you go fast enough,” she said, “you can go back in time.”
Jake stopped with the juice pouch halfway to his mouth. His mouth went dry and his eyes burned.
“No way.” He shook his head. “You cannot.”
Amanda smiled a funny little smile. It reminded Jake of cats and the little animals they chased. “Can too.”
She leaned closer and Jake suddenly thought she looked cat-like too, and a little mean, and maybe a little crazy. Jake had a limited understanding at seven of crazy, he knew, but his dad talked a lot about crazy women. His dad complained about them a lot when he came back from nights when Mrs. Lipnicky would babysit. They’d watch Avatar: The Last Airbender or Thundercats and when his dad came home, he’d mutter about crazy women and promise Jake that he’d feel the same way when he got older. Now Jake wondered if he’d need to wait that long.
“Can-not,” Jake retorted. “How can you go back in time?”
Amanda sat back against the tree. “If you go fast enough,” she replied in an oh-so-knowing voice, “you’ll go back in time. It’s like in that movie once, that old one with the car. Go fast enough and you can do it.” She pointed to the wagon. “You don’t need a car, though. You have that.”
Jake knew which movie she meant. “Not everything you see in movies is true, Amanda.”
“Some things are!” She pointed to the wagon. She sounded so sure of herself. “This is. Don’t you want to time travel?”
Jake did. He wanted to time travel very much. He eyed the red wagon and the letters painted on the side that lovingly spelled his name, then looked down the hill again. He thought about how sure Amanda sounded and his dad’s muttering. His dad muttered a lot these days, about crazy women and about something called the mortgage and how the shocks on the car couldn’t take the trip down Barley Hill. He muttered instead of talking to Jake most of the time. The muttering had started after the Fourth of July last year, after the highway accident. Jake knew where the accident had happened. If he went to the bottom of the hill and turned right, he could walk to where they’d found his mom’s car, all crumpled around a telephone pole beside the waves of gold wheat.
Below, the highway shimmered in the afternoon heat. No cars had passed since he’d arrived.
“There’s no such thing as time travel,” he repeated. But when he looked at Amanda, she looked back solemn and serious.
“If there isn’t,” she said, “it’ll still be fun.” And her eyes sparkled.
Jake finished his juice pouch, stood, and took up the handle of his wagon. He wondered how many pieces he might end up in if he crashed, and how if wheat was as soft as it looked. But mostly, he wondered how fast one had to go down Barley Hill to get back to the Fourth of July.