"What's it called when somebody doesn't
believe in God?" his daughter asked.
"Oh, that just means they forgot," he said.
They stepped around the little pet's grave.
"I can't wait to die," she said.
"What--why?" he said.
She patted the soil.
"So that I can tell John Waynes how much
I like his films."
"Oh," he said.
And she pressed harder, and later refused
to wash her hands.
First appeared in Quick Fiction Issue 11, in 2007 (JP press)
In "Echo" Mark Yakich depicts an exchange between a father and his young daughter as they bury a pet. This story contrasts themes of innocence and loss.
The opening line knocked the wind out of me. The young girl's tone is casual, yet her question seems deep. (Note: it took me several reads to realize that she is asking about a word, not about the nature of belief in general. This shifts the gravity of her question, yet it remains extremely intriguing.)
I am affected by the melancholy matter-of-factness of her query, and also of her next statement, "I can't wait to die." Her calm tone indicates that she is not aware of the reality of death, despite the buried animal. (I imagine that perhaps her parents have just explained that her pet has gone to heaven, and so she is creating her own vision of it, which includes her favorite movie star.) Her naivete is juxtaposed with her father's awareness; I could hear his voice rising when he questions her, and felt my chest tighten as he realizes how pure her concept of death must be.
The title has no explicit meaning, but it does compliment the extra, echoing sound of the "s" in the word "Waynes." That "s," in my opinion, is the source of this piece's charm. It represents the daughter's complete innocence.
This prose-poem works as a piece of flash fiction in many ways, principally because Yakich uses a delicate hand but packs an emotional punch. Additionally, he succeeds in ending the piece with an understated subject-change that refers to the content but also allows the reader to ruminate on the piece long after finishing.
About the Author
Joanna Leigh Simon is an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) candidate at Rosemont College. She has had poems and essays published in Laurel Moon and
Glasses Glasses, and has contributed writing for Public Radio
International. She lives in Philadelphia, and always goes out of her
way to step on a crunchy leaf.
For further reading, check out FlashFiction.Net's suggested readings of flash fiction and prose poetry collections, anthologies, and craft books, by clicking here.