Will Work for Play by John Meyers

The first time I went to Lance Flacko’s house his mom made us carry boxes of tile up from the basement. She said we had to do this before we could play Star Wars. I was only eight years old and I dropped my box three times on the way to the kitchen. When I finally got there, Mrs. Flacko was yelling at several workmen for showing up late. She noticed me at the top of the stairs, pointed to a stack of boxes that looked just like mine, and went back to yelling at the workmen.

Lance had the best lightsaber collection in the neighborhood and I wanted desperately to spend time with him and his toys. When Mrs. Flacko told us we had to pull weeds in the ninety-eight degree heat, I was the first one on the job. After an hour of sweating and nothing to drink I got dizzy and passed out. When I woke up the other kids were playing Star Wars without me.

I kept going to Lance’s house even though the work got harder. One day Mrs. Flacko said we had to re-insert gigantic stones that had fallen out of their backyard retaining wall. Some of these stones must have weighed twenty pounds. While trying to jam a twenty-pounder into a gap, I lost my grip and the stone fell on my foot, breaking two toes. When my mom asked me what happened I told her I stepped in a ditch while playing Star Wars.

I couldn’t go anywhere until my foot healed so I played with my action figures alone until the day my mom let me limp back to the Flacko’s. In my absence Lance had acquired a king-size Millennium Falcon model. I helped him position it properly on a shelf in his room and just as I was about to actuate one of the quad laser cannons, Mrs. Flacko yelled from the backyard that we had to cut the grass before we could play.

My dad always cut the grass at our house and I had no idea what to do when Lance finally got the engine started and told me to push. The mower’s handle came up to my forehead. Going downhill was easy, but I was simply not strong enough to push the mower all the way back uphill. I got stuck half way and the mower would not move. Finally I took a step back and gave a mighty push. My feet slipped from under me, I fell on my face while pulling down on the mower’s handle, and together the mower and I slid down the hill. I got to my feet and prepared to try again, but my Mom arrived on the scene, shut off the mower, and told me to go home.

I heard screaming from the Flacko’s front porch and then my Mom returned. She told me I could never go back to Lance’s house. For the rest of the summer I watched from my bedroom window as Lance and a new kid named Tommy Newsome tried to split logs with a gigantic axe they could hardly lift. Every once in awhile Mrs. Flacko yelled to them from somewhere inside the house and even though I couldn’t make out what she said, I figured she was telling them how much wood they had to split before they could pick up the lightsabers that were leaning against the patio wall.

John Meyers‘ poems and stories appear or are forthcoming in The Louisville Review, Fiction Southeast, Thrice Fiction and River Poets Journal, among others. His flash story “The Blue Maverick Crew” is a finalist in the 2017 Fiction Southeast Ernest Hemingway flash fiction prize contest, his story “The Rolex Adventurer” was runner up in the 2016 Able Muse Write Prize contest. Find out more about John online at http://www.johnmeyersauthor.com.