Zeroflash Fiction: Rampart

He studies her. Must be she’s grading stories because her smile ebbs and flows. His heart’s been slogging through the desert for years and now this– mirage, his new team teacher. Like all mirages, getting too close strikes the vision, and he very badly wants to keep her.

She’s absent to the aura of her beauty. More than that. Her back is bowed in the fashion of a tied package. He imagines this. He imagines himself unstringing her, pulling her to her full height with his hands.

A paper ball hits him on the cheek. Oh yes, his students. They’re giggling. He rubs his face in mock hurt and tells them sticks and stones will break his bones but paper balls put him in a reading mood. “Due tomorrow: a thousand words.”

She watches too. A wall of glass separates, but doesn’t separate them. The true barrier is the truth he cannot bring himself to speak. Sometimes he imagines he writes her– a love story he’d slip into her pile. It feels like shooting an arrow over a rampart. Once shot, it can never be taken back, and part of him doesn’t want to play the odds. The fantasy, as is, remains intact. Sometimes she glances up and smiles, unreserved, guileless.

First, he loved her through the testimonies: a teacher who could suss passion out of these blocks of teenage cement. She was a fire hose of inspiration. He fell for that. But seeing made it worse. He’d hoped she’d be ugly. Unsure as to whether he wants to rush her, crush and loose himself upon her– or plant a brotherly kiss on the crown of her hair, he’d do whichever she wished. Take it as deep or as shallow as she wished. If only he knew what she wished.

This was a venture into less comfortable territory for me: romance. My novel-in-progress, I Trespass, has a broad romantic theme, but I take a long time building it. Romantic flash fiction? A person can get scared quickly or confused or have a spontaneous laugh… but I believe love takes longer. 

Advertisements

Fiction for Microcosmsfic.com

 

Washed Away

“At it again?” Ella asked, standing over the hunched form of her husband. Darrin’s once-white robe was covered with a dusting of sand and browned on the butt. Ella handed him a steaming cup of coffee. A sand-encrusted hand trembled but received it gratefully. A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage. Half submerged in a foamy moat and gouging out fistfuls of muck, his other hand was invisible.

“I think I got it right this time,” Darrin muttered.

“How long?” Ella asked, her sweet voice hollow and feathery against the boisterous surf.

“Since two.”

“Why?”

“I wanted to finish before the tide came up. Recognize it?”

“Our honeymoon, Barcaldine Castle. But you got the top wrong. There weren’t any battlements on Barcaldine.”

“I added those… to keep you safe.” Darrin continued to scrape and mold the sand. The hands that played Brahms flawlessly, that delivered love letters, bills, and junk mail. The sure hands smoothed and teased the castle domes as if they were lace-decked breasts or a fragile neck. He drew his fingertips along the parapets as if they were her lips. One last time.

As the structure neared completion, Darrin’s eyes became glassy, but not a drop would fall. Plenty of salt water all around. The Ella hallucination faded as the sun edged over the horizon. At his feet lay the coffee cup full of brown water and sand. No wonder the coffee was bad.

Waves, inexorable and implacable, crept closer and closer. Darrin took the wedding rings out of his pocket: his thick one and her diamond-studded strand he’d discreetly removed before they shut the coffin. He clutched them to his chest. His other hand rooted around his robe pocket until he felt the smooth barrel, the finger hole.

The end.

Flash fiction is uniquely challenging. You get only a handful of words to communicate plot, brush in some character, some descriptions. No waste allowed! I think it appeals to me because I like poetry. But what often happens when I write flash is that most of the tale stays hidden inside my head, never to meet the page. I suppose I got it right with this one, or right enough because it won last week’s microcosmsfic flash fiction contest. The prize for winning? The honor of judging this week. Judging teaches me more about writing than almost any other exercise I do, so I’m grateful for the opportunity. Judging also allows me to do what I love second to writing: encourage fellow writers.

Love, Wrapped Up

Me with Grammy's afghanIt’s Christmas time.   And as Scroogie as it is to talk about this, most of what my thoughts gravitate toward is… money.  I wish it weren’t true.  I am constantly planning how I can get awesome, appropriate, and unique gifts at the best prices.  A fourth generation bargain Betty, I can’t resist a thrift store and can lose myself for hours in the behemoth Salvation Army nearby.    I liken it to hunting.   You have to get there early for the best pickings.  You must be patient and meticulous, diligent, and only rarely do you come away with a prize (like this sweater I’m wearing).  Mostly it’s just  waiting for something magical that never actually materializes.  And just like hunting, it can be a messy or dangerous endeavor.   I once had a large black spider fall out of a pair of jeans I was trying on.  Now I shake them before slipping my leg into those dark places, and I pray I don’t get lice, scabies,  or any other icky bonus as a direct result of trying on clothes.     Although I enjoy picking through junk, it’s not exactly the place to get awesome and appropriate, (although you can get unique) presents.  So once a year I’m forced to pay full price.  Am I throwing up while keying in my credit card numbers?  You bet.

My grandmother gave us kids used gifts every year.  “Thou shalt not buy anything new,” was her mantra.  Her gifts were always unique, sometimes appropriate, and once in a blue moon, awesome.    Is it because they didn’t cost her much that I didn’t feel the love?  Sometimes gifts have a time price tag, crafts whose extravagance is the many hours spent fashioning them.   The afghan my grandmother gave me was absolutely delightful for the thirty deluded seconds I thought she had crocheted it.    The problem was that I pictured my Grammy squirreling away gifts and then indiscriminately passing them out as the need arose.   I wanted a premeditated gift, one pondered upon and deemed perfect for me, not just perfect for any kid; I wanted it to cost her.

Am I mean?

Don’t answer that.  It’s a rhetorical question.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I love my Grammy and her gifts, although opening them felt somewhat like playing the lottery.  I think I wanted it to cost her because love is proportional to sacrifice.    Or maybe it would be better to say love equals sacrifice.  They are the same thing when they are true.  Take love as described in the Bible:  “Perfect love has no fear.”  How is that possible?   All human relationships are subject to betrayal and thus a possible source of fear.  Add to that the fact that people are messy and used, and sometimes full of spiders, and the odds are significantly against not feeling pain in love at one time or another.  Still, we are loved by God.  His love doesn’t depend on our worth or our response to Him.  That’s why it’s perfect… and fearless.   If I love like He loves, my love doesn’t depend upon the object; no reciprocity necessary.  That is incredibly freeing (and incidentally, incredibly useful when raising teens).

God loves us by giving the gift of Jesus to anyone who will accept him.  I can say it’s a lovely gift under the tree, but it doesn’t become mine until I act.  Act in faith this season if you haven’t already.