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Flash Fiction
974 words
SHJ Issue 10
Fall 2014

Perfect Aim

by Miranda Stone

“You’re not a very nice little girl,” Pearl said.

Sadie crouched on the porch steps and scratched a bug bite on her arm. She didn’t try to explain to her great-aunt that Ted Morris pulled up her dress in front of all the other neighborhood boys while they hollered and clapped. They pointed at her faded white underwear, a size too small, and called her poor white trash.

Pearl—or Miss Pearl, as Sadie had been instructed to address her—sat on the porch rocker. Sadie knew to keep away from it or risk getting a splinter. She hoped the old woman would. Then maybe she would go inside and leave Sadie alone.

“Nice little girls don’t throw rocks,” Miss Pearl said. “You could have killed that boy.”

Sadie wouldn’t have been sorry for it. After she broke free of Ted’s grip and ran down the street, her cheeks burning with shame, she felt lightheaded and shaky, the way she did last winter when she had a high fever and the doctor said her brain was close to cooking. When she reached the safety of her house, she swore she would make Ted pay for what he’d done.

She paced her yard, brow furrowed with thoughts of revenge. The dry and brittle grass crunched beneath her feet. She spotted the rock lying under a dead forsythia bush. It was about as big as her palm and oval-shaped. Sadie wondered where it came from and how it escaped her attention until now. She liked the way it felt in her hand, warm from the afternoon sun.

Sadie found Ted and the others down at the creek. They made so much noise horsing around they didn’t hear her moving through the trees, watching them. She crept within fifteen feet of Ted. Her upper arm still smarted from his fingers. He was bigger than the other boys; he made the rules in their games, and no one dared speak up when he cheated. Now his straw-colored hair was matted to his forehead as he wrestled with a friend.

While he was distracted, Sadie wound her arm back like one of the high school ballplayers. She aimed for Ted’s big front teeth—she could see them from this distance as he grinned. Sadie told herself she wouldn’t let go of the rock—she was just pretending. But her fingers released it, and in a second that seemed to stretch on forever, the rock sailed through the air before slamming into Ted’s shoulder. The boy fell to the ground, his meaty hand covering the place where the stone had struck. Sadie gasped when he burst into tears. The other boys stared at him in confusion. One caught sight of her and shouted her name. Sadie turned and took off running.

An hour later, Ted’s mother showed up on Sadie’s front porch. Sadie hunched on her bedroom floor, but she heard the woman’s voice through the window. It was high and screechy, like the screen door when Sadie opened it too far. “You’d better get control of that girl, Joyce!”

Mama’s voice was much lower. “She will be punished, Marsha.”

As soon as Ted’s mother left, Mama burst into Sadie’s room and grabbed her by the scruff of her neck.

“But he pulled up my dress in front of everybody!” Sadie wailed.

“I don’t want to hear it.” Mama was small and thin, but she hit hard with Daddy’s old belt. Sadie lay on her stomach across the tiny bed, trying not to cry, but after the fifth strike against her bare buttocks and thighs, she began to howl. When Mama finally stopped, Sadie raised her head and saw Miss Pearl standing in the doorway, arms folded over her bony chest. A satisfied smile pulled at her lips.

Now the old woman wouldn’t let her be. Sadie shifted on the porch step, her backside tender.

“You shouldn’t misbehave and give your mother trouble,” Miss Pearl said.

Why don’t you go home? Sadie wanted to scream. Uncle Floyd showed up unannounced last Saturday from Chesterfield with Miss Pearl sitting in the passenger seat of his Ford. He said Miss Pearl wanted to visit, since she hadn’t seen Mama in years. Floyd and Mama spoke in hushed tones while Miss Pearl used the privy behind the house. Sadie couldn’t hear much of the conversation, but she knew Mama was irritated. Floyd said Miss Pearl was eat up with cancer and didn’t have long to live.

“How old are you? Five? Six?” Miss Pearl asked now.

“I’m seven.” Sadie scratched at the bug bite until it bled.

The rocker creaked as Miss Pearl pushed it back and forth. “Then you’re certainly old enough to know better.”

Sadie hadn’t bitten anyone since she was a little kid, but her teeth snapped together behind her lips.

“Your mama has enough to worry about now, since your daddy ran off,” Miss Pearl said.

Sadie whipped around to face the woman. Wearing her sweetest smile, the one that made her cheeks ache, she said, “I heard you’ve got cancer, and you’re going to die real soon.”

Miss Pearl’s wrinkled narrow face grew pale, and her eyes widened. She made a strange sound that reminded Sadie of how their old dog Patches cried the day he wandered home with his left ear missing from a fight.

Miss Pearl stood with surprising speed. “You’re a wicked child, as wicked as the devil himself,” she hissed. Then she stormed into the house.

Sadie didn’t let herself imagine the beating she would receive. The memory of the old woman’s wounded face was as soothing to her as the warm stone she held earlier that afternoon. Sadie hobbled down the steps and set off for the creek, determined to find her talisman before the mountains swallowed up all the daylight.


* Note from the Webmaster:

We are pleased to be the first to publish this, the long version of Miranda Stone’s pint-sized story. What I like to call the “half-pint” version—only 499 words long and also a fine read!—appears in Issue 4 of Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal (September 2014).


SHJ Issue 10
Fall 2014

Miranda Stone’s

work is strongly influenced by the setting and culture of the Appalachian Mountains. Her fiction and poetry have been published in numerous print and online journals, including Pithead Chapel, Prole, and The First Line. Her short story “The Confession” was published in the anthology Southern Gothic: New Tales of the South.

Ms. Stone lives in Virginia and can be reached at:

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury