Flashback Friday: The Day the Sky Fell (previously published)
This story is one that I am most proud of. It started as a final project for a college creative writing class, sparked by an attempt to view the tragic brokenness of divorce through the eyes of a child. A semester later it was picked as a favorite of the English department faculty and was published in the college's literary magazine. It's a tad long, but worth posting to remind myself that I've written before and can write again.
The Day the Sky Fell
You know the story, the one about the chicken who thinks that the sky fell on his head. He runs around yelling, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” I’ve heard that story; but I’m here to tell you that it’s nothing like the real thing, because I was there the day that the sky fell down, and it’s nothing like the story.
The day before had been a typical day in the summer of 19--. A light breeze blew and the sun tickled your cheeks. It was one of those days that called you out-of-doors and held you captive in the magnificent sunlight. A perfect day for a boy of my size to start making his fortune, so I, along with my neighbor Frankie, started up a lemonade stand. By noon we had made one dollar off our product- which sold at twenty cents a cup. By suppertime we had a whole dollar and twenty cents.
The two of us went home that night: Frankie with forty cents in his pocket and the rest jingling in mine, being as they were my lemons that we squeezed the juice out of. The next day we were going to do it again; we figured if we kept it up, by the end of the summer, we’d have enough money to buy a boat for sailing out on the lake. We had it all planned; our futures were upon us and we were ready.
But I didn’t account for what would happen next. There was no way I could have, really. Stuff just isn’t supposed to happen like it did.
The next day, I went to set up our stand once more, eager to further my fortune. My pocket was full of yesterday’s profit and my arms were full of that day’s bag of lemons.
I walked out the door to my front lawn, but the lawn wasn’t there. Well… I suppose it was; only I couldn’t see any of it. The lawn was covered with a flakey, blue mess that looked like someone had thrown sheets of colored construction paper all over the lawn and the sidewalks. The road looked the same, all covered in flakes of blue. The picket fence outlining our front yard had pieces of the stuff skewered on each of the white points. In fact, everything in sight was covered with blue sheets.
When I had gone to bed the night before, all was normal outside. Nothing unusual was on our grass. I couldn’t remember any unusual looking cloud, or cracks in the sky warning us the day before of what we would face that day. It was as if someone had come in the night and created this flakey disaster I was now staring at.
I looked up at the clouds to check and see what the weather was looking like…only there were no clouds. There was no weather. There was nothing.
The sky was...gone.
Now, it’s hard to explain what nothing looks like, but I tell you, I saw what wasn’t there. The blue expanse that had been dotted with clouds and warm rays of light the day before was now nothing but emptiness. Above my head was an eerie vacancy that shouldn’t have been. Instead of sky there was... sort of a hum, more a sound than a sight, something you felt but couldn’t touch. It was like there was a wild wind, but with no movement. It was like the sun’s glow on a blistering day, only without the light warming your skin.
I looked up again, and realized with horror that it was the sky that was scattered on my front lawn. I leapt backwards onto the safety of my doorstep. The sky was on my front lawn, and in its place was nothing.
Somehow, the sky had fallen.
I screamed for my mother like I did whenever I had a nightmare. I needed her to come and tell me everything was all right. But the sound hissed out of my mouth, fell from my lips, and filled the bareness around me, my voice blending with the hum. Nightmares are always worse when you have to face them alone.
I looked for my neighbors. Their houses were all there. Their mailboxes, their cars, everything was there, just like it should have been! Only, everyone had pieces of the heavens strewn across their grass, caught in their trees, and stuck on their fences.
But no one seemed to be around. Didn’t they care? I briefly thought about calling the police or the fire department. But what did they know about fallen skies? For as long as I could remember, this had never happened. How was I supposed to know how to handle it?
I was alone and desperate, so I did what any boy of my size would have done if given a situation such as mine. Carefully, I snapped a branch off the little piney shrub next to our doorstep. I poked the ground, or the sky, I guess it was, with the branch. Nothing happened. No sound. No feeling. No sudden explosions. I edged one toe off the step and gingerly stood on what was once the sky. Again, nothing happened. Emboldened, I bent and picked up a piece of it; it was flimsy like a sheet of the daily newspaper that my father hid behind each morning at breakfast, but soft like the pairs of flannel pajamas that my grandma gave me on Christmas every year. It was thin like paper, but when I shook it, it didn’t crinkle, it didn’t rip. Next, I threw it as high as I could. It didn’t suspend itself back where it belonged. Instead, it floated noiselessly back onto the lawn, covering up the patch of green that I had exposed. It was like the sky didn’t want to be fixed.
I ran inside, slammed the door, and leaned my back against it. After counting to ten with my eyes squeezed tight, I opened the door again, popped my head out, and sure as anything the sky was still there, right where it didn’t belong, scattered on the ground like confetti left over from a surprise party we hadn’t had.
I bounded up the stairs, screaming for my dad. He was a smart guy, and I thought maybe he could fix the problem. Dads generally know a lot about problems, and sometime they even know enough to be able to fix them.
“The sky! It fell. The sky is on the front lawn, Dad. I tried to put it back but….”
“What?” my father asked, as he rolled over to face me. The space next to him on the bed was empty; the sheets were neat and tucked in. Mom was sleeping on the couch, again.
“The sky. It’s on the lawn. It’s all blue and everywhere and it feels like my PJ’s from Grandma and it won’t go back up where it needs to!”
He rolled the other way to look out the window, but the faded, floral curtains were drawn shut. “Prob’ly just fog, son. It’ll pass. Go on downstairs; turn on the coffee pot. I’ll be down in a bit.”
I kicked the side of his bed with my slippered foot. “The sky fell down, Dad, and coffee isn’t gonna fix it!”
My father sat up. “Yes, yes, I understand,” he said, as he tied his robe on and then rubbed his temples with the heels of his hands.
I stomped down the stairs, scared and infuriated, and peeked out the window. Sure enough, just as I had said, there was no sky in the sky. I opened up the front door and jumped on the mess that had found its way onto my lawn. I stomped around. I jumped on what was supposed to be the sky, angry that it wasn’t being the way it should.
I heard my dad’s footsteps on the stairs; I flung open the door for him and cried, “Look!”
He did. He blinked a couple of times and ran his left hand through his hair, like he did after having a fight with my mother. Then he chewed on his lip.
“That’s the sky, Dad! All over our grass, just like I told you. That’s a whole bunch of sky!” My voice sounded hollow, like I was in a cave, only with no echo.
My dad said nothing. He stood there, blinking his eyes, chewing his lip, and rubbing his gray-streaked hair.
I rushed back into the house, hoping my mother would prove more helpful than my father. I began to bound up the staircase towards my parent’s room but turned and headed for the living room instead.
“Mom? I need you to wake up! The sky fell onto the front lawn. Please get up.”
She rolled on the couch to turn and face me.
“The sky, Mom. Please get up and see it. Dad’s outside looking at it. It’s messy.”
My mother pushed her disheveled hair out of her swollen eyes. She sat up and slid her feet into her slippers and stood, putting her hand on my shoulder.
“Okay, okay. Let’s go see it,” she said, as if she was just playing along with a game.
She shuffled toward the open front door with me. As soon as she got a look at the situation outside, she stopped. She made a little sucking noise as she drew air quickly into her lungs. Her mouth quivering, she walked out onto the step and stood next to my father. Her eyes just kept getting wider or maybe her face was just getting smaller.
“I told you…it’s…the sky…” I tried to explain, hoping they would somehow, in their parental understanding, be able to make it right again.
But neither said anything.
“Why is it on the grass, and what are we gonna do? Someone has to do something!” I yelled at my mute parents, aggravated that I was the only one feeling the need to take some sort of action. I was the kid! What was I supposed to do about it? Stuff like this wasn’t supposed to happen. The sky should always be the sky. Some things are just supposed to stay normal, everyday of your life. But that day, on the front lawn of our home, the sky had decided it wasn’t the sky anymore. Someone had to fix it, but my parents just stood gaping, waiting for it to right itself, like somehow it could.
My dad shook his head and stared at the sky-covered lawn. My mother stood beside him, refusing to talk or perhaps too afraid to. She pulled her robe tighter.
Again my father rubbed his hand through his hair. “Sometimes things are just out of our control, son.”
“Everything will work out for the best, sweetie,” my mother finally said, again placing her hand on my shoulder.
I pulled away and turned to stare at the two of them while they stared at the lack of lawn. “No! No it won’t work out, Mom! What don’t you understand? When the sky falls down, someone has to do something to fix it. I know it! Please, we’ve gotta do something!”
But, despite my pleading, neither of them did anything to make things right again.
My father was sitting in the living room, with the television on. In one hand he held his morning coffee and in the other he grasped the remote, holding on to it like it was the only thing he still had control over. Maria McCarthy from the news channel was talking about the weather like she did every morning. Only, that morning the weather forecast involved the sky having collapsed onto the earth.
I could see she was trying to be calm, just like my parents. Everyone was pretending that somehow tomorrow we’d all wake up and everything would be normal again. As if the next day she’d be saying the forecast would be back to sunny with a high of 85 and summer would be restored to its full glory. Maria, the weather woman, smiled. Footage of other neighborhoods with fallen sky strewed on the ground played across the screen.
It was then that I knew everything was not okay at all.
“Sweetheart, come eat some breakfast,” my mother called from the kitchen. I heard her set a bowl down onto the table and pour juice into a glass. I didn’t want to take my eyes off the news report. I wanted to wait for her to announce that someone very smart had come up with a way to fix this situation. But I knew they hadn’t.
I went and sat at the table, quietly taking turns gazing at my steaming bowl of oatmeal and out the window at the chaos outside.
“It will be all right, don’t worry, sweetie,” said my mother, though I hadn’t said anything to her. She stood behind me, also looking out the window, running her finger through my messy hair. “It’ll get fixed. It will all be okay soon.”
I knew things probably weren’t going to be all right. I had heard that lie too many times before from my parents. Some things, once they are broken, can’t be fixed, no matter how hard you try. I knew that adults liked to act like they knew everything. That they somehow saw that it would be okay. At least that is what they tried to tell me. But it wouldn’t. The sky had relocated to the front lawn. The world might as well be ending. At the time, I thought maybe it was. When things go that wrong you know that they just don’t find ways of becoming right again.
When I finished my breakfast, my mother said, “Sweetie, why don’t you go find Frankie and see if he wants to sell lemonade with you, like you did yesterday. That was fun, right?”
I gave her a look of nothing can be like it was yesterday.
She gave me back a look of everything is just fine.
We both knew she was lying.
She pulled out my chair and gave me a gentle nudge to get up. “Go on. Go get dressed and go see if Frankie is up.”
On my way back upstairs I heard my father on the phone in the living room. He was still watching the news.
“Are things all right where you are, Robbie?” he asked.
Robbie was my older brother who was away at college. I ran upstairs before hearing any response. I knew things were a mess everywhere.
Once I stepped out my door I tried to walk carefully. If by some miracle someone smarter than any of us did find a way to fix the sky, I didn’t want to be responsible for doing any damage to it in the meantime. I walked down the road, to the left, passed three houses with sky-speckled lawns, to Frankie’s.
I wrapped on the door and he answered, as if he had been waiting for me to come. “Mom and Dad said I can’t come out today.”
“Oh,” I said, disappointed. My parents had sent me outside but his were keeping him safely in.
“Did you see what it is like out there? Does it all look like this?”
“All of it. The sky is everywhere.”
“I knew it!”
“My mom wanted us to sell more lemonade.”
“I’m not supposed to go any farther than this doorstep.”
“I don’t think it’s dangerous or anything. I jumped on it a little. Wanna come over and sell lemonade?”
“Okay, I guess.” He quietly shut the door behind him and made his escape.
We walked back to my house and made a game of trying to step only on patches of cement or on tufts of green grass peeking out from beneath the fallen sky. We had played games like this before, pretending we were jumping from rock to rock, like adventurers crossing a rushing river, or carefully avoiding hot lava as we escaped an erupting volcano. Only this wasn’t a game. This was real. It turned out that the games had been a lot more fun.
We set out our stand right on top of the sky and mixed up our fresh lemonade. Both of us sat there all morning. We didn’t have any customers that day.
The following day the sky was still on the lawn. I think we had all hoped if we just waited it out long enough that we’d wake up one morning and it would be back to normal. But my father gave up hope a little faster than the rest of us. He was tired of being cooped up in the house watching the news and he used the fact that we were out of milk as an excuse to leave.
I tried to talk him out of it. I was worried that if he drove on the sky it would damage it even further and our hope of thing going back to normal would be even smaller.
“Dad! You can’t just go out and drive over the sky,” I warned him, as I spread my arms across the door to the garage. “It’s fragile!”
“We need milk”
“We need the sky to be okay, Dad!”
“There isn’t anything anyone can do and we can’t just sit here waiting for it to work itself out. We need to go on living.”
“What if you make it worse?”
“We need milk.” He picked me up under the arms and lifted me out of his way.
I watched out the window as he backed up the car and left the driveway. The sky was getting caught up in his tires and was making a sound like my bike did when I put playing cards in the wheel spokes. I watched him disappear down the road, rearranging the sky as he went. I chewed on my fingers as hope left my heart.
After the sky fell down, nothing was ever really right again. Everyone gave up trying to fix it. We just had to accept that things weren’t going to be the same anymore. I was as though everyone learned to live with the fallen sky, just like it was normal. But some days I would remember what it used to be like. But that was all it was: a memory. Any hope of things going back to the way they were before had long faded.
My history class textbook included pictures of what the sky used to look like before it relocated to the ground. Reading about what had happened was strange. We were all there. No one could forget.
Now I spent weekdays with my mom and every other weekend with my dad. My older brother had graduated and gotten married. Sometimes I saw him on holidays. Frankie’s family had moved away; we never did get rich off of lemonade.
Things were different. The sky was broken, so were we, and it’s never going to be the same again.
This entry was posted on Friday, October 30, 2015 and is filed under literary magazine,published,short story,writers gonna write. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.