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Rock Paper Scissors

I've never played Rock--Paper--Scissors, but somehow the story came to me, against a background of family conflict. I wonder how much of this sprang from my childhood on that farm in southwest New South Wales. Honestly, I don't remember much about our relatives.

I'd like to thank the people on Baen's Bar for their support and encouragement over the years. I write in an isolated environment here in Adelaide, and have really appreciated this connection to the writing community.

I was two years old when my father disappeared. I cried for a whole week.
"Cheer up, Alexander." Aunt Morgause always sounded nasty. "He'll probably come crawling out from under some rock."
I spent years checking the rocks and stones in our backyard, but never found my father.
Later, I learned to play rock--paper-- scissors, mostly with my sister Kitty. One day after we'd been play fighting, her diary fell on the floor and opened at a certain page. I looked. Wouldn't you? She'd written down what Aunt Morgause had said about my father crawling out from under some rock, and underlined it.
Which meant it was valuable information. Kitty has an instinct for family secrets, and we have plenty. Even though I was young, I sensed a permanent undercurrent of distrust in our family. No matter what the topic, they'd argue till dawn. Most didn't back down, and everyone took sides. Truth is, I needed someone on my side.
The day before I turned ten, Kitty came into my bedroom and closed the door behind her. I'd never seen her so serious.
"Alex, get ready. This is gonna change your life." She took a deep breath. "When you turn ten, you get the family gift. It's rock--paper-- scissors, for real." And she explained why she'd written down what Aunt Morgause had said and what I could do about it. I listened hard. Years ago, Aunt Morgause had caught Kitty eavesdropping. Since then, Aunt has refused to talk to her. Which is why, according to Kitty, I had to challenge her.
Together, we practiced for the rest of the day. I needed to master this family gift.
Next morning, my birthday dawned bright and clear. The whole family gathered for my party. After all the nice stuff and the food, I challenged Aunt Morgause to play rock--paper--scissors.
She agreed.
We played.
She won, mostly.
Then the right moment came. When she said rock I did what Kitty had taught me. With my mind I reached up and seized the word, turned it round and threw it right back at Aunt Morgause. I made the word hover over her head and then double back on itself, so that the pointy end connected with the feathery end. I even heard it click into place. Immediately, my father materialized in front of us, a huge smile on his face. Aunt Morgause shrank back into her chair. I clapped my hands. I'd done it!
"Alexander!" Dad rushed forward and gave me the biggest bear hug in all creation. Then he turned on Aunt Morgause. "What a spiteful old witch you turned out to be. I've missed eight years of my son's life, all because you outplayed me." He glanced at me. "I believe Alexander wants to play you again, now."
Aunt Morgause glanced at the door, like she wanted to bolt. "Again...?"
Once a second challenge has been issued, it must be accepted. Again we played, Aunt Morgause and I.
First time, she won.
I waited.
The moment she said paper I seized the word and flung it back at her. It twisted right round and clicked, as before. Aunt Morgause folded down into a dusty, old-fashioned paper fan. Everyone cheered. We put her in a drawer, along with the others. Next family get-together, we'd bring her out and dust her off. Maybe.
But whoever dusts has to be very, very careful. Our relatives may be filed away, but they play with scissors.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, August 14th, 2017

Author Comments

Brenda Anderson's fiction has appeared in various places, most recently in Flash Fiction Online and Every Day Fiction. She lives in Adelaide, South Australia, and tweets irregularly @CinnamonShops.

- Brenda Joyce Anderson
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