“Spring’s on the horizon,” he whispers through the cool wind.
She shivers and wraps the knitted shawl tighter around her bare arms. “Do you see the light yet?” she asks tight-lipped, watching the children on the see-saw point and stare.
“So eager to get rid of me.” He smirks, and the wrinkles in his cheek disappear into the scenery behind him.
She shrugs and plucks a leaf from the shrub planted next to her. She crumbles it in her fist, opens her hand and lets the crisp brown pieces flutter to the ground like confetti.
“Everything’s dead.” She swings her foot into the dirt, kicking up dust.
“Not this.” He pats the bench on which they sit, and she can see the bright coat of red paint through his pale skin. “Not our love.” He beats his chest, and the hollow sound echoes through the park.
“Excuse me? I aim to feed the ducks.” A elderly woman carrying a loaf of bread sits in his place, and he evaporates around her curled body.
word count: 173
Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a weekly challenge where you write a story in 75-175 using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.
“They say butterflies can migrant thousands of miles.” She crouches over the cactus, holds her finger out, nudges for the monarch to climb aboard. “They’ll fly to the ends of the earth and never get tired.” She lightly brushes the edge of its frayed, discolored wing with her knuckle.
“That one looks like it’s traveled quite a distance.” He chisels away at the sand and sediment.
“A delicate fossil,” she draws the butterfly to her puckered lips, “guiding us to the biggest archeological discover on American soil.”
“Maybe he knows buddy inside.” He blows away dust, carefully strokes his brush inside the grooves on the roof of the sarcophagus. “What do you think these markings mean?”
“Maybe our friend here can translate.”
He chuckles a pigeon’s coo, steps back to admire his work. The ancient gravesite three quarters excavated. “It’s possible he not only traveled thousands of miles, but thousands of—”
“Years,” she whispered. She blew it a kiss, extended her arm. The butterfly lowered its wings atop the archaic coffin.
She curls her shoulders every time he nibbles on her ear, pinches her upper arm. I have to capture it— the love and playfulness of this day. I dab light pink smudges across her high cheek bones with my middle finger. I dip the tip of my brush into the brown and black and trace a line around her collarbone to bring out the sharp curve of her bare shoulders.
Then I see it— how she radiates from head to toe. By the way they bite each other’s bottom lip, they don’t know it yet, but a woman’s intuition is never wrong. I saturate the canvas in scarlet, lavender, and chartreuse. I darken her complexion, kiss it with the sun using maroon and amber. I deepen his onyx tuxedo. The bright colors accent the ivory in her dress, the light around her abdomen.
“No charge,” I tell them I as present the finished product. “My blessings to you and your new family.”
Christmas doesn’t exist. Maybe if you live in a three-story house in the suburbs with a fireplace, two cars in the garage, both parents at home for the holidays.
But we live in a two-bedroom, Section 8 apartment in the city. Our Albanian landlord doesn’t speak English. The ceiling leaks when the upstairs neighbor flushes the toilet. The only Christmas present I get each year is the tap of coal pebbles against my window from the ghostly locomotives that power down the abandoned railroad behind our building, and the false hope that my dad will be released.
Tonight, I don’t hear the light hum of a passing train from history.
The furniture rattles as it slows. The horn startles me out of bed. I lift my window, the cool air and dirty snow rush inside.
“I’m on a tight schedule!” the conductor shouts from below.
“Where does this train go?”
“725 kilometers north of Greenland! 90 degrees north latitude! The middle of the Arctic Ocean!”
“The North Pole,” I whisper, and I leap from the ledge.
word count: 173
Ah, is it Christmas yet? One of my favorite Christmas movies of all time is The Polar Express. I just couldn’t resist with this week’s prompt for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. Thank you, Louise at The Storyteller’s Abode!
He didn’t see the kid at first. Or maybe he did and hoped that she had wandered ahead of her actual mother rolling the stroller behind them. He ducked his head under the balloon tower, saw their fingers intertwined. Could it be her little sister? A niece, perhaps? Could a woman so young and beautiful— perfectly blushed cheeks, plump, ruby lips, naturally golden hair— already be married and have a child?
He remembered something his twice-divorced mother always said when he was little. The good ones are always taken.
“Excuse me, sir. Are you gonna buy a balloon or just stare at that lady’s butt the whole time?”
He looked down at the balloon woman’s naked ring finger. And the mouthy, cynical ones wonder why they can’t keep a man.
“I’ll take the Olaf.” He shoved the dollar into her fist, snatched the balloon from the pile.
“Imagine how much fun you’ll have in summer!” He handed the little girl the balloon, winked at her mother. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.
“Have you ever thought about killing yourself?” Barry hung his head over the railing so that his shaggy, blond hair fell over his face.
Carla spread her arms, twirled in a circle. “We have waterfalls in front of us.” She pointed to the thin ribbon of foam cascading down the side of the mountain. “Waterfalls below us.” She dropped to her knees, lay flat on her stomach, pressed her ears onto the wood planks to listen to the thundering rush of falling water below. “If anyone’s thinking of jumping, it’s because they hope to fly over and see more of this beautiful paradise.”
“I prefer the ugliness of life. Broken bodies, brains splattered all over rocks.”
“I never took you for suicidal.” Carla leaned backwards over the railing to become level with his eyes.
“I’m not.” He shoved his palm into her chest, her feet kicking the air as she disappeared under the bridge.
He listened for a splash, the cracking of bones. He only felt a gust of wind as thick wings flapped overhead.
Today is my birthday, or that’s what they tell me. I don’t know the exact date I was born. No one here does. We’ve always just existed behind the cold, damp gate of Greystone Orphanage. The guards tell us stories of birthday celebrations—sweet foods that melt in your mouth, wax sticks lit to count the years, large rubber balls filled with air that rise above the ceiling.
Sam tried to escape on his birthday. He wanted to eat until his stomach burst, listen to loving parents sing and rehash the triumphant day they brought him home. He wanted an Iron Man toy. He didn’t know what it was, only hoped it would break through these iron bars, setting him free.
His frail body slithered through the rusted bars of the window— he was the only one tall enough to reach it. We heard a splash, then silence. Seven moons later, Becca came back from the infirmary, said she saw Sam on a board missing his right shoulder.
The guards don’t speak of birthday parties anymore.
Jessie shifted all of her weight onto her left leg. She wildly flapped the fan in front of her face, watched the water drip from the sculpted swan’s icy beak and disappear in the turf below. The officer guarding the exhibit was staring at her. He knew what she was thinking.
I just want to lie in front of it, she pleaded with her eyes, have the water drizzle down and saturate my dry tongue, moisten my cracked lips. I won’t break off its head and suck its crown. I won’t lick its frozen feathers. I won’t rip off my clothes and hump its frigid body like that man from the shelter did to Venus.
“Move along, miss.” His lips barely moved. Could he even pull them apart, or was the parched skin adhesive like the back ends of tape.
She rushed from the museum unquenched, the ice sculptures serving as a hopeless temptation. She’d rather burn her feet on the molten asphalt, melt under the ever-approaching sun.
Jason spreads the quilt underneath the grapevines. It has grown since their wedding night seven years ago, stitched together with the flags of countries and cities they had visited each anniversary, starting with Seville, Spain on their honeymoon.
“Everyone goes to Paris,” he had whispered to her as he kissed the top of her hand. “Let’s take a boat ride along the Guadalquivir, watch the Torre del Oro reflect golden yellow on the river’s surface.”
This year, they decide on a domestic vacation, a picnic in the foothills of North Carolina.
Maya kneels on the Costa Rican flag, places the basket at the center of Japan. Jason pours the wine over Morocco while Maya spreads the toast, Swiss cheese, and jar of jelly across Canada, Chile, and Bermuda.
“Shouldn’t we have grapes too?” Maya asks.
“They’re right above you,” Jason says chuckling. “Pick the ripest muscadine you can find. We’ll bite into it together.”
Timea thought the umbrellas in the park looked like bright red mushrooms. They were the same color as what she imagined her broken heart to be.
“So, he just up and left?” Sabrina asked.
“He said he wasn’t in love with me anymore.” Timea blinked up at the burgundy shade above her, drawing the impending tears back down into her eye sockets.
“But what about London? For God’s sake, she’s only three months!”
“I can’t take care of her by myself.”
Timea looked down towards the children who sat on the rocks at the edge of the pond, splashing their feet in the water. Bree, Sabrina’s eldest daughter, held London on her knee with one hand and sprinkled water into her face with the other. The baby laughed, bubbling spit, and swayed to avoid the shower of water droplets.
Timea saw her beginning to slip, her body leaning closer to the water…
If London were to fall, how quickly would her tiny lungs fill with water before they could pull her out?