The Creative Cafe
Published in

The Creative Cafe


A short story by Tommy Paley

Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash

Helena had always loved to fly.

Running around the backyard, partially clothed, arms stretched wide as if a graceful bird.

It had been cute as a preschooler, growing exponentially less cute after she graduated from college.

But she just loved to fly.

It made her feel free and weightless in a similar yet different way as her last diet.

Flying made her feel as if all of her problems had been magically lifted from her shoulders unlike anything else aside from the fleeting moments each day when the weights she’d been carrying for reasons that were beyond her pay grade were actually lifted off her shoulders.


What an amazing concept that she had always dreamed of understanding and possibly, depending on the definition, embracing as a young girl who grew up without a dictionary or computer because her family was both poor and against defining things.


It had beguiled her, fully capturing her imagination, dreams and waking moments to the point where her teachers suggested she needed professional help. Unfortunately, her family didn’t believe in professional help on principle alone and refused to explain that belief on a subset of the same principle.

Helena spent weekends soaring above fields of wheat or corn or sometimes sorghum depending on what she’d been fed for breakfast that morning and how accurate her current, ridiculously-outdated prescription was.

She spent weekday nights alternatively resting on clouds and cresting up towards the atmosphere without a care in the world aside from being back in time for her favourite sitcom. Her parents were equal parts supportive and adding psychologists to their speed dial cue.

She spend every unoccupied moment living as her feathered friends did as accurately as her meager budget allowed including, but not limited to, donning a fairly realistic beak on special occasions.

Helena told all of her friends and, to a lesser degree, her adversaries in the most mystically confusing manner that, one day, she’d return to the sky as it was where she belonged.

It called to her.

That place far above the chimney tops like that song her mother used to sing to her at bedtime, purposely offkey, for reasons only her part-time vocal coach completely understood.

She longed to be there.

It pained her, she frequently told others, though when she was little she accidently said “painted” which made even less sense than she was intending, which, even she acknowledged, was hard to do.


Using her senses, daily.

Helena had always been sensitive, crying at the drop of a hat, albeit a large and heavy one.

Touching others, constantly, mostly on their arms, as she really enjoyed moving her fingers across their arm hairs pretending, for some reason, it was a farm.

Hearing the constant whispers from the next room while she tried to read as whispers were her parent’s favourite music.

Smelling the air with her nose constantly raised leading others to say she had “airs about her” to which she always slowly nodded, agreeing “don’t we all?”

Seeing the world around her with her big blue eyes that others often compared, jealously, to saucers which privately thrilled her as she often daydreamed that flying saucers would take her far away from this hell hole.

Why her father insisted on naming their family home “Hell Hole” was beyond her as was why he named his moustache “Steve”.

And taste.

Ahhh, taste.

Her favourite.

Each day she tasted so much always feeling regret that she couldn’t taste the one thing she longed to taste above all others. Flight.

“But, how will you taste flight?” her best friend, Shelley, always angrily wondered to the point where Helena wished Shelley was just a poster on her wall as the actual posters were quite supportive of her desire to both utilize all of her senses however she wanted and, specifically, to taste flight. Shelley couldn’t help but be hurt by this, weeping uncontrollably while taking tiny, mouse-sized, bites of the provided cheese, in her never-ending desire to prove that she definitely was not a poster.

But, nothing would stop Helena.

Not stop signs, not traffic cops and not even traffic cops who also wielded stop signs after multiple unsuccessful attempts to get her to stop.

Nothing could stop her aside from the laws of physics. And her accountant. He was really strong.

She lived each day, fulfilling her destiny which is something she just said to others to get invited to certain parties, eyes turned skyward, raised to the heavens with a look that was equal parts love, jealousy and ennui if it happened to be overcast.

“Careful you don’t bump into a tree or our next door neighbour who often impersonates trees!” her mother would call out while whipping egg whites out of spite before turning her attention to “those darn yokes”.

“Careful you don’t fall into a hole like I did when I was younger,” her dad warned her “though that week I spent in a hole was, honestly, one of the best weeks of my young life as my parents believed in keeping all holes in our backyard well stocked.”

Everyone was always asking her to be careful from parents to parental figures to those really caring friends of your parents who aren’t really your friends, specifically, but with whom you have a relaxed and warm relationship with and wouldn’t hesitate calling them up if you needed a surrogate parent, which, in Helena’s case, was rare.

She just longed to return.

To the clouds, to the horizon, to the sky.

She wanted more than anything, aside from a really good smoked salmon and cream cheese on toasted sesame bagel, to return to the sky.

So badly.

When asked what that meant exactly by her creative writing teacher or her expensive psychiatrist or her mail carrier, she glanced slightly upward, stood on her tiptoes, stretched out her arms as if they were wings and uttered a very quiet “whoosh”.

Friends and coworkers often commented “are you okay?” and “is that shaving cream in your hair?” and “you do realize that’s a water cooler you are talking to and caressing?”.

She was okay, as long as people used the most liberal definition of the term.

She just wanted to be up there, where the air was rarefied, just like that song her parents used to listen both to enjoy themselves and to torment her as a young child. They also liked eating entire boxes of salty crackers for the same two reasons with equal effect.

Helena had big plans.

To one day buy a plane, go back to school to learn how to fly a plane and then fly her plane all day long everyday. No amounts of “planes are expensive” or “flying a plane is hard and potentially dangerous” or “so, your plan is to constantly fly around, by yourself, won’t that get boring?” comments from her parents could wipe that smile off her face. She’d used permanent marker.

Soon, the sky would be her oyster and she didn’t care if oysters had nothing to do with the sky in anyway because that wasn’t the point. The point was her being one with the sky and she also didn’t care if that made any sense at all as she was too busy eating cake. Yes, she just wanted to have her cake and eat it too, by which she meant return skyward, and she asked others to kindly to looking so perplexed when she misused analogies.

Helena had always loved to fly, and she always would.



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Tommy Paley

Tommy Paley


I write creative non-fiction, humorous and random short stories, unique and tasty recipes and fiction involving odd and funny relationships. I also love cheese.