Flash Fiction for Microcosms

1 Thessalonians 5:2

Charles Floyd began dying the night of the buffalo. Seaman was hailed a hero, and the whole Corps of Discovery was giddy over the near miss: how the Newfoundland kept the buffalo from trampling the officers’ tent. No one was hurt, not even Charles. Still, death had settled upon him like the dreaded foxtail seeds.

Charles’ talisman, his journal, went missing that night.

At the last encampment, Charles noted an Ottowa youth slavering over it. The brute had offered to trade, and Charles waved him off derisively. Ever since, Charles felt watched. His skin crawled each time he opened his journal and brought out the gilded page. He couldn’t take the whole volume, and by now Mother knew he’d ripped Psalm 23 out of the family tome.

And now it was ripped from him.

Sometime later, Charles’ stomach turned against him. A fire inside his body set all his fluids to defecting. Eventually, Charles collapsed. From the bluff he had a panoramic view of the valley they’d just traversed. A fitting last sight.

Charles tore his gaze away, and with longing for the land he’d not be meeting– said to Clark, “I am going away. I want you to write me a letter.”

Charles Floyd, only fatality on the Lewis and Clark Expedition and subject of my fanciful flash fiction

For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. – 1 Thessalonians 5:2

This flash fiction is in response to Microcosms 90: historical/thief/mountains. The historical genre gave me the most pleasure. And pain. Truth is so inflexible, and so is a 200 word limit (But I got confused, because I actually had 300 with which to work. Argh! My flash fiction contests all run together).  The buffalo night, foxtail seeds, and the last words of Charles Floyd (who died of appendicitis) are truth– from the story of Lewis & Clark. And I got an honorable mention for my tale. 🙂

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Color: Fiction for Microcosms

From her usual spot between the front seats, the little girl gazed at the passing landscape, absently drawing shapes in the craggy skin on Father’s neck. On either side of the road the broken bones of civilization lay in colorless mounds. She often wondered why the colors left, why the piles weren’t bright like Lego bricks. Perhaps because she was thinking this, her heart thrilled at the orange fur sticking up from the drift.

“Stop!” she screeched. Her father slammed on the RV”s breaks and shot the girl into the huge front window. The purslane Mother had been cutting for dinner flew like confetti.

“What the hell!” Father gripped the steering wheel. The girl pointed to the almost invisible orange slash. He squinted, his brow furrowed. She could tell he was about to lose his temper, so she darted down the steps and out the hole that had once been a door on their RV, when their RV had been a vacation vehicle and not their home, when homes still stood.

The girl ran to the drift and extracted the treasure, shaking the radioactive dust from its fur the same way women once shook out clean clothes, back when people bothered cleaning clothes, back…

The cat’s matted coat hung off its bones like bolts of loose fabric.  She put her grimy nose next to its pink one, and whispered, “Wake up.”

The cat’s eyes remained little tipped dashes.

“Wake up I said!” the commanding tone was clearly an emulation of her father’s. She gave a hearty, bone-rattling, flesh-tenderizing shake. Nothing.

Cradling the cat in her arms, she took slow, shuffling steps, the kind that don’t want to, not toward Mother and Father and the RV, but to the front door, to all was left of the cat’s home. She knocked.

Be a Flasher

Not that kind of flasher, naughty bird. A flash fiction writer.

Why should I be a flash fiction writer? You ask. I’m glad you did. Flash fiction forces several wondrous talents upon you:

  1. Economy of language.
  2. Full-bodied plot in a tiny, weeny package.
  3. A stretch into new genres, styles, content.*
  4. Opportunity for you to turn away from a grueling, lonely novel-nobody-sees and hit publish.
  5. The thrill of weekly or monthly contests, like zeroflash, cracked flash fiction, and microcosms.
  6. Receive needful pets from fellow writers and learn to give same. Be in community.

I had this thought as I sat down today with my novel-in-progress: flash fiction should/could be part of Stephen King’s famed tool box for writers. Use it if it suits you. At first I couldn’t imagine liking anything less than a full-length novel, but the more I read and write flash, the more I appreciate its form. It’s like poetry and fiction made love and bam! Flash fiction.

*One such stretching happened to me just this month. The prompt for July’s Zeroflash is to write a metafiction piece. Metafiction? What on earth is that? The latin prefix meta means beyond, which I think of as above and beyond. Still, above and beyond fiction? I had to look it up. Luckily some of the examples were books I’d already read, so I understood that metafiction called attention to itself as a form or structure. Call me thick, it didn’t get much easier once I knew what the stuff was. But chew on a thing long enough and eventually it assimilates into you. Check out my metafiction flash piece here.