Fiction from Tommy Dean

A light blue plastic pail filled with sand on the beach.

Photo: Heather McKean

Fastened to the Curve of the Earth

The sand fastened to her body, invading the spaces between limbs, magnifying the sound of her heart in her ears, matching the crush of the waves. Faith is old enough to worry about death, but young enough not to notice the boys looking at her long, sturdy legs. In May, they finished a lesson on the ancient Egyptians. Embalming and sarcophaguses, a belief in an afterlife. Her father piles the sand, careful to keep it out of her eyes. He sculpts her body in a square, hiding the particular curve of her body. Lately, she’s been wondering if she embarrasses him, that biology is somehow letting him down. She no longer helps him delouse the chickens, and curls her lips at the smells in the barn. She still wears her boots and collects the eggs, but the posters on her bedroom walls are of pop singers, their eye makeup smoky, and enticing, secrets they weave into their lyrics excite her spirit, get her singing at the top of her voice, her yearning seeping through the walls like an invisible gas, waking him up to the heartbreak of her future, somewhere beyond the farm.

But here, he has her trapped. Her idea, so he’s happy to pin her down, to meld her to the Earth, to stop her orbit. She feels this, the desire to cage her like his livestock, but she doesn’t know how to name it, so they spend the week at the beach, her mother flashing her toes in the sun, reading magazines about the end of days, her axis spinning away from them. Faith, a minor planet between them. The gravity that holds them together.

Faith counts clouds that scrape across the sky, wondering how long she can stay in this cocoon, each second feels like the burning of hot water, her scalp itching, her legs wanting to be free, to run down the length of the beach, making them all watch her under the sun, hoping they think of chariots, of the riches where land meets the sea.

Tommy Dean is the author of two flash fiction chapbooks Special Like the People on TV (Redbird Chapbooks, 2014) and Covenants (ELJ Editions, 2021), and a full flash collection, Hollows (Alternating Current Press 2022). He lives in Indiana where he currently is the Editor at Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine. A recipient of the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction, his writing can be found in Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020, Best Small Fiction 2019 and 2022, Monkeybicycle, and numerous litmags. Find him at and on Twitter @TommyDeanWriter.

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