Blink and You Miss It
By Keily Blair
Greta gazes at the waves the pontoon boat leaves behind, then closes her eyes for ten seconds before an audible click resonates in her head. The retro audio effects of the newest edition of the CamLens contacts leave her anxious, but she doesn’t know how to turn them off, and she is too stubborn to ask. She glances down at her phone to edit the picture using the app, but her muted enthusiasm bleeds onto the image in her choice of black and white filter.
Grandpa halts the boat, moves to drop the anchor. They are in the middle of the river, sun kneading heat into their skin. Mom and Dad stare at each other, practicing with the portrait function of their own CamLens, closing their eyes for ten second intervals to send the image to the app. When Greta leans to glance at her Mom’s phone, she spies the image of her dad, watches her mom swipe away blemishes and scars and fat from his round, smiling face.
With a great sigh, Grandpa heads toward the back of the boat, opening the red cooler and retrieving a bag filled with white petals. When he opens the bag, the wind blows and fragrant, flowery aroma fills the air. Greta closes her eyes, holds them closed for the needed time, and jumps at the horrid click.
Greta’s older sister, Violet, takes pictures of a turtle breaking the surface. She makes the colors more vibrant, grimaces at the bright green of the polluted water, and turns on a sepia filter. Greta eyes her with some amusement before turning her attention to Grandpa, who moves like his limbs are leaden. She closes her eyes to take a picture of Grandpa again but opens them at the last minute.
Grandpa reaches into his pocket, pulls out a few shiny objects. No one else sees, absorbed in their editing processes.
“Greta,” he says. “Can you hold these for me?”
She holds out her palm, and he drops three rings into her open palm. Two are golden bands, and the last is Grandma Rose’s engagement ring, the one with the large diamond Mom talks about at times, one she is sure will be hers to sell for the new VR headset as soon as Grandma’s will is sorted out.
Grandpa clears his throat, and everyone turns to him, their eyes the iridescent blue of the camera lens.
“I told Rose I’d send her flowers for her birthday,” Grandpa says.
He nods toward Greta’s mom.
“Shannon here thought this would be the best way. We all know Rose loved this river.”
Greta’s mom claps her hands together, grinning.
“This will look beautiful on Mom’s memorial page,” she says. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Grandpa’s well-worn face droops, and Greta can’t comprehend the bitter emotion in his eyes. He grabs a handful of flower petals and tosses them into the wind. Handfuls follow the first, creating a trail of flowers from the boat. Mom, Dad, and Violet rush forward, taking photo after photo. Only Greta remains back, eyes fixed on the white line around Grandpa’s tanned ring finger where his wedding band once rested.
At one moment, they all shut their eyes right when the petals form a sort of heart shape on the water. Grandpa holds out his hands for the rings, Greta gives them to him, and he drops them over the side of the boat. A few seconds remain for Grandpa to swipe a single tear from his eyes.
Greta says nothing as her family, bored of the flower petals, returns to their seats. She watches the ripples spreading from where Grandpa dropped the rings, imagining them together forever at the bottom of the river, wondering what else she’s been missing.
About the Author:
Keily Blair (they/them) is an autistic, queer writer, as well as Managing Editor of the Signal Mountain Review. They hold a BA in English: Creative Writing from UT Chattanooga, where their nonfiction won the Creative Nonfiction Award. Their fiction has appeared in publications such as The Dread Machine, Dream of Shadows, Cosmic Horror Monthly, Good Southern Witches, and The Vanishing Point.
They are currently at work on their debut novel. You can find more details about their work at www.keilyblair.com or follow them on Twitter (@keily_blair). They live in Tennessee with their husband, dog, cat, and guinea pigs.