This one I wrote for an early submission a few years ago. I brought it back to life because, let’s face it, it’s hard to abandon old projects that we really enjoyed writing. “Trending” came in a flash, inspired by a First-Line writing prompt, and left a lasting impression.
That’s the thing about lightning; if you stare to closely, it’ll become always imprinted on your mind.
By Curtis A. Deeter
“I wanted you to be the first to know,” Rowan tentatively confided in me.
I took a step back, unabashed but doubtful of the thing that used to be my brother lurching towards me. I’d seen Rowan looking all fashions of monstrous, either in a lime green pinstripe suit at Prom or wearing parachute pants that he could literally float away in at a whim. I’d even seen him with—blech—bleach-blond hair and a cheap spray tan one summer’s eve during his first year at college.
But I’d never seen him like this. And I’d never unsee him like this, either.
All the cool kids were doing it, of course. It started in some hip, western hovel. A place where they inhaled coffee vapors instead of the actual thing and road longboards to and from their jobs spray painting beach rocks for the tourists that longed to be a fraction as cool as them.
Rowan had never been cool. And he still wasn’t. Not in my eyes. Maybe it was just my bias as an older brother, but wherever he was heading, he’d missed the station by a mile.
“Well, say something,” he said, stopping dead in his tracks.
They dyed hair rainbow bright. They worked plastics into your cheeks and under your chest. They even webbed feet if you held enough money under their noses.
Which begs the question: just because you can, should you?
I wasn’t sure what to say so I didn’t. I just backed away a bit further.
“I’m not the only one, you know? Plenty of up-and-comers are doing it. It’s all the rave in—”
“France. I know.” I’d heard it before.
He was right, though. Everyone was doing it. That only meant that no one should.
There was a time when I followed Everyone. I bought the fake, thick-rimmed glasses, wore my hair in a tight bun behind my head, and even drank the Kool-Aid once or twice so to speak. I never did that though. I was never that bad.
Rowan trembled as if he were about to cry.
“It’s okay,” I said. “You didn’t know.”
“Mom is going to kill me.”
We sort of just stood there for a bit, existing but not entirely sure why. He, looking like that. Me, wanting to laugh and ridicule him all the way back to the ivory tower whence he came.
There was a nip on the wind, but I’m sure Rowan couldn’t feel it. He had insolation now. He’d never have to fear the long, brutal winters again. So, hey, there was a bit of consolation after all.
“Your tail is cute,” I said, far from serious.
What was left of the flesh on his cheeks lit up pink. He grabbed the tip of his tail and began to bashfully stroke it.
“You really think so?”
He let it drop to the ground and sobbed. It was a wheezy, strained sob. His whiskers danced as his chest heaved in and out. He must have splurged the extra cash to get the whole package. Guys like Rowan always go all out on this sort of thing.
“What do I do?” he asked, licking the back of his hand… or paw… or whatever it’d become.
I lost it. I’d been refraining hysterics ever since I first saw him. It was coming out one way or the other—either in tear-inducing laughter or life-shortening fright.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe a can of Friskies might help you think.”
Rowan hissed at me. The gills on his cheeks flared. “You’re not as funny as you think.”
Suddenly, as if possessed by divine right, Rowan looked around frantically. His radar ears, fuzzy and pink on the inside, moved back and forth like an owl’s. He turned, forgetting himself, and leapt toward a garbage can. When he came back up, he held a rat on his claws.
“Dinner?” I asked, cattily.
“I don’t really know why I did that,” he said, scrunching up his nose and shaking the dying vermin off his paw. “Well, might as well get this over with, huh? Do you think Dad’s home yet?”
I shook my head. All things considered, I hadn’t the heart to tell him that Dad had chased after the Postman on all fours a few weeks back and we hadn’t heard from him or seen him since.