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#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: Forever was shorter than she expected

As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.

Writing Prompt: Forever was shorter than she expected.

Provided by: Anna Tan, friend, fellow writer, and one of the magnificent Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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A to Z Challenge: F for Forever was shorter than she expected

A to Z Challenge: F for Forever was shorter than she expected

‘They had warned me, but much too late.’ Mrs. Wallace tossed grain to her flock of lovebirds, ‘I had already married him by then.’

The lovebirds flew all around her in the cage, a whirl of peach and green and teal feathers and beaks, they settled once in a while in her curled grey hair with their tiny claws, screeched and called and tittered in a frenzy. In that moment I saw her, black tees torn in places and jeans spattered with bird poop, laughing, throwing her hands in the air like a mad dervish in ecstasy.

‘He used to do this each morning,’ she smiled as she scattered another handful on the floor lined with feathers and straw, ‘Close the door behind you, or they’ll fly off.’

Outside the cage, a wall stared at me, lined with shelves heavy with rows of books and knicknacks. A goat skull sat on a pile of dusty books, next to a Mexican painted pitcher. A bottle of amber liquid, a floating scorpion inside, pincers lowered. Weird–shaped stones in plastic bowls. Some hair braided with beads.

‘All his stuff,’ Mrs. Wallace had caught me looking, ‘go click them if you want. Things from everywhere you know, antiques.’

Antiques, really? I looked up at the Arizona Ash looming over the building that contained the reception area and a few glass cases with sundry bugs and a smattering of posters. Once I finished up with the interview, I would find myself a pint of stout and some of that shade.

From somewhere inside the park, a lion roared, making me drop my phone. A long, drawn out call, and then a series of breathy grunts, at regular intervals. ‘Don’t worry, it’s just their lunch time, is all,’ she smiled at me once I’d picked up my phone, fumbling over my camera bag in the process. Never heard a lion roar outside of a TV set before.

‘I married Nick because he was handsome, and big, and kind,’ she answered the question I had asked her ten minutes ago, ‘I thought it would last forever. We began with chuckwallas and rattlers, you know, and some of these birds, a desert tortoise and one lame coyote. I love animals and so did he.’

Forever was shorter than she expected. Nick Wallace’s lions killed and half-ate him the year before last.

I had come here to cover the story of the park’s struggle to survive, against litigation, against public opinion. The lion had gone quiet, but the bird noise behind me hit a raucous, hysteric note. I wanted to clamp my hands on my ears, run.

I had to stay and ask her questions though, so I made myself turn towards her and smile. ‘I’ll wait outside.’

‘Head to the big cats,’ Mrs. Wallace did not look at me as she spoke, ‘ I’ll find you. Go on, my husband’s inside with them. You might get a few good shots.’

‘Husband?’ I froze at the door of the cage.

‘I kept Nick’s surname.’ She bent to refill her bowl of grain from a small sack. ‘This is my second husband, Kevin Brenner. He’s managed the money side of this place these last twelve years.’

I had held the door open, and a few of the birds now flitted out, their wings whirring above my head. I began to close it back, but she walked up to me and opened it all the way. I turned without a word, and took off to find the lion enclosure.

I looked back once, to find her still tossing grain, as one bird flew out, then another.

———

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Ever been in a Wildlife rescue centre with big cats?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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33 Comments

  • Rajlakshmi says:

    I almost thought she was going to feed him to the lions … I don’t have enough words to express how beautifull your stories are… dark and haunting… it gives that eerie feeling.

  • Great multi-layered piece… lots to fathom between the lines…

  • nembow says:

    I enjoyed this story. Kept me hooked right to the end. Lots to read into this and all of it subtle. Just the way I like my flash fiction! (You might be interested in looking at my flash fiction website: http://1000words.org.uk. It’s for stories written in response to a picture prompt.)

  • Indywrites says:

    The stories that you write have a little bit of evil, darkness and a lot of seemingly innocent words leading up to a wild twist.
    Just amazed at the variety.

  • S(t)ri says:

    forever is not always for ever!!! it at times becomes an oxymoron and gets a time period to last for 🙁

    ~S(t)ri
    Participant|AtoZ Challenge 2014
    Smile, it makes (y)our day!

  • Ananya Kiran says:

    I am falling short of words 🙁 to comment

  • eejaygee says:

    You always have an interesting twist right at the end. 🙂

  • Dixie Minor says:

    I love the details of the objects that are in the room, and the room itself; I can see it. ?? I enjoyed this very much!

  • Brandon says:

    Horrible way to go, but at least it was doing something he loved.

    Brandon Ax: Writer’s Storm

  • I agree with Peter Nena; there are layers upon layers in your stories, layers that sometimes tell, and often hint at something even darker beyond the words themselves. Another chilling tale worthy of praise from even the most demanding fans of this genre…

  • I like to write,but there are many roadblocks to overcome. Some are in my mind, others are more real. I’ve browsed lots of writing prompts. I even follow a few blogs that do it on a regular basis, sometimes weekly. Even if I don’t write, it’s fun to watch others do it … when I have time.

    Visit us during the A to Z Challenge. We are highlighting authors who are more than writers. Click HERE.

  • Lanise Brown says:

    I loved the lovebirds. It’s such a moving scene. I write fiction but have only tried a couple of writing prompts. Maybe I should try them more often. Thanks for the great story. 😀

  • naemarsaed says:

    I greatly enjoyed this short Damyanti, many thanks. The line about her husband being inside the lion really tripped me. I also appreciate the principles of the ‘A – Z’ challenge, to get a short out every day for a stretch is quite something, a great discipline! And also thanks for your last visit to my work too 🙂

  • Sandra Ulbrich Almazan says:

    Forever was definitely shorter than she expected! I liked the description in this piece.

    Sandra
    Indie Writers Monthly

  • I just popped over and joined your blog through the A-Z, and I’m so glad! What an ambitious theme. You are very brave.
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

  • Thank you, Damyanti. I enjoyed this story. Mrs Wallace is an intriguing character and it’s a thought provoking plot 🙂

  • kmandana says:

    Every post so far has caught by surprise, at the tail-end! Can picture the old lady totally..

  • Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Chilling. It brings to mind Indian tribes that thank the animals for offering themselves as food. I wonder if that brought her peace.

    Beautifully done.

  • A great read throughout! I would have known about your blog long before. Reading all your posts for the A-Z challenge. You are a great writer 🙂

  • SittieCates says:

    Had a great time reading this! Beautiful!

  • Trisha says:

    This is ambitious theme, Damyanti! Good luck.

    Your writing is fantastic, so I don’t doubt you’ll do well. 😀

  • Peter Nena says:

    I must confess now that I have become enamoured of the atmosphere in your stories. A strange sort of darkness lingers in them, subtle, insidious, yet, upon contemplation, is frightening and morbid, even ghastly. Mrs. Wallace husband is killed and half-eaten by lions–a picture forms in my mind of a mangled, deformed, helpless body, bleeding copiously and gasping for its last breath–and the thing with the birds in the house with their multifarious colours and raucous, hysterical cries, besides a goat skull on a pile of dusty books and a scorpion carcase in an amber liquid and bugs in glass cases–this woman lives like a witch. She is distracted as well, for her speech is random, ineloquent, abrupt; she answers a question after ten minutes, and speaks without directly regard her audience. This is disturbing.
    Good work, Damyanti. I am a fan.

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks, Peter. I’ve tried to get in as many nuances and layers in this piece of fiction as there are in life. I’m honored that you had the patience to read the piece through, and then comment on it at such length.

  • Shine Kapoor says:

    Things change, mind changes and forever can last for just a few moments. Nice post

  • uniqusatya says:

    It costs everything(Material and immaterial) to retain something forever

  • Beloo Mehra says:

    Once again a richly described story, I like that! I could almost picture Mrs. Wallace 🙂

    Beauty Interprets, Expresses, Manifests the Eternal

  • Marie Abanga says:

    Forever indeed it never came to be, hahaha funny post but heavy with meaning!
    AtoZer at http://myeverydaypersonal.blogspot.be/

  • Rosie Amber says:

    I went to a park in Palm Springs years ago with lots of wild mountain cats I think. Other than that it’s been safari parks in Britain. I’m enjoying your posts.

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks, Rosie, I appreciate your support. and to everyone who stops by today, I apologize for the length of the post– each one of my stories chooses its own length, and this one kept growing today, and needed the words I have given it.

      Of course, this was written at a go, with not much editing, so maybe some day I’ll be able to cut it down further.

  • nice post once again…congrats.

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