Flash Fiction Challenge #8 (Something New)

flashfictioncartoon-300x300Back in 1998 I was writing… a lot. And most of what I wrote back then was short fiction. It was a renaissance of sorts because I hadn’t really planned on it. In fact, for the past year before that I was writing a lot of poetry snippets. Not real poems, mind you, just bits and pieces, lines here and there that came to me. Suddenly, though, those lines transformed into snatches of conversation. Those words became characters who spoke to me, forcing me to set them in motion and see what happened.

Before this challenge I could probably count on two hands the number of short stories I’d written over the past year. That was probably because of many factors, not the least of which was the maintenance of my blogs. I guess I forgot that writing short fiction could be a part of anything else I decided to write. But I’m proud to say that if this is my second renaissance it is a fruitful one. I’ve fallen in love once more with short fiction during this challenge.

Only three more stories to go. Here are the rules of the Flash Fiction Challenge…

  1. Each entry has to follow a set prompt
  2. Each entry has to be 1,000 words or fewer
  3. Each entry has to be written specifically for this challenge

“Something old, something new, something borrowed,” Thalia said, counting on her fingers and feigning confusion.

“…and something pink,” laughed Celie, fluffing her hair in front of the gilt-edged mirror.

“It’s something blue, silly,” Thalia corrected before giggling. She couldn’t help herself.

“What. Ever,” said Celie, fingering the chiffon fringe of the ivory gown on the rack in front of her.

“Although pink would certainly be more interesting in a wedding,” added Thalia, grinning. “Imagine pink bow ties on the groomsmen, pink shoes on the ring bearer, pink highlights in the groom’s hair.”

“If the groom has pink highlights, I’m going to say that couple is not staying together,” Celie said, letting the gown slip through her fingers and moving on to the next one.

There were miles of gowns at the Wedding Wearhouse, rack after rack of white, off white, off off white, and other pale shades of dresses. On first glance they appeared ghost-like in the massive space of the Wearhouse, as if twenty thousand headless brides awaited their grooms in shameless expectation, pressed together like cattle at milking time.

Celie was bored, and she wasn’t even a bridesmaid. She wasn’t the maid of honor either, even though she was Thalia’s best friend, and had held the title since grade school. But it didn’t phase her because 1) Thalia wasn’t even getting married, and 2) she didn’t believe in weddings. They were only at the Wearhouse because her friend wanted to jumpstart the proposal she was certain was just around the corner.

But Celie knew that Brett was never going to propose, at least not anytime soon. He was the kind of guy who talked a good game but never got off his ass long enough to do anything he said he would. In fact, if looks could be believed, he had gone backward instead of forward when it came to commitment. More often than not he did things without even telling Thalia, and she let him. Celie knew if that was her she would have dumped him ages ago, but Thalia was a bit of a pushover.

And a bit of a romantic, the hopeless variety.

“A guy can be into pink and not be gay,” said Thalia, holding up a strapless gown against her size zero figure with her eyebrows raised.

“Uh, yeah, and my father watches Barney every night before bed,” huffed Celie, flopping onto a nearby chair as if exhausted.

“There are worse things to watch than a big purple dinosaur,” Thalia said, tossing the gown into her shopping cart full of things to try on.

“Like your weight, so you can fit into that dress,” said Celie, smiling.

“Well, probably not this dress,” Thalia replied, eyeing the others in the cart.

“You’re worse than those bridezillas on ‘Say Yes to the Dress,'” laughed Celie, rolling her eyes.

“I just want things to be perfect,” said Thalia, sighing. The sound was more pitiful than anything else to Celie’s ears.

“And you’re absolutely certain Brett is going to propose?” Celie asked tentatively.

“I’m a million percent certain Brett is going to propose, silly,” Thalia said, her tone final.

“Well then, I would go with strapless,” said Celie. “You’ve definitely got the shoulders for it. It could be your something new.”

“Your something new can’t be the dress!” gasped Thalia.

“I don’t see why not,” Celie argued. “It’s new, isn’t it?”

“No, no,” maintained Thalia. “Your dress is above all of that stuff. It can’t be used for anything other than the most special thing on the most special day.”

“I thought the most special thing was getting married,” said Celie, laughing.

“Grrrrr, you get me so agitated,” Thalia said, but she was laughing too.

While Celie knew that Brett wasn’t ever going to strap on a pair and make an honest woman out of Thalia, she also knew the fiction was the only thing keeping her friend from being depressed. It was a fragile string to pull, so Celie knew she had to avoid pulling it at all costs. She had already voiced her concerns, but short of yelling them at Thalia there was really nothing else she could do but be supportive.

“You can get a new bra for the day,” Celie said with a straight face. “It can be one of those strapless ones that makes your boobs look like they’re floating. Like Princess Jasmine’s from Aladdin.”

“Like Princess Jasmine’s magical floating boobs from the kids’ movie Aladdin?” repeated Thalia, dissolving in giggles. “I’m sure that’s exactly how the director intended it. I’m sure he spent a lot of time wondering how her cartoon boobs were going to be supported.”

“Hey, it was before Pixar,” Celie argued. “They had to do something to keep the movie interesting.”

“You’re crazy, C,” said Thalia. “I hope you know that.”

“Seriously, though,” said Celie, her smile muted a tad bit. “It doesn’t even matter what you get, what’s going to be your something new, because when you find the right guy, and he’s standing there in front of you, you’ll feel new yourself.”

“Wow, I never thought I’d hear something so romantic out of your mouth,” Thalia gushed, leaning down to hug her friend. “You sure you don’t want to be my maid of honor?”

“You’re going to make me regret my caring side,” laughed Celie, blushing. “I’ll think about it. You gotta get engaged first though, then come back and ask me again.”

“You’d better believe it,” said Thalia. “You know, you’d look great in taffeta.”

“Yeah, I’m out of here,” Celie said, rising from the chair.

“And we’re back to the way things are supposed to be,” Thalia laughed, pushing her cart in the direction of the fitting rooms, Celie trailing a few steps behind.

And for the first time ever, she hoped she was wrong. Because if Brett broke Thalia’s heart she knew it would break hers too.


Flash Fiction Challenge #3 (The Color Yellow)

3821794319_812106d283_z“Look at the stars. Look how they shine for you. And everything you do. Yeah, they were all yellow.” ~Coldplay

It’s funny how I got into Coldplay. I used to visit my local record store and see albums chronically on sale, as if they wouldn’t sell if they were ever to revert to regular prices. I told myself I would never buy any of them because how could they be worth it? But this one album cover kept calling out to me, so I flipped it to the back one day and looked at the song titles. “Yellow” caught my eye. So I bought the record.

That’s how I used to be, constantly interested in what things evoked for me, not necessarily interested in the things themselves. The color yellow was, to me, a remembrance of the bus that used to take us to school every morning. It was the sun above when it landed high in the sky at mid-day. It was the slide at one of our local parks where I would wear my jeans raw in autumn. Yellow was, to me, a brilliance unmatched by any other color. It wasn’t my favorite color, but it was undeniably brilliant.

So the flash fiction topic today is the color yellow, and you’d think I would have a million things to say about it. But sometimes when something brings up a lot of memories it’s hard to write fiction about it. That’s where I sit now, so I think I’ll remind you of the rules of the Flash Fiction Challenge…

  1. Each entry has to follow a set prompt
  2. Each entry has to be 1,000 words or fewer
  3. Each entry has to be written specifically for this challenge

The Color Yellow.

His pee was yellow, a bright yellow that made him worry more than usual because his doctor said pee should be clear. But if he peed in a cup right then it would be mistaken for Mountain Dew instead of water, which just didn’t seem like it was good. He drank his water, more than the prescribed amount even, but somehow it didn’t translate into even a lightening of the stark yellow that filled the water in his toilet bowl. It had gotten so bad that he refused to watch when he peed, closing his eyes and hoping for the best instead. Sometimes he even sat down even when he didn’t have to relieve his bowels, just so he wouldn’t have to confront the yellow demon that had begun to haunt him.

He had just turned 50, which also didn’t help matters. The hair on his head was more white than black anymore, at least naturally, but he dyed it because he was uncharacteristically vain when it came to his hair. His paunch, his widely expanding waistline, didn’t even make him blink, even though his pant size had ballooned to twice what it had been when he was in his 20s. His eyesight had also eroded over the years, and he wore bifocals, but not once did he attempt to get laser eye surgery. Yet when it came to his hair he was like a woman; indeed, if he missed an appointment with his dye guy he had a royal meltdown.

So the pee thing, it was unfathomable. His doctor said he should give up red meat, so he did. His wife said maybe it was the way they made love, so they changed positions. His mother said it was all mental, so he saw a psychiatrist. But absolutely nothing changed his reality, that his pee was the color yellow, and that there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. It wasn’t like he could dye his pee like he did his hair. It wouldn’t fix the problem. It wouldn’t ease his peace of mind. And it didn’t help that yellow reminded him of things he would sooner have forgotten.

The brick road that went by his childhood home was painted yellow by his father, the sidewalk transformed into an idiom from a children’s book, a living, breathing manifestation of possibility. Or of ridicule. The other children in the neighborhood would make fun of him for the yellow brick road, calling him Dorothy, or worse yet, Toto. They took to painting ruby slippers on his locker, dumping cups of water on him when he wasn’t expecting it, and chanting “there’s no place like home,” whenever they saw him.

Eventually his family had to move, the bullying got so intense, and he welcomed the plain concrete walkway in front of his new house, but the taunts stayed with him no matter how old he got. It wasn’t the words themselves, or the chanting that stuck with him, though. It was instead the attitudes of those who had said those words, and who had chanted that mantra that sometimes still made him cry at night. His wife said he sometimes blubbered like a child, like he was back there in his mind, in the midst of his nightmares.

So it was no wonder his pee was yellow no matter how much water he drank, and no matter that he gave up red meat. His psychiatrist said it best, that nerves are a fragile construct, and that the only way to best them is to finally confront them, to admit that you’re not over what you’ve pretended you’re over for years. He had to eventually come to grips with the fact that the bullying hadn’t stopped just because he moved, that it stayed with him all those years, through all his individual successes and massive failures, through his first marriage, his second marriage, and two children.

And there it confronted him every day, down in the depths of his toilet bowl, that same bright yellow color that had previously adorned the bricks in front of his childhood home. The more he wanted to deny the similarity it stood there in his face just the same, taunting him just as defiantly as the kids who still haunted him had done oh so long ago. It painted his life like so many solid bricks that were never going to go anywhere. He realized to get over it he would have to confront those boys, to let them know how their words and deeds had affected him. He needed closure, even though the word was cliche, and the feeling was overdone.

Because his pee was yellow, and that just would not do.


300 Writing Prompts: #49

“Look around you and choose an object in the room. Now write something from the point of view of that object.”

A small child walks past me, intent in a conversation with herself. I can’t often tell what they’re saying when they come in here because of the voices swirling around my circuitry, but I can tell that this one is pretty excited. She bounces on the balls of her feet like she’s ready to spring, and I hope she doesn’t turn in my direction. She really shouldn’t be looking at me right now. Her time is up for today.

Most days I sit here looking at a man instead, a man I’ve known for four years, a man who has changed probably the most of anyone else who comes into this room. He spends a lot of his time seated in one corner of the couch with his technology around him, and even on him, until it almost appears that he’s become one with it, that it’s growing out of him. He hardly ever talks when he’s in this room except to sometimes laugh at some of the things that come from me. But I can’t see those things, and the voices just aren’t as funny if you can’t see the actions.

But right now this child with the curly hair is sneaking glances at me, dressed in a pale blue nightgown, meaning she really should be in another room, the room for sleep. Sometimes the people who come into this room sleep here, on the couch, and occasionally on the floor, but I can tell that the purpose of this room isn’t sleep. It’s a place to entertain and to be entertained, but more of the latter than the former, and I’m the centerpiece of most of that entertainment. Sometimes I catch my reflection in the glasses on the man’s face, and I can see some part of what they see. At those moments I am in awe of myself.

I sleep too, you know. I could be in the middle of listening to the voices and watching the people move about the room (or sit still, whatever is their prerogative), and suddenly, like a narcoleptic I pass out. I hear no voices and I see absolutely nothing. Most times I’m out for at least 8 hours. I know because I have an internal clock. But sometimes it’s longer, and I remember nothing from these times. In fact, I am a bit annoyed that I miss whatever happens in this room when I’m not awake to chronicle it. Just as I entertain them, these people entertain me with their movements, with their jokes, and in their interactions with each other.

And I know this won’t last forever, so I try to soak in all their faces now because they keep changing, flickering in and out of focus like firelight. The world is changing and as permanent as I may seem now, something newer and better is coming, or may already be here, so I’m going to cling to these memories for as long as I can. Or as long as the remote stays pointed in another direction anyway.


300 Writing Prompts: #47

“Write a quick love story. The story must end badly.”

Don’t most love stories end badly? That was the question posed by my English Lit professor at the beginning of the semester, and he challenged us to find a story in classical English literature that didn’t end poorly. For starters he gave us Wuthering Heights, The Importance of Being Earnest, Middlemarch, and Pride and Prejudice. We all sighed because these are some of the most annoyingly dull “masterpieces” around, but the class was required for our majors so we sucked it up and bought the books.

“We should definitely start with Pride and Prejudice,” Carrie said once the study group had settled in my dorm room’s common area, a space just slightly larger than my kitchen back home, and appropriate cramped with five bodies strewn around its couch and carpeted floor.

“Already read it,” Jeff admitted. “Snooze fest.”

“Well, tell us what it was about,” I said. “Maybe we won’t have to read it to get a good perspective.”

“So there was this dude named Mr. Darcy, who I think must have been a dweeb ’cause no one seemed to like him except this young girl — Elizabeth I think her name was. Elizabeth’s family had all these parties and somehow they kept inviting Darcy,” said Jeff, yawning.

“Why keep inviting him when he’s an insufferable bore?” Jessica interrupted.

“Because that’s what they did back in the 18-whatevers,” Jeff said. “Anyway, they fall in love — Elizabeth and Darcy — but there are too many obstacles, the biggest one being the difference in their social class. And there’s a happy ending where they get married and supposedly live happily ever after.”

“Wait,” I said. “Why supposedly?”

“The author leaves it hanging at the end, like they’re getting married but the class thing might be too much for them to overcome in the end.”

“Chalk one up for a mixed ending,” Carrie said from her spot perched on the arm of the couch. “Next.”

“Wait a second,” interrupted Jessica as I had started thumbing through Middlemarch. “Is it the book that has a mixed ending or the love story?”

“Oh, I see what you’re saying,” I said, dropping the other book. “Our question was about the love story itself, if it ends badly, not if the book has a sad or incomplete ending.”

“Well, I think the love story is a weak one, personally,” Carrie said. “They don’t have enough ‘face time’ together to prove it’s really love. And even though they get married in the end, who’s to say that this lack of familiarity won’t doom them? We can’t answer the question definitively based on just this book, even though it has what might be qualified as a happy ending.”

“Damn,” I grudgingly agreed, grabbing Middlemarch by its spine again.

“So, you don’t believe in true love lasting in spite of challenges?” Jessica asked. I sensed a trap, but I stepped into it anyway.

“I think who’s to say it’s true love if they’ve known each other for such a small period of time, since they’ve spent so little time actually together?” I said.

“We’ve only known each other since the semester started,” she challenged, suddenly angry. “And you told me you loved me. Was that all a lie? Because according to you, you don’t believe in true love lasting without a huge space of time to, what, prove it?”

“That’s not what I said,” I backpedaled quickly. “I said that in English literature that was the case.”

“But English literature is based off of actual emotions and real feelings, most times of the author themselves,” Jessica maintained.

“How about we move on to Middlemarch?” prodded Jeff.

“Screw Middlemarch,” Jessica said. “We already have our answer, don’t we? All love stories end badly because either love sucks or people who say they’re in love are liars. Back then they used class as an excuse and these days we blame time. There’s your answer.”

And she was gone, grabbing her bag and books in a rush of air, the door slamming behind her like a thunderclap. Carrie and Jeff looked at each other as if to avoid looking at me, and I didn’t even know what to say. I supposed I should follow Jessica, but the truth was she had a point. Maybe I had been looking for an excuse to break up with her. Perhaps I really didn’t believe in true love, at least not at our age, and maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. We were too young to be so serious. Well, weren’t we?

“So yeah, screw Middlemarch,” Carrie finally said, breaking the silence. “Let’s see why that woman was screaming across the moors for what I can only assume was a ghost.”

And Wuthering Heights it was.


300 Writing Prompts: #31

“What color do you feel like today?”

Cool_green_waterThe stream is green. It’s supposed to be blue but I think there is too much algae at the bottom, giving it that green hue that should seem healthy but doesn’t. We want our water to be blue, or clear, so that we can see through to the bottom, not the color of money no matter how much we might covet it. But just like the stream that passes not quite near my house but close enough to be of interest to me, I’m feeling rather green today.

For me green means somewhat fresh and new, like the world is open and I just need to seize it. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately, trying to figure out my strengths and weaknesses, to capitalize on the former and learn from the latter. I feel like I’m starting over again, from scratch, at an age where I guess I felt I’d be solidified. So I feel young green rather than feisty red or calm blue.

Green also means Irish, and with all this St. Patrick’s Day celebration and some family members on a trip to Ireland right now I’m reminded of all that I miss about that beautiful land, and how I desperately want to return. It’ll be seven years this summer, and it feels like even longer. I bleed green and it shows in everything I do, from the music I love to the culture I embrace like it’s my very own, like I was born into it.

I feel green today for all the positive aspects of it because I don’t want to feel the negatives. I don’t want to look in that stream and see a natural disaster. I want to look in it and embrace the green, because algae is good and cleansing. It takes what it’s given and gives it back better than it was. I hope I’m like that right now, aware of what’s good for me despite appearances.


300 Writing Prompts: #20

“You are a children’s book writer. Write the first few lines of your new book.”

It was a stormy day in Montmartre when the Grosvenor triplets stepped off the bus and disappeared into the fog surrounding Paris in late afternoon. Trena thought it was the most beautiful dusk she had ever seen, even though the colors were suitably dulled for a Paris evening. Yvonne was simply exhausted from traipsing across the city all day and kept sighing. And Siobhan was somewhere in between, not so tired she couldn’t go farther, but she would need prodding to do so. She was the youngest so she usually just went with the flow anyway, letting her sisters make the decisions most days. It was her way.

Besides, it wasn’t like that day was different from any other, not noticeably anyway. At the crack of dawn the triplets would be let out of the dungeon and given the day to wile about the hours in some semblance of play. However, they had to be back home by bedtime, which was 8pm in summer while the days were longer, so they could be locked back away until the next morning. In the between times they were left to fend for themselves, to find food, clothing, and shelter (if the rain began to pelt them too hard), and to stay alive long enough to return at day’s end. For five long years they had done exactly that and no more, if not satisfied with their fate at least tolerant of it. But that day they stepped off the bus into the gathering fog wasn’t like any other day. That was the day they met Destiny.

Now, Destiny was invisible, but she had considerable power, not the least of which was making dreams come true. And while she didn’t speak, she had an uncanny knack of knowing the deep, dark secrets of a person’s heart. That was her gift, and her curse, because no matter how much someone might publicly wish for one thing, she would give them their heart’s desire instead, which was always different. She had been following the triplets all day long, from their morning stroll in the Parc de Choisey, to their scrounging for scraps behind Beau’s Baguette Shop, to their stolen ride aboard the bus when a patron inadvertently let them in the back. As they turned onto the heavily graffitied avenue she finally caught up to them, leading them down a narrow alley, and into their new future.


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