ONE MINUTE • by Cara Albert

The first knife my dad throws at me lands within a couple inches of my right ear. It comes as quite a shock. Not the ‘my dad’s trying to kill me’ part. That’s what he paid fifty dollars to do after all. It’s a shock because the knife actually got pretty close to my head. I mean I am making it rather easy for him, being roped up, spread-eagle, on an erect slab of concrete. But even so, I would’ve never guessed dad had any kind of talent for knife-throwing.

The second one carves into the flesh on my upper right arm, and the third slices through my right shoulder. Both of the knives fall from my body and hit the grass below. My skin and muscle cells regenerate until there’s not a scar left in either spot.

This isn’t an unusual occurrence. I frequently find myself tied up against some wall made of brick or concrete or cement, posed similarly to Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. It’s my main source of income, this one-man freak show. For fifty dollars you get one minute, no limitations on weapon or weapons of choice, anything goes! And people go crazy for it. They line up like ants for the chance to try to kill me, though they never can.

The thing that is unusual about this situation is the fact that my dad is here. I haven’t seen him since I left home when I turned eighteen. When he first stepped up to the stage today, I thought it was a joke. Maybe someone had fashioned an eerily accurate mask of my father’s face and threw it on just to fuck with me. But I could tell by the way he moved that it was really him, with the mechanical manner in which he pulled out the three throwing knives from the duffle bag at his feet. It was as if each of his individual movements were thoroughly calculated in his head before being executed by his body.

I’ve counted twenty-two seconds into my dad’s allotted turn, and now he pulls out a revolver from the duffle bag. I don’t see too many guns at these shows, people are usually more creative. But I like this revolver. It looks older, like the kind the cowboys would use in the Westerns my mom used to watch with me. My dad steps a few feet closer and aims. He fires off five shots with no pause in between them. The first two catch me in my lower abdomen. He misses with the third one. The fourth cuts through the edge of my neck and the broken skin fastens itself back together like a zipper on a jacket. The fifth bullet glides through my brain, and I feel myself go numb for a moment before regaining full mobility.

I know why he’s doing this. He still blames me for killing her. The only times I ever saw my dad’s robotic body loosen were when my mom wrapped her warm arms around him and kissed his eyelids, cheeks, and lips – in that order.

With just eighteen seconds left, he pulls a gallon of something out of his bag. He walks closer until we’re a foot away from each other and soaks me, head to foot, in gasoline. He backs up a few feet before taking out a set of old matches, also like the kind the cowboys used, and lights one. When he throws it, I catch fire and feel a familiar tickling sensation. The flames eat though the rope that’s keeping me upright against the concrete wall, and I fall to the ground. I simmer and wait until it consumes my clothes, and it finally dissipates when it realizes there’s nothing else to feed upon. I’m a naked mass of untouched skin, caked in ash.

He wants an apology. He stands there waiting for it while I rest crumpled at his feet. When he realizes he’s not going to get what he came for, he turns and walks away in the same defeated manner as the night he arrived at the hospital and saw me alive while she lay lifeless on a table.

I can only remember that night in fragments; the vinyl of the steering wheel beneath my fingers when I lost control, the screeching tires, the fire that tickled the surface of my skin, the way my mom crumpled like paper in the passenger seat. All in under a minute.

When he’s too far away to hear me, I tell him the same thing I said the night of the crash. It’s what I said when he made me leave our house on my eighteenth birthday, and what I said when he professed that it should’ve been me instead.

“I loved her too.”

Cara Albert lives in Orlando, Florida and is pursuing a major in creative writing at the University of Central Florida.

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Every Day Fiction