Hello, writers, and Happy Friday to all! I hope everyone who has a full length, polished work participated in Pitmad yesterday. I myself did not learn about it until the morning of, but I sent out my pitches and will see what happens! If you did not know about Pitmad before just now, here is more information, and you can look for the next date in April.
Now, onwards and upwards. Today is Friday, and last week I had planned on posting my first Flash Fiction Friday. That did not happen, because I didn’t prepare, and because I hated everything I wrote. But not this week; well, I still hate everything I write, but I’m willing to cast out my stories into the world to see how much you all hate them, and embrace the response.
This story is something I wrote about two years ago, for a writing competition I did not win. Still, I’ve always had a soft spot for the piece, because I wrote it in such a quick, passionate spurt, and some of the lines to this day are, I think, some of the best I’ve ever written. It’s titled “Released” and it follows a girl as she thinks about life, her own and those around her. I did rework it a little, to make it a little less depressing, though the result is that it’s a bit choppy in places. Anyway, I’ll stop talking about it and just let you read on:
It was a girl, and it was her pain. It was the way she looked out of her window every morning, praying for rain. Darkness surrounded her in a world of artificial light, and she couldn’t make sense of it. She drew back the curtains, the second she climbed out of bed every morning, knowing what she’d be met with; the sun, lying, what a nice day. And it would be a bad day.
The light shone too brightly that day. It was March, the middle of March, and winter was just beginning to release its hold. The coldness that had coated the air since mid November began to subside into a warmth tolerable for most people, if not preferable for a day outdoors. They had grumbled and fussed as they pulled on fleece jackets and caps every morning, wishing like they do for the sun of summer, with opened pools and barbeques and days spent on boats in the middle of lakes. But the girl, the girl pulled her cap on every morning with the ghost of a smile, stuck her arms through jacket sleeves, and hung onto every moment in the dead season. She knew the overcast sky couldn’t contain the world for long, and soon it would be bursting.
There was the walk, from her suburban home, two blocks, then the school. The sound of her sneakered feet pounding along the sidewalk, echoing, almost, in the solitude. In a place where even a complete stranger could count on a friendly wave from the driver of a passing car, she might as well have been gone.
She took the path that ran past the old woods, just for kicks. Her recently remodeled neighborhood hadn’t left much room for anything green that wasn’t placed in sheets in neighbors’ yards, but this place remained. She remembered her youth, traipsing around that woods with all of the other kids 12 and under. Taking the well worn path, following to where it became not so worn, where weeds and wildflowers grew in droves. Where they’d climb branches like ladder steps, half mindful of snakes, and where the bravest would dangle at the top and shout down what they could see across the neighborhood. The girl, not being the bravest, would hunt the ground for flowers, creating bouquets her mother seemed to absolutely adore. On the hottest days they ventured even further into the woods, to the pond. They’d run the length of the pier of rotted wood and dive or cannonball into the endless depths, rise to the surface, spitting pollen water through their teeth. They never cared. Kids never care. She remembered when she didn’t care. She saw the gate guarding the path, a No Trespassing sign attached.
When one member of the old gang left at the end of the summer for higher places, they all seemed to disperse, and the world turned quiet. Neighbors retreated inside their homes instead of lingering in their yards, chatting over picket fences and the whir of bicycles and barking dogs on leashes. They packed their barbequeues into backyards for more private affairs, and everyone stuck to their perimeters. Kids grew up, and walls grew with them.
School. Junior year is hell, seeing the end of the road with so much of it left to travel. Not entirely unpopular, she had people. She’d eat lunch with them, two girls with quiet voices, and they’d talk about polite topics. The weather. Classes. Grades. She was smart. Thoughtful. Maybe too thoughtful. Outside of classes and lunch, she slipped through the cracks of the school. She was a ghost in the halls, gliding like some unseen steam, while surrounded by the jostling and laughing crowd, talks of football games and weekend parties on their lips. And she hoped, everyday, that the end would approach sooner than expected, that she could sink into the linoleum floor and disappear like the phantom she was, if only to escape for a little while.
Her family, perfect as they were with the 2.5 kids and the white picket fence, wasn’t all they seemed. The mom, on the outside a smart, sophisticated lady with an Ole Miss degree, pale blonde hair and baby blue eyes, teeth whitened to a blinding level, wasn’t what she seemed. She wore sweater sets and khakis and drove a mini van, despite the end of carpool days. She volunteered with the PTA and at the church and always had dinner ready at home when her husband and children walked through the door. It was a life like that of every mom in town, but most of them loved it. But behind those baby blue eyes was someone screaming to run, to break the dinner plates she so lovingly piled with food. The girl knew this, just as she knew about the empty wine bottles hidden in the recycling bin every morning, while her mother washed dishes or loaded the washing machine with her husband’s work shirts.
She was just surrounded by nothing, with a head full of everything, bouncing around frantically with no release. She wanted so badly to leave, but didn’t know she could. The young never realize how big a world there is out there. They see their lives as a play with the one setting and the same cast of characters, ran by the same crew and written by some cruel sadist. They don’t realize that they are the writers. They submit themselves to a fate written a million times, believed to be the way it’s supposed to be.
She hopped over the No Trespassing sign after school, at the entrance path to the woods. She passed the trees bare of leaves and the spots where flowers bloomed the brightest, now all dead from winter’s last harsh frost. She walked far and deep until she reached the rotted wood pier extending into the pond. It creaked as she stepped up onto it. She walked to the end, until she was staring down at the still water, coated with the pollen. She sat and took off her shoes, then smoothly slipped into the icy depths. She spread her arms and her clothing fanned around her, soaking, pulling. She looked up; a cloud covered the sun, blocking the world. She closed her eyes and let the water take her, just for the moment.
So, like it? Hate it? Let me know what you think of this first Flash Fiction Friday.