Today, we are pleased to share the honorable mention from our 2019-2020 Winter Short Story Award for New Writers! “Rapture” by Chloe Chun Seim, selected by Kimberly King Parsons, follows Jordan as she grapples with her father’s alcoholism and his attempts to reconnect with her and her brother and mother. But the farm in Kansas, although the same as she’d left it, still has surprises left for her.
July in Kansas is either a hundred-and-ten heat index or black and storming. That day was neither. Was it divine intervention? No. It was the land, remembering me. Greeting me with open arms as its kindred daughter, back from a long, terrible voyage. The breeze cooled the sweat against my arms. The sun nestled behind potent but small cumulus clouds, shielding me from its blaze. The cats, though unaccustomed to me, followed close.
The last time I had seen him, the pounds came at eleven at night during a rainstorm, in true dramatic fashion. Chung and I were still awake. Chung was playing Majora’s Mask for the fifth time, and though he was eleven, and though he knew every monster and every creep-creep-creep of the red-eyed Moon closer to Termina, he would wake up in two hours laughing and wailing and pleading for one of us to exorcise the demonic Mask from his room. I was reading, which I only ever wanted to do when Kansas thunder rattled the thin walls of our water-warped apartment. The pounds on the door came shortly after my page-bound heroine discovered her lover-to-be was actually married, actually evil and a liar, and so with this real-life shock I, too, became paranoid.
Chung and I sat in silence. The knocks returned, booming louder than thunder, harsher than the wind against the walls. Chung dropped his controller and sunk into the blackened couch. Lightning hit somewhere nearby and at the worst possible moment, the lights flickered off, Chung’s game progress lost, and stuttered back on.
Our mother was catatonic in her bedroom. Not sleeping, really. Neither of us sought her out in our terror; we knew she couldn’t help.
Again, the knocks came. Again, we waited for certain death. Until the storm rolled back and the thunder ceased and somewhere, a faint gold light cast upon the nighttime sky.
“Soo,” a voice moaned across the threshold. An open palm coveted the door. Our hearts slowed. The specter became familiar.
It was our father.
He was drunk and yet had driven the ten miles from the farm into town, over the failing parking lot of our two-bedroom apartment. When still we didn’t say anything, weary of this never-ending battle, he took out his keys and searched them for minutes trying in his stupor to find the right key. I could hear them clashing, metal to metal, from the other side.
He wasn’t supposed to have a key. He had told me weeks before that he could make a better copy of mine decorated in Jayhawks, and though I should have known better, I let him. When our mother saw the new key and asked how I had gotten it, she nearly busted the countertop in her rage. This was her life one year post-separation. Tirade or trance. Retreat or be trampled had always been the rule, but now a chemical cloud brought new escape, for us and for her.
Our father was still struggling at the door. Finally, I got up and unlocked it, holding its thin edge to my chest: No Entry. He didn’t expect me, I think. His swaying stopped for a moment and his eyes focused just enough to recognize me.