Fiction from Joel Hans

A murder of crows fly through the air

Photo: Jana Klouckova Kudrnová

The Times I’ll Trade Time with the Crows

A long, long time ahead, the crows’ll give me time in exchange for my children’s possessions—my son’s owl bathtoy, the Crayons my daughter will’ve tried to sharpen with the safety scissors. The crows’ll warn me not to bite into time itself, but rather put the bluesea chewblet on my tongue and let time dissolve into me, or it’ll be too much time to deal with at one time. I’ll wait until I’m alone, my son and daughter in bed and my partner pecking at his PlayStation. Time’ll taste like the time before it rains.

Over time, time’ll inch me back through my thirties. The second C-section scar’ll disappear, then the first. The stretches of sex’ll get better and my partner’ll never suspect a thing, always remarking at how time just passes by so much faster now that we’re older. He’ll just keep photographing water for the ultrarich, making more than enough to money support the whole family, which’ll feel like an insult that’s been workshopped to perfection.

Things’ll change in the yolk of my twenties. I’ll bring my kids to the grocery store and the other patrons’ll look at me up and down, doing the mental gymnastics to calculate how young of a teenager I’ll’ve been when delivering them—worse, conceiving them. They’ll shake their heads as they stare into the anchorage of eggs. I’ll also lose my job, because HR’ll start to wonder about the veracity of my resume, how I gained so many years of experience at such a seemingly young age.

But I’ll love the kids more. I’ll stop wishing I could transpose myself to the backside of the moon just for a full stop of solitude. Playtime’ll become our happiest time. My daughter’ll build me a castle from Lego and I’ll make myself small, crawl inside, and learn to rule. My kingdom’ll be threatened by a dragon, but after enough marshmallows, the dragon’ll reveal himself to be my son, who I’ll have lost and found and lost. On the carpet, with them beside me, I’ll find a laugh I’ll’ve thought I lost.

At nineteen, I’ll kiss my partner for the last time. He’ll only let me drop a glancing peck on his cheek while he’ll aim his eyes at the coming haboob, as though he’ll believe his spouse, who he’ll’ve known since he was eighteen, will be delivered back to him though a downpour. Thanks, my partner’ll say, as he’ll become my father.

As I’ll sprawl back toward prepubescence, the crows’ll ask how I’m doing with all their stolen time after all this time. I’ll tell them how I’ll love my son and daughter more now they’ll be my siblings, how fun it’ll be to have all my firsts for a second time. First makeout with someone other than my partner-father, first time sneaking out of the house, first time riding a bike without training wheels, first time losing a tooth, first time going in the big potty, first time writing my own name, first time seeing someone in the process of drowning, first time first time going in the little potty. The crows’ll keep giving me all this time you’ll never even think to lock away, no matter how hard I’m warning you behind of time.

Lastly—firstly—I’ll trade the blanket I’ll have made myself thirty years ahead. When the crows’ll bring time to the windowsill, I’ll barely be able to reach I’ll’ve become so small. They’ll nod their beaks and wish me good time. Until next time.

I’ll wait until my siblings are playing somewhere else in the house before taking the chewblet of time in my mouth. I’ll roll it around my toddler tongue. I’ll’ve just a few teeth, but my quartet of incisors’ll be just enough to bite straight into time itself.

Which’ll be a deep enough dose of time to begin again. I’ll look at the world freshly. I’ll be able to tell my siblings I don’t like you and not carry a year of guilt for it. My bones’ll regrow down known avenues. My teeth’ll fall out in search of better replacements. I’ll do toddlerish things, like toddle over to my father as he’ll rest at the end of a long day of photographing water, lift his shirt, put my finger down his belly button. His eyes’ll entangle me, and I’ll cradle his cheek and say a childish thing, like, nice, but I’ll mean: Isn’t this nicer now that we’ve started over?

When we’re tucked in, my siblings’ll talk largely about Mother. How little they’ll remember. Fits and silhouettes. Instead, I’ll tell them about New Mother, who’ll be coming any time now. She’ll have snappy high-fives, hug like a vacuum, wear a different color every day of her life. She’ll love us how we’ll deserve. She’ll be everything I’ll haven’t and will’ve never been.

Brother’ll coo.

Sister’ll giggle.

New Mother’ll hold us so high in the sky and she’ll never, never, never think, What if I just let you go?

Fiction from Joel Hans has been published in West Branch, No Tokens, Puerto del Sol, The Masters Review, Redivider, and others. He received his MFA from the University of Arizona and previously served as the managing editor of Fairy Tale Review. He currently lives in Tucson, Arizona with his family.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.