Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about consequences by David Obuchowski.
David Obuchowski is an awards-nominated and prolific writer of fiction, long-form essays and more. His fiction has appeared in the pages of The Baltimore Review, West Trade Review, Jet Fuel Review, Border Crossing and many more. His non-fiction has appeared in Road & Track, Fangoria, Longreads, Salon and others. He is the creator, producer, writer, and host of the documentary podcast series, TEMPEST, which was recently adapted into a television series. His first children’s book is a collaboration with Sarah Pedry. Entitled How Birds Sleep it is being published by mineditionUS (Astra Publishing) in Spring, 2023.
‘Black Cherry’ follows a young girl struggling against bullying at her local swimming pool.
No question what her favourite flavour was. Black cherry. The Food City store brand. Julietta would always remember that nearly nondescript, primer-grey can with the maroon letters that spelled out BLACK CHERRY SODA, the words set at a forty-five-degree angle.
She only ever drank the stuff in the summertime. She used to steal them out of the refrigerator in the office at the neighbourhood pool. Never stole money from the army green metal box that was always kept right there on the desk, unlatched and filled with crinkled up singles and fives. Never stole the donuts and cupcakes they kept in the refrigerator for the swim team. Never stole the cans of cola (grey can, black letters), root beer (grey can, brown letters) or lemon-lime soda (grey can, electric green letters). Only black cherry. The generic store brand kind. The kind that stained her mouth so bad, her mother would think she’d put on lipstick.
It’s what she was drinking the morning Missy attacked her. One of the lifeguards was on duty, and the other one was skimming the pool with one of those long aluminium poles with a blue net at the end, collecting beetles and dead bees and pine needles then shaking them off into the strip of dirt and weeds between the tan concrete pool deck and the tall wooden fence, which blocked the view – but not the sounds – of Livingston Avenue. The office was completely unattended. And to make it even easier, the door to it – which was always open – wasn’t even visible from the pool itself because it was obscured by a long row of evergreen bushes. Julietta dipped into the office, which was attached to a much larger cinderblock room with all the mechanicals in it. It reeked of chlorine, and the hum of machinery was so loud it was almost frightening. No wonder the lifeguards only ever spent enough time in the office to make change from the cashbox or grab their lunch from the fridge.