#FlashFiction: After the Rain

~ after the rain ~

photo by Lisa Holder

 

The rain stops, I wait for the song. It’s around noon, so there’s a chance it’s coming no matter what Mama says. She doesn’t believe in the music, but she can’t hear the way I do, just like I can’t see the way she does. She’ll be coming any minute to say we need to get outside for our daily dose of sun and fresh air.

The floor creaks in the hallway, two steps outside the bathroom door, seven steps from mine. Here she comes.

“Okay my little flower, looks like Mother Nature’s giving us a little sun time! Up and at-em!” she says, with a hint of forced joy. She’s down today. She always misses Dad in the rain. I always miss him when I smell coffee or rye toast.

“Is the sun actually shining Mama?” I ask, yearning for the warmth of it to melt away too many hours of forced air conditioned air off my skin.

“Looks like we have one more cloud to get out of the way. I’ll bet we have full sun by the time we get out the door.” She puts a tender hand in the middle of my back and I know she still thinks I need her guidance to “see” my way out of the house. It’s so hard for those of you with eyesight to get it. I have my own way to see around this world. My touch, my hearing, my memory — they all get me around with the same fluidity as you.

Mama grabs my elbow as I get to my feet and I realize she needs this touch more than I ever will, so I sink in and take the lift she offers.

Forty-two steps to the door. Two stairs off the porch. We sit down on the still-moist grass beneath us and I smell the irises I was named after. Mama planted all around the front of our home, there’s no way to ever get lost with that aromatic calling card always leading me back to my front lawn.

A breeze picks up, whistling through the fence that sits between our house and the Miller’s next door, then lifting the hairs on my arm .

“Bye-bye cloud,” Mama says and I can hear that her head is tossed back. She’s talking to the sky. “See you next time.” She’s talking to Dad. I put my hand on top of hers in the grass and toss my head back to get the full feel of the heat pouring down. And, as I do, the song begins.

It’s faint, but I hear the quiet melody of roses harmonizing with citrus — oranges, lemons, and limes — followed by the sweet song of ocean and sky, and the refrain comes to an end with midnight and irises. I begin to hum along and sway to the song from nowhere that no one else can hear and my heart breaks for all of you. How I wish I were talented enough to translate this into a composition to be played with man made instruments, though I doubt they are capable of bringing this beauty to life in the same way I hear it so clearly. My sun song, my after-rain reprieve, the melody of magic, of hope and joy, the musical mark that the storm has passed and Mama won’t be sad anymore.

I breathe deep, smelling the moisture cooking off the grass beside me while feeling just like an actual iris. I drink in both the water as it soaks into my jeans, and the sun as it beats down on my flesh. I curl my fingers around Mama’s, sure that these are the roots keeping me tethered to this Earth. That’s when a warm drop of moisture lands on the back of my hand. It’s not a raindrop.

“Mama, why are you crying?”

She sniffs quickly. “Baby, I’m sorry… I just…” She stops, exhales, and in between her breathing my sun song is getting louder. I know she’d be cured of all of this sadness if she could just hear one refrain.

Roses…

     oranges…

          lemons…

               limes…

                    ocean…

                         midnight…

                              irises.

Hear it, Mama. Just listen.

She breathes in again. “I just wish you could see it, even if it were just once. It’s a rainbow, Iris. It’s so beautiful.”

My own tear falls down where Mama’s had, not because I wished I could see, but because I realize that I did. “Mama, I can hear it.”

~THE END~

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction prompt presented by Chuck Wendig on his blog terribleminds. This week Chuck challenged us to check out the Twitter account @MagicRealismBot and to pick a tweet to use as a prompt to write a story up to 1500 words long. This is the tweet I chose:

link to photo used in this post:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lisaholdernc/23675016949

First Draft Fiction – Change the World

The following is a first draft of a short story written as part of the Story A Day May 2016 Challenge.

This is Story #5 for day 5 (being a l little late is turning into a habit here…).

In the comments below, please share your critique of the story. Also, let me know if this is a character/story you’d be interested in reading more about.


imageCHANGE THE WORLD

Every teacher dreams they will change the world. Richard Jenson, hish school English teacher in Williamston, did. He meddled with magics he didn’t understand and brought forth a new age of man.

“What superpower would you want, and, if granted it, what would you do with it?” He supplied his students with the enchanted paper and pencils made from wood of a tree that performed photosynthesis under moonlight. As the students filled the pages with their responses their bodies responded and, by the dawn of the next day, they were each imbued with powers they could hardly understand. It did not take long for them to realize Jenson was the father of their evolution. They returned to him for answers, with questions, and some wanted cures.

Not one was granted what they wished. Jenson had died in his sleep. His life was the price for the power. Or, to be clear, it was the first price. Richard Jenson changed the world with his assignment – he single-handedly brought on World War III and the destruction of industrial society.

THE END


StoryADay500x500

I did not use either of the prompts from the Story a Day website tonight because I was super tired and not finding an entryway into either that would result in a short enough story for me. So, I picked up my pad (pictured above, next to my story) and challenged myself to write a story that would begin and end on the front of the page before me.

 

First Draft Fiction – The Life of a Spoon

The following is a first draft of a short story written as part of the Story A Day May 2016 Challenge.

This is Story #4 for day 4 (even though I am late again!).

In the comments below, please share your critique of the story. Also, let me know if this is a character/story you’d be interested in reading more about.


imageTHE LIFE OF A SPOON

I had one job. I was created to feed, or at least aid in the process. I’m like a tiny shovel for food so humans don’t get all sloppy when eating stuff like soup or ice cream. That’s what they told me at the factory, and for years that’s what I had been doing.

I’m a long, slender spoon. The family had gotten into a routine of using me just for ice cream sundaes. It was a lot of fun. I loved the cold, creamy stuff I’d be stirred into, and when the woman added the warm chocolate to the mix, it was euphoric. Nuts and sprinkles were a little rough, but seen so infrequently I can hardly complain about it.

The drawer they kept me in was extra nice. I was kept In compartment with a bunch of nice guys and gals the same shape as me. We fit together so nicely and slept soundly. There was no restless jumbling when the drawer was pulled open for other utensils. It was a peaceful life. It was a happy life.

Then the kid showed up and everything changed. They started using me inside his long, tall bottles to stir this abhorrent powder into warm water that I think he was supposed to drink (they called it “formula”). At the time I felt bad for him. At the time I didn’t know how closely our fates would be intertwined.

When the formula stopped, and the kid started getting “food,” somehow I was expected to deal with that too. You’ll have noticed the quotes I placed around the word food, I’m sure. Well, that’s because this categorization is questionable at best. It didn’t look anything like what the others ate, or what they claimed it to be (since when is chicken an orange paste?). It was soft and creamy like the ice cream, but hot and strangely colored. The smells were pretty bad too. The worst part was that the kid didn’t even like it.

But it got worse.

Not too long after that I was given to him! This kid has no idea what he is doing! He has smacked me upside his head, attempted shoving my handle up his nose, bit down on me like I’m some kind of fork, and – perhaps worst of all – has taken me away from the food. I don’t think the woman or man have any idea about this, but I have not been returned to the drawer in weeks! To be perfectly honest with you I have no idea where I am right now. There was absolutely nothing in my training to prepare me for this. It is the brightest place I have ever been at times, and then, in a seemingly regular rhythm, it becomes as dark as the drawer, though I feel no protection from the elements or comforting clang of my brother and sister spoons. The dog has come to visit me a couple of times – the damn dog! – and done things to me I wish not to speak of. The kid has also visited me with his toys and with hands that are in no way fit for eating. I am not used to mingling with such filth or varying atmospheres. Yesterday water poured down on me in darkness for hours upon hours. It was so disconcerting – I get washed in the sink, with a sponge, or, as I prefer it, it the caress of knowledgeable, soapy hands. I should be washed here, wherever here is.

I fear that this is it for me. Forgotten by the people, under the care of some untrained, cruel child with no clue about the ways of the world. This is not the life of a spoon! If you know where I am send help, please.

THE END


StoryADay500x500

I have been using the prompts from the Story A Day site for every story this week, but the prompt was extremely open-ended today. It said:

The Prompt

Write a story in the first person

For many, this may have been an enormous challenge on its own, but, for me, first person is what I do. I found myself drowning in the endless possibilities of what this meant. I felt desperate for something more specific.

I crumbled and added a prompt of my own, from the Silly Starters Write-Abouts for Grades 1-3. And, yes, the prompt was very silly:

image

First Draft Fiction – It Only Takes One

The following is a first draft of a short story written as part of the Story A Day May 2016 Challenge.

This is Story #3 for day 3 (which also happens to be Teacher Appreciation Day).

In the comments below, please share your critique of the story. Also, let me know if this is a character/story you’d be interested in reading more about.


 

image

The last sentence I used for my prompt. From Joe Kelly’s I KILL GIANTS.

IT ONLY TAKES ONE

First period I was late, of course. John smelled like pot and Mazie was sleeping through my entire class. There was no talking to either, then, but I was worried about both. The lesson was a bit lumpy, but a couple of my bright lights seemed to follow along.

Second period not a single student had even looked at the homework assignment. Was there some sort of conspiracy against me? I couldn’t even entertain what I planned. We did the homework together. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Third period, I found John in the hallway, walked him to his class and chatted about the smoking. I got him to agree to not smoke before my class. Small win. That means he’s not smoking on the way to school. I have to believe it’s harder to smoke during the day. I hope. Then, in the teacher’s lounge everyone was talking about a new teacher rating site online. Our students apparently discovered it and most of the staff was rated. I was told I was there. I didn’t look.

Fourth period the assistant principal decided to pop in and observe my teaching unannounced. Thank the teaching gods on high – it went well. Farris got the class rolling with an over the top response to my leading question. He set the bar high. And, thankfully, my fourth period is my most competitive class, so the group assignments turned out to be a real tour de force even though they were talking all the way through. The AP slipped out two minutes before the bell, stopping by me on the way out and whispering, “Impressive.”

Fifth period, I grabbed my lunch out of my locker, brought it over to the phone and made two calls – one to Mazie’s home and one to Farris’s. Mazie’s mom was sick, so Mazie’s been taking care of dinner, two kids, bathtime, and I was exhausted just thinking about it. I told her mom to let her know we’ll make up the lesson and the homework next Monday. Farris’s grandma was surprised to hear how well he performed in class and I was elated I made the call. The teachers in the lounge were still all abuzz about the rating site. I gave in. I checked it. My overall rating was high. But I noticed one red thumbs down. It was the only one I clicked to read the comment. “She doesn’t care.” Some invisible force reached inside my body, ripped my heart out and threw it out the window.

Sixth period I felt hollow. I looked around the room. Which student was it? Who had I been ignoring? Who had I neglected? The lesson was robotic. The instruction was there, the notes were being taken, but I knew it was all forgettable. I had failed this class this day.

Seventh period Farris swung by the classroom with a bathroom pass, barging in to say thanks. His grandmother texted him. She’s proud. He proclaimed in front of the class that I am the best teacher in the building. I fight to hold back the tears. I am not. I am always late. His words are lies. My students don’t do their homework. He doesn’t know. My classes talk through all of their work. He’s still learning. I don’t care. I am the teacher. I’m ignoring someone. I know the truth. One of them thinks I don’t care. The class was buoyed by his comments, they were more involved, perhaps all shooting for their own congratulatory call, but I was done. I fed the lesson to them, counting the minutes to the final bell.

The bell rang. It was over. I let every last student leave before I headed for the door. I couldn’t be around them. I felt inauthentic. I was not who they thought I was. The hallway was empty when I got there. I headed back to the lounge to gather my things. The lounge was empty too. I was grateful. I needed time to figure out what I was doing wrong. I needed to figure out which students felt this way and why. At my locker the first tear finally fell.
It was all for nothing if they didn’t feel cared about, safe. What was the point? I thought about how my mom has always wanted me to leave teaching to work in finance. I thought  about a career that is 9 to 5 and nothing more – work begins when you arrive and ends when you leave. I thought I don’t belong. I thought that the kids deserve much better than someone who doesn’t care.

I let the emotions take me for a minute, then wiped my eyes and readied myself to head home. On the way out of the lounge I saw the computer was still on and that page was open. Everything in me said to walk away, but one voice said maybe I could figure out who was unhappy. I opened my page. Forty-two thumbs up, one thumbs down, and two hearts. I clicked the hearts. The first had no comment. The second saved my soul, because it only takes one to make or break your day. I still have no idea who wrote it. It said the following:

I never thought too much about how teachers impact my life. I mean, they are there every day and, yes, they get to know you pretty well, but I never thought of it as anything beyond my grades and stuff. Then my world fell apart. I’m not going to put all my business up here for the Internet, but it was bad. She noticed. She asked. We talked a long, long time. I don’t know what would have happened to me if we didn’t talk that day. I was having pretty ugly thoughts about life. But she changed it all. She said so much, but one thing I’ll never forget and I’ll be forever thankful for. It has become my life motto. She said, “We’re stronger than we think.”

THE END


StoryADay500x500

The story above was created using a prompt on the Story A Day website. It was also inspired by twelve years of teaching. This story is dedicated to all those still in the classroom on today’s Teacher Appreciation Day.

THE PROMPT:

Take the last line from your favorite book or choose one from the list below. Now write a short piece that ends with that line.

I chose the last line from I KILL GIANTS by Joe Kelly. It is pictured above with my story.

First Draft Fiction – Dinner Disaster

The following is a first draft of a short story written as part of the Story A Day May 2016 Challenge.

This is Story #2 for (a little late ) day 2.

In the comments below, please share your critique of the story. Also, let me know if this is a character/story you’d be interested in reading more about.


DINNER DISASTER

image

The prompt

“That bitch has no one to blame but herself!” Jaimie said with the phone clutched between her cheek and shoulder while shuffling through her bag to find her keys. She found them, put them in one hand and grabbed the phone with the other. “I don’t give a shit what ‘state’ she was in – there is no reason to act that way.” She didn’t know I was in the parking lot. She didn’t know I could hear every word she said.

I wondered if it was worth it to go over to her to tell her that I now believed the whole thing to be a frame job. I followed her at a distance, taking the moment to think back to the holiday where it all began. I was in the middle of another relative-relay — trying to ensure my love and appreciation from the entire year was appropriately represented in this single day’s action. I had worn the wrong outfit, forgetting the necessity of an elastic waist when family dinners are involved. Jaimie, my brother’s wife, had made her “famous” sweet potato casserole. Her kids loved it, I thought it tasted like a pail of sugar with a toasted marshmallow on top. While I had already resigned myself to gain some weight from my holiday hell, by the time I got to Jaimie’s I decided I didn’t want to raise my sugar level to diabetic-coma levels along with it.
I tried to be polite.
I simply declined the plate as it was passed. It wasn’t a big deal until the mayor – an unfortunate result of my brothers fraternity days – walked in. He never stayed long, just a quick schmooze around the table, but that’s when my cousin Hazel passed the sugar plate back around to me. When I declined again she said, “You really hate Jaimie’s cooking, huh?” Of course the mayor turned, looked at me, then back at Jaimie.
I started to reply when the mayor spoke over me, telling the room, “Sorry I couldn’t stay longer. The airplane won’t wait for little ol’ me!” I thought I could piggyback on his exit before things got really awkward, so I said, “I should head out too,” while standing up and heading toward the door.

I was moving slowly, due to my gluttony, but not carefully because I wanted out of there fast. Maybe if I wasn’t so flustered, I might have seen Hazel’s move. She slipped her foot out just in time for mine to catch. I tripped and tried to save myself with the mantel.

It all happened so fast.
And yet, it was like it was all slow motion.

I remember it all.

I can still smell grandma’s remains as they flew out of the urn showering the mayor.
I’m not surprised Jaimie never wants to see me again. I am just curious whether or not anyone knows Hazel’s part in all of this.

I snapped out of my reverie and saw that Jaimie was at her car. It looked like it came off the dealer lot that morning. Perfect just like everything Jaimie had under her control. Hazel knew how to play to her, I did not. I wondered if my outfit wasn’t appropriate enough to approach her and plead my case. I missed my nieces. I missed my brother. I wanted back in. I took two steps and could hear her voice again, “I’m relieved she’s gone, Hazel. She’s lucky to have you, if you ask me. You have always been so good to her. I’ll never understand why.”
I turned around. I walked back to my car, and, as I tossed my duplicate purchases onto the passenger seat, I wondered if I should send my nieces their birthday gifts anonymously.

THE END


StoryADay500x500

The following prompt, found on the Story A Day website, inspired this story:

THE PROMPT:

Write a story containing all of these words from a fourth grade spelling list.

Blame
State
Frame
Holiday
Relay
Waist
Pail
Gain
Raise
Mayor
Airplane
Remain

First Draft Fiction – Not My Photos

The following is a first draft of a short story written as part of the Story A Day May 2016 Challenge.

This is Story #1 for day 1.

In the comments below, please share your critique of the story.


imageNOT MY PHOTOS

Before my coffee, before my shower, before I even bother to reach over to my nightstand to grab my glasses to focus on the world around me, before any easing into my day, I always grab my phone. Sometimes I check the weather, or the news, or check in to social media. On that morning I wanted so desperately to recapture the frivolity of the night before – especially since my pounding head was ensuring that I’d be paying for it all day. That’s why I was scrolling through my photos at 5AM. It was supposed to make me smile, or at least stop me from cringing at the daylight seeping through my windows.

“What the fuck?” I couldn’t help but say the words aloud in my crackled, sleepy voice. I scrolled past the photos from last night, and the day before, all the way back to Christmas and still didn’t understand what I was seeing. I grabbed my glasses and slid up so I was sitting against my headboard. Unfortunately I had been jarred into action without any comfort.

Not one of the photos were recognizable. I did not recognize one photo in the gallery, nor did I recognize any of the people or places these photos captured.

My heart sank.

I must have switched phones with a stranger.

But… No.

I let the tech weigh heavy in my hand. It felt right. It looked right. The case was identical to mine. And… I reflected on my groggy grab when I first put the phone on – I had typed in my passcode. I closed the gallery and checked the email – mine. Closed the inbox and checked Facebook – my News Feed. I closed it out, scrolled through the home screen – all the apps were recognizable and in place. I clicked open my music and every tune was where I left it.

Closed it.

Instagram!

I opened up the photo sharing site, tapped my profile @insta_terry_gram. The name was right. The bio was right. The pictures were all wrong. They were the same shitty, unrecognizable pics from my gallery, minus some of the duplicates that were obvious remnants of incessant retakes on a quest toward perfection.

I tapped the phone icon, and called Susan. She picked up on the fourth ring and sounded miserable, “Are you in a ditch? Dead? Dying? Quickly say yes or I’m hanging up.”

“Susan,” I said as calmly as I could. My voice was fully powered now. My entire body had risen to the occasion of my fear. “Something freaky is going on.”

I guess I my terror translated because Susan didn’t hang up. In fact, it sounded as though she pressed more closely into her phone when she said, “Honey, are you alright?”

The sincerity of her concern struck deep. I could not hold back my tears, “I don’t know.”

“Oh my god,” she said, “FaceTime. Right now.”

That was Susan’s go to. When shit got out of hand, she needed to speak face to face, even if that meant talking through a screen. Before I could protest the request came pinging through my phone. Her name sat a top my screen, clearly stating that it was her calling me, merely taking our audio call to more amplified, video connection. I clicked the option to accept the call at which my phone’s camera came on and the screen flickered to connect with Susan. We had done this so many times before. It was all second nature. Neither of us shocked or ashamed by our disheveled looks of distraught, or exhaustion, or grief. We had seen each other in every possible horror and delight. There shouldn’t have been anything to shock or surprise me on that screen.

But, of course, there was.

When the picture came on, it was not Susan on the other end. It was a pair of people I have never seen. They were not in their beds, completely undone, barely greeting the day, and bracing to deal with a crisis. These two women were pristine, bright, perfectly made-up, smiling and – upon seeing my face – cheering.

Oh yes, you read that correctly, upon seeing my day-old crusty make-up, bed-head hair, and obviously blotched up cry-face, these two women cheered. “We did it! We did it” They yelled to each other and then in multiple directions out of my view. “Come see!” one of them added, which resulted in more heads cramming into view.

To be perfectly honest with you, I was astonished. I don’t use that word too often in its truest sense, but in that moment astonishment encapsulated me whole. “Uh… hello?” I said.

One of the two woman screamed and started laughing all at once. The one next to her did her best to try to suppress what I imaged would have been an equally loud outburst when she said, “Yes, I’m sorry. Hello. How are you?”

I raised my eyebrows at the mundane nature of the greeting. “Nope. No.” I couldn’t stop my head from shaking back and forth. “Who are you?”

“Oh yes! Sorry Crescent Labs twenty-one thirty-six. We are testing phone 6 of twenty fifteen. What time is it?”

I squinted at the time on the top of my phone screen and answered, “It’s 5:23AM Eastern time here. Definitely a different time zone. Are you guys in Europe or something?” I was beginning to think Susan and I had somehow picked up someone’s International call. It was weird, but it was becoming clear to me that my phone was somehow crossing streams with someone else’s wifi or something. I was due to visit the Apple store to have one of those self-proclaimed “geniuses” sort all this shit out. I wasn’t looking forward to it.

Yore-rrrip?” one of the guys in the background said, while the woman who was talking to me went wide-eyed. Her friend stopped laughing. I even thought I heard an “oh shit” from somewhere off screen.

“Ma’am? Did you say a different time zone?” the woman asked me, now smile-less.

“Yeah. I don’t know. I’m figuring my wifi is screwing with me or something. My phone is wonky,” I stood up from my bed, walked over to the window, opened the curtains and turned the camera out so they could see my view of the Hudson River, “Sun’s barely up over here in New York.”

There were gasps and excited voices. Multiple voices whispering different questions and exclamations like, “New York?” or “Did you see the water?” and, I think someone said, “Did she say wifi?”

When I turned the phone back around the woman was alone and tears were in her eyes. “Ma’am. I am so sorry. What is your name?”

As I watched the sun hit the water outside my window my fears of technological glitches slipped away. I put the phone down on my dresser as I grabbed a scrunchie to do my best to tame my hair on the spot. “It’s okay. No worries. I’m Terry. This is some weird techie-shit. That’s all. I probably need to upgrade anyway.”

She laughed a little, but there was no humor in it. “Terry, what’s today’s date?”

“Oh shit. I don’t know…” I started clicking buttons on my phone to access the calendar. “The first,” I said, clicking back to the FaceTime screen,”May.”

“The year?” she said, eyebrows raised and eyes glossy.

“Two thousand sixteen. Finally getting used to saying it. Usually takes me about a half a year to lock that shit down.”

“Mmm-hmm,” she said with lips pressed tight, nodding and looking down. “Twenty sixteen. Right. Of course.” She closed her eyes for a moment and I saw a single tear fall down her cheek before she opened them again and looked back up into the camera. “Thank you Terry. Sorry for the mix up.” Then she disconnected the call.

Within the next minute, as I was trying to call Susan back, my phone did one of those funky reboots no one asked it to and when it came back on all my pictures had returned. It was fixed. Obviously some techie-glitch that righted itself like all good tech should.

That was it. It was over. I didn’t think about it again… Until this morning.

I was doing my thing again – checking my phone before greeting my day – and, again, found myself scrolling through photos. There was a new one, with a weird date – May 13, 2136. It looked like one of those inspirational quotes because it was just words on a white background. I grabbed my glasses and clicked on it. Here’s what it said:

Terry,

Sorry about the other day. We weren’t trying to contact you. We didn’t know we could. Lots of arguments about what to do with that power now that we can, and questions of whether or not we should. I can’t wait for them to make up their mind. The water, Terry, you have to save it. I know you’re just one person with no idea how to save the world, but this is it. Spread the word. Stop the Water Wars. We lost it all. I’m going to try to time-tell as many people as will listen. You are the first.

Iris Cilencia, Crescent Labs, 13/5/2136

 

THE END

StoryADay500x500The following prompt found on the Story A Day website inspired this story:

THE PROMPT:

When Terry began scrolling through her phone, none of the photos she found were hers.