Flash fiction has been one of my favorite writing pastimes. Before I started on novels, I would pick up a few prompts and scribble each morning. I have an entire cupboard crammed with notebooks, brimming over with snippets of flash.
Drafting novels and editing them sometimes sucks away the pleasure of writing for me (hello, burnout!), so when I was tagged on Facebook to write a 100-word piece of fiction, I didn’t mind in the least. Flash fiction often comes to me at one sitting, fully formed as a story, and that’s really half the joy of it.
Here’s what I came up with:
They’ve met many times now, inside his tent. It is never enough.
In her head, writhing snakes that never pause as she keeps pots from boiling over, snails from decimating the garden, snarling children from killing each other.
He sits quiet by the ponds that open like dark flowers on the grassland, rich-smelling, deep, filled with hulking, whiskered fish. Raises a mouth organ off and on, sending soundbursts into the air, like smoke from a burned home.
Tonight, they’ll meet again. One of them will vanish—never be seen again—the other return as food for fish and snails.
I tagged a few friends in turn, and am sharing here the terrific pieces they wrote in response.
My writing friend Denise Covey played along with the tag and wrote this lovely, atmospheric piece:
I walk in solitude.
The last gleam of sunshine fades on the hilltops, stabs long fingers of shadow across the valley.
Sunset’s last leaf of gold glimmers.
I sit. I watch. I pray.
The solemn coloring of night draws on, the seep serene of the gumtrees, the long shadows of the mountains thrown across the grey trunks, dimly visible as they touch the farthest shore, the prancing harbor.
I wish for the moon, but she is dark to me, silent, hidden in her vacant interlunar cave.
I absorb the agony without end.
The pandemic has cast a long shadow. But unlike the shadows from the setting sun, this long shadow will not disappear come evening.
Hema Natarajan‘s piece was very different, but so nuanced and poignant:
When I was six, I saw the hulking banyan tree in my backyard slowly die. Those wisteria vines around its trunk had looked so magical at first, like they were the tree’s green babies. The way they tangled around it, just like I hugged Mom. The tree didn’t shoo them away though. Mom told me later the vines had smothered the tree, hugged it so tight that it couldn’t breathe and it died.
I stopped hugging her or anyone else after that.
But now, he pulls me in for a hug and I cannot decline. He entwines his arms around me, kisses me so hard, I gasp for breath. “I can’t wait to marry you!” He says.
I close my eyes, pull the engagement ring to the very tip of my finger until it’s almost off and then I push it back on again.
And then I think of the tree.
And lastly, you can tell that Rae Joyce is a skilled poet, from her take on the challenge:
Now, in the first evening there are leaves big enough that their movement in the restless air causes me to look up from one blank screen to stare at another and wonder as wonder before knowing must have felt so many years before I knew you and so many still before knowing myself, and seeing nothing there, I can move my fingers the way that lilac outside the black window moves, and though there are differing forces at play, we both move essentially because we are moved to move as if in a slow dance for the first warm evening.
I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by such kind and talented friends–please check out their links to read more of their excellent work.
What have you been writing or reading lately? Do you like flash fiction? How do you keep your writing fun?
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