Jan Kaneen Oct 2020 Third Prize

The White Dwarf

by Jan Kaneen

It’s months into lockdown, and Clayton’s showing Thelma how to train their new state-of-the-art telescope onto the crow-black Tennessee sky. He twists the eyepiece to trap the distant white glow from a small dying star, but it’s tricky capturing the faint luminosity emitted by degenerate-electron matter, and he doesn’t want to seem unfocussed in front of his wife, so he bends to the lens and tries real hard to sharpen the image – sees the old wooden swing on his granddaddy’s porch, a curl of Thelma’s once corn-coloured hair, remnants of his long-passed mamma’s last apple pie, a Thanksgiving turkey, Uncle Sam’s stern white face, flickering footage of Neil Armstrong taking one giant leap, a bucket of hot chicken, Johnny Cash singing Ring of Fire, a bottle of Jack, his old CB radio, the penultimate episode of Dukes of Hazzard, Resisting Arrest as a black-and-white headline, a nest of wasps, the Twin Towers tumbling, his Smith and Wesson, that Ku Klux Klan robe and hood he saw years ago in Uncle Frank’s drycleaners hanging up under a see-through plastic covering, the faces of three little kids in an SUV watching their daddy get shot six times in the back, a manacled captive under an officer’s knee pleading for his mamma and his life gasping I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.

Clayton looks away, straightens himself up, stares out into the unfathomable sheet of night-time sky – the vast blackness of it – then asks Thelma if she’d care to take her turn.

‘You okay, Honey?’ she says, taking-in his blanched white cheeks and tight, thin lips.

‘I’m fine,’ he drawls, ‘Ain’t nothing. Then he gazes into her blue-sky eyes and creases his face into half a smile. ‘Leastwise nothing for us to worry about.’

About the Author

Jan Kaneen started writing when she was 50 as a sort of mindfulness therapy. She now has an MA in Creative Writing from the OU and her flashes and short stories have been published widely on-line and in print. Her writing has won prizes in places like Flash 500, the Fountain, Molotov Cocktail and Retreat West, and she’s been nominated for Pushcarts and Best on the Net. She has stories out now in print in The Fish Anthology 2020, Molotov Cocktail Winners’ Anthology Volume V and Bacopa Literary Review, and her memoir-in-flash The Naming of Bones will be published April 22nd 2021 by Retreat West Books.
She blogs at jankaneen.com and tweets as @Jankaneen1

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