Monday, April 30, 2012

Life, the Universe, and Flash Fiction

Here is some especially tiny fiction written--in a flash--for this contest. The prompt was to write forty-two words about The Meaning of Life (Or the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything). I have to admit that fewer than fifty words is challenging. My handwritten draft was about 100 words.

Carol hooted with laughter, blasting everyone with biscotti crumbs. The women cackled with her, spilling tea, wiping tears, and rousing the sunbathing cat. Her husband sighed, rolled his eyes, and smiled despite himself. The tedium of life dissolves in silly summer afternoons.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

May Makes Way for June

The following bit of flash was written for the National Flash Fiction Day contest with the theme of May Day. The word limit is 310 and my draft was almost 800 words. I managed to pare it down to 310 exactly, and hopefully I left the right words in.

They might not like peas, she thought as she placed the hard, wrinkled seeds four finger-spaces apart. Maybe the new owners will plant roses or build a shed on top of it. Or just reseed it with grass. Mow it. Put fertilizer on it every few weeks.  

Her gardening apron fit looser than it had the previous year, her hands were stiffer, and repeatedly standing and kneeling was difficult and noisy. But the garden was her companion. She’d turned its soil, uncovered its worms, shared cans of beer with its slugs, and nourished it with compost. Through decades of summer days, she had scrubbed its heavy soil from her hands with a bar of rough, salty-smelling soap.

Sinking the spade deep into the soil, she leaned lightly against the handle, facing east away from the sun and toward the house. She and her husband had been in their twenties when they moved in. She still struggled to remind herself that she was not just waiting for him to come home. Now, the house was just money for the next decade’s groceries and bills.

She sighed and began the next task: digging shallow holes for the tomatoes. Stepping on the blade, she felt an electric pang and realized she was glad Trixie had died last month. The old tabby would have been miserable in a new environment. Involuntarily grunting, she knelt to nestle the seedlings into their new home, then used the spade to push herself upright.

She scratched a final shallow row into the crumbly grey dirt. At the end of the row, she rested for a moment and flexed her sore fingers. She watched as the silver band slipped off her hand and landed on the soil. She looked at it blankly for a moment, then used the handle of the hoe to push it deeper into the ground.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Clipboard of Destiny

The following scribble is 349 of 350 allowed words for Yearning for Wonderland's Once Upon A Time flash fiction contest. "Unexpected Fairy Tales" is the theme for the contest, but beyond that, there aren't many criteria. (My draft was well over 1,200 words!)

I deposit my silent screams in the basement file room. Few of my coworkers have the key, and fewer want to visit the rank, dismal bowels of the old newspaper building. Most importantly, Judy never goes there. Last Friday, I sat in my usual spot by the 1994 tax information. I inhaled deeply, opened my mouth wide, wrinkled my nose, and squeezed my eyes shut. As I quietly exhaled, releasing thirty-six hours of frustration, I heard sniffling. Alarmed, I skulked past rows of moldy boxes toward the sound. A tiny woman slumped on a step stool near the 1983 personnel files. Her orthopedic shoes barely touched the floor. Glaring at me from behind enormous purple-rimmed glasses, she dabbed at her nose with a handkerchief. “It’s a good day for this room,” she said.

“Sorry, I didn’t realize anyone was down here,” I mumbled.

“I’m retiring today,” she said, slipping the hankie into her pocket. When I could see her whole face, I estimated she had seen the advent of moveable type. “Not by choice. But they can soak their heads. I have books to read. Cats to feed. Magic to make.” She snorted.

“They say you’re busier after retirement than before,” I offered, making a noise like a little laugh.

“Here,” she stood, scarcely taller than when she sat. A wing-shaped rhinestone comb held her gunmetal updo in place. She pulled a silver glitter-encrusted clipboard out of her coat and shoved it at me. It was heavy. “This will help,” she sighed, ambling away. I skimmed the parchment clipped to the board and immediately understood. I smoothed my hair and made my way back upstairs. At my desk, I studied the form. Everyone in the office was listed on the left. On the right side, a hundred phrases were each accompanied by a blank box. I circled “Judy” on the left side. My pen lingered over “vacation,” on the right side, but then I saw the best choice. “Colon polyps.” My checkmark was bold and dark. I clasped the clipboard to the ink stain on my shirt and grinned.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

LitStack Flash Fiction Challenge #7

Copyright Chris Galvin
Chris Galvin took this brilliant photo. Her blog is always a great read!

Just Another Saturday 

He traced the shape of a blunted arrow with his finger. The iron gate was covered in city dust, white and fine like plaster. The early morning sun felt good on his face. The humidity made it impossible to shake off the slight chill in the air. He turned to look behind him. He felt like he’d been waiting alone for hours. Seconds later, a sharp tap on his shoulder made him jump. There she was. “Hey,” he said nonchalantly.

“Hey,” she replied breathlessly. Her mischievous smile made this Saturday seem like any of the last hundred days they had spent going on adventures, eating candy, and talking about important stupid things.

“Did you run here?”

“Some of the girls wanted to say goodbye. I didn’t want them to follow me, but they’re all slow anyway.” She shrugged with an air of superiority. “You should take this,” she said, shoving something into his hand. It poked his palm hard and he flinched as he closed his fingers around it.

“You’re my best friend.” He hated himself as the words rushed out. His face felt hot. He examined the dusty flip-flops that were almost too small for him.

“Dummy, you’re my best friend too.” Just for a second, her face did something he’d never seen it do. She frowned. Tears gathered in her eyes, but she blinked them away and exhaled, sounding annoyed. She talked fast, as if she were reciting a poem at school. “I know I’ll be back even if it’s not soon. Grandma says life is long. We’re ten. Life is still really long!” She gave him an exasperated look, waiting for agreement.

He nodded, looking down at his feet again. Her red flip-flops shuffled closer to his. She threw her arms around his neck. He hugged her back tightly and whispered their unofficial credo as he let her go, “No one has more fun than us.”

“We’re still friends. No matter where we are.” He threw his arms out to punctuate the statement, and the ladybug pin slipped from his hand. It landed just inside the gate, but one of the wings was missing. His heart dropped into the soles of his feet. The broken wing had flown into the tiny space beneath the café’s inner door. They looked down at their found treasure and remembered how delighted they were to discover the wings opened when the antennae were pressed, revealing the broken clock inside.

He dropped to his knees and picked it up, half of the dead clock exposed. He rubbed it on his shirt and looked around frantically for a stick. “It’s okay. I can fix it.”

She shook her head. “Just leave it, Superman. It’s just like we found it.” Giving him one last hug, she turned and ran—fast—toward her house. As she disappeared around the corner, he looked into the closed café, then shoved the pin into his pocket and ran toward the other end of the city.

Please check out Chris Galvin's blog. She writes excellent flash fiction and poetry!