The child lay on her stomach, elbows supporting her upper body, legs bent at the knees, bare feet in the air. She rested half in, half out of a cardboard box turned on its side. Four holes had been cut into the cardboard to form front and side windows—her Daddy had cut the holes for her before he left for his job flying a big airplane, because she wasn’t allowed to handle sharp things. Now, five-year-old Amelia worked to fashion an instrument panel using crayons, a glue stick, and a bunch of buttons from a rusty old cookie tin her grandmother had given her to play with.
She heard a voice coming from her grandmother’s kitchen as she rubbed out a crooked line with an art-gum eraser. The voice rasped out some indistinct words. Then, so loud it made her jump, there was a thump on the table.
“Do you understand me?” the voice barked.
Amelia heard her Grandmother make a tiny sound. She grabbed the black crayon and furiously worked on coloring in the area around the instrument panel of her cockpit. Her Daddy had promised her the airplane would fly and that she would be able to use it any time she liked to fly to him. She needed to get it finished right now, so she could go and get her Daddy. It was her only hope.
A man she didn’t know had burst in through the kitchen door while Grandma was washing dishes. Amelia, lying on the living room floor, could see him and his gun by looking under the sofa, but he couldn’t see her. She’d lain under the sofa for a little while trying to figure out what to do. The bad man made Grandma sit down and used the big roll of silver duct tape from the junk drawer to tape Grandma’s ankles to the chair and her hands behind her. Amelia thought about dialing 911, like her teacher taught her at kindergarten, but she didn’t have a phone. Amelia had seen the bad man get the cell phone out of Grandma’s pocket.
Then she remembered her airplane and set to work as fast as she could. If she could just get it done in time, before the bad man hurt Grandma, she’d be able to fly off and get her Daddy to save them. But she was hurrying too fast—coloring outside the lines. She rubbed furiously at a mistake with her eraser, but she pushed too hard. The packing tape that connected the bottom flap of the box to the sides gave out and she fell through the main control panel, making a loud ker-fwump noise.
“Who’s there?” the bad man shouted.
“It’s only my cat,” Grandma said. Her voice sounded weak, almost like a whisper.
Amelia didn’t have to look to know Grandma was crying. She also knew that Grandma was trying to protect her. They didn’t have a cat. She crept over to Grandma’s desk where the Scotch tape dispenser sat. Then she tip-toed back to her plane—quiet as a mouse, ducking and darting around the furniture, never taking her eyes off the kitchen door. She slowly, slowly pulled a piece of tape off the roll, and pushed it down onto the sharp edge of the tape dispenser to cut it, but she looked away toward the kitchen, and the tape wrapped itself around her finger and stuck together. She almost said a bad word, the one she’d gotten in trouble for the day before, but she remembered in time that she had to be quiet.
A chair moved and a loud slap came from the kitchen. “What do you think you’re doing, old woman?” the stranger shouted.
“I asked you a question.”
“I was getting a cramp,” Grandma said.
“Looked like you were trying to get up out of that chair to me,” the man said. “Do it again, and I’ll do more than slap you.”
Amelia started to cry, and her hands shook. She couldn’t help it, but she knew the bad man would hurt her Grandma again if she didn’t get the plane done. She also knew that if she didn’t do a good job, the magic wouldn’t work, and it wouldn’t fly. That’s what her daddy had told her, so she took a deep breath and willed her hands to be steady. The man had already started to hurt Grandma, and Amelia had seen bad men on television. She knew it was only a matter of time before he hurt Grandma really badly.
She pulled off another piece of tape, fixing it to one side of the flap with the control panel on it. When she pulled off the next piece of tape, she forgot to be quiet, and the tape dispenser made a krrrrcht noise. Amelia froze and watched the kitchen door. It was quiet in the kitchen, and after a minute or so, she raced around to finish the controls. There was just a little more to do, and she was almost done when she felt a big, hot hand close around her ankle.
The man who pulled her out of her airplane was grinning. His teeth were broken and yellow. His breath smelled as sour as vomit.
He said, “Well, lookey here. You’re a pretty little kitty, aren’t you?”
Kimberly Parish Davis got her MFA from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. She spent five years on the editorial staff of Texas Review Press and is currently the director of Madville Publishing. Her short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in various literary journals, including The Helix, Jerry Jazz Musician, époque press, Fredericksburg Literary, and Art Review (FLAR), Flare: The Flagler Review, and Kestrel.