Flash Fiction: Weather The Storm

By the time it was Elijah’s turn to peel off his headphones and unpin his nametag for lunch, the rain fell from the end of his nose in a steady drip, and his clothes clung to him like a second skin. The seat of his desk chair squelched when he rolled it back to stand, the wet wheels squeaking over the soggy carpet.

The cloud had accumulated over his head shortly after he’d arrived at the office, sometime between when he’d put his lunch into the overstuffed refrigerator and snuck away from a one-sided conversation with two overly-enthusiastic interns. It had been small at first, cotton candy in texture and white as cotton. He’d spotted it in the reflection of his still-dark computer screen, but shrugged off its presence as no harm done.

It was after his second phone call but before Deborah had finally snuck into her cubicle almost an hour late that the first drops had started to fall. He felt it like pinpricks along his uncovered arms and face and barely-there touches over his shirt and pants. It distracted him enough that he misquoted a price to a customer, and had to quickly backtrack before he dug himself into a hole he couldn’t dig himself out of.

He hoped his manager didn’t catch wind of it.

That thought seemed to be like poking a dragon though, because the rain kicked up and the air around him started to move like a current—as if he were at the center of his own little hurricane. His bangs fluttered in the slight wind, the rain soaking through his clothes within a few minutes. When the rain started to drip on his paperwork, he pushed everything to the back of his desk, hoping to save what he could. He snuck a peek at the cubicles around him, but no one paid him any mind.

Now it was lunchtime, and Elijah’s teeth were starting to chatter from the air-conditioning cooling his soaked clothes and skin. He left damp footprints on the thin carpet in his wake on his way to the restroom. His only saving grace was that he’d yet to draw attention to his unfortunate circumstances. There had been no questions or reprimands, which he silently thanked whatever gods he could think of for. Admittedly, he couldn’t think of many. He idly wondered if that was how he got into his current predicament.

Once in front of the restroom mirror, he groaned at the severity of his situation. The cotton candy cloud had become a dark, woolen swirling of grays and blacks, lightning striking along his hairline, lighting the edges of the cloud, and sending some of his hair to stand on its ends.

The rain was near torrent level now, his bangs drooping wetly into his face. His shirt was soaked through, outlining his shoulders, chest, and gut, his blue tie near black in its water-logged state. He could feel the water dripping down his face, his arms, his legs into a puddle on the sink and onto the tile floor.

Elijah was at a loss. He couldn’t recall how to handle the appearance of your own personal rain cloud, and he wasn’t sure what his next steps should be. Should he call off? Go home and call the doctor? Was it a physical illness or mental? Was it an illness at all, or divine intervention?

With shoulders lowered and face in a sullen droop, he pulled down several wads of paper towel, trying unsuccessfully to dry off his hands and his arms, but it did no good. They quickly became soaked again, and he gave it up as a lost cause.

When he got back to his chair, to his water-logged seat and damp desk with puddles under the mouse and keyboard, he was hit with a sudden wave of exhaustion. He sat hard into the seat, sending water squelching in sudden drips to the floor, and the noise seemed loud in the near-silent room, the click-clack of keyboard keys the only other noise.

“Elijah?” He jumped and turned, feeling relief to find his co-worker, Jamie at the entrance to his cubicle. They’d always got along, acquaintances if not nearly friends. “You doing okay?”

The question caught him off-guard, but his response was immediate. “Of course. I’m fine.” Even as he said it, he knew it was the wrong answer. Her raised eyebrow seemed to echo his feelings, so he sighed and turned his creaking chair to fully face her.

“To be honest, I’m struggling. Have been for a while. I think it’s getting to me today.” As he said it, he felt something lift. The rain started to stutter, the lighting and thunder near his ears quieting.

“Maybe we can grab dinner after work?” she says, leaning against the wall of his cubicle and giving him a soft smile. “I got some time, and I’ve always meant to ask. You’re the best salesman we have, so I’ve always been kind of intimidated. But you’ve seemed down lately. I’ve been worried.” The way she tilts her head, her eyes earnest, and brow furrowed makes the rain turn to a drip.

“I’d like that,” he says, and he means it. The rain stops. “And really, I admire your attention to detail. You’re so organized, I’ve never been able to keep things straight like you do. Maybe we can help each other too.”

She nods, and her smile widens. It’s slightly crooked, one cheek raised more than the other. He doesn’t know how he didn’t notice before. “We can do that, but not tonight. Tonight, let’s focus on what’s getting you down.”

With that, he doesn’t have to look to know the cloud dissipates like a waking dream.

Hours later, his desk dry and his seat left with only a few damp spots, he wonders at rain clouds and how sometimes the answer to rainy days is knowing that someone else will stand with you in one.

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Flash Fiction: “Watch Us Fly”

Eleven, he thinks, more than last year, less than the year before. He marks the number on the small spiral-bound notebook that sits on the weathered table next to him. Beside it, a half-full glass of amber iced tea, the many ring stains next to it telling of many such mornings.

The monarch butterflies flit between the flowers of the tall milkweed in the garden in front of him, several yards away but close enough for him to keep an accurate count. The orange of their wings gleam in the light as they flutter around the deep green-veined leaves, a nonsensical dance Kenji can’t begin to understand. He doesn’t try. He enjoys their flight and the crisp floral scent on the breeze, all the same, the light trilling of songbirds nearby their soundtrack. 

The noonday sun has yet to arrive. He knows he hasn’t seen the end to the newcomers—eleven so far today. It had been sixteen yesterday by the time he’d taken the last syrupy sip of his wife’s home-brewed iced tea.

His mornings consist of sitting in his bamboo rocking chair on his covered patio, tallying his monarch butterfly sightings, that he would later upload to the citizen’s science website he frequented on monarch migration. It was a duty he undertook for several years now, to catalog how many monarchs he saw in the spring, summer, and fall on a daily basis, to help track the health of the population. To make a difference.

Kenji had planted the milkweed several years back, nestled in a pristine garden bed complete with a baby blue butterfly house his son had built for him the previous year. He’d learned milkweed was the only plant that monarchs laid eggs on, and was food for their caterpillars; a necessary plant for the species survival. It had been his way of doing more than sitting idly.

The morning ritual had the additional effect of calming him, though as of late there was an undercurrent of worry. Even though the numbers for this year were promising, he couldn’t shake the icy knots in his chest that told him they were fighting a losing battle.

But his family had never been the type to quit. They’d fought losing battles before.

His great grandfather had stood on the shores of America and seen an opportunity, when others had seen him as just another immigrant. His grandfather had left behind the weathered doors of the Manzanar internment camp as a child, returning to a town that no longer saw them as neighbors but as the enemy. His father had become the first of his family to go to college, bringing his family into a new age of financial stability. He himself had become an engineer, ensuring his own children would have opportunities he never had, building his own home from the ground up. And now, his own son, a business owner. A father himself.

Each generation flew further along, passing along the next leg of the journey, just like the monarchs laying eggs in the milkweed, each generation flying towards the fields of Canada. Four, five generations to meet their mark, ever closer to a place they could call home.

Now, as he sits on the whitewashed porch he built, he counts another butterfly, twelve, thirteen, and remembers—the battle may not always be brief, but home is always worth the fight.

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Flash Fiction

Here are a variety of flash fiction stories I’ve written, most of which were written for the Rue|LouPrompts Series.

As for the Bees
She meddled with the order of things she didn’t understand. Now the bees and humanity may pay the price.

Cloud Jumper
What happens when Eziel, Aeria City’s best cloud-jumper, is faced with a choice between the hero’s journey and the status quo. An introduction to a new world like you’ve never seen.

Encore:
Stories are fragile things. I tell the story of my wedding day and what ’till death do you part really means.

Fear Not the Gods
When Gods returned to Earth, they never expected there’d be a war between them and mortals.

Firefly Soul 
They are hard to spot at first. Our souls burn bright like fireflies, and the soulless are only the spaces between. Their absence is harder to impress against the background of stars in my vision.

Flappers & Finches (All That Glitters Isn’t Gold)
A one night stand that should have been more,  but maybe yet could be. AKA, when the peacock and magpie meet.

Framed
Left with the responsibility of clearing out her father’s home, it’s a four-legged, slobbering ball of fur that’s giving her the most trouble. But for how long?

 I’ll Be Your Misfit
They were both misfits, and maybe that was enough. The transformation from fellow outsiders to found family.

Machinations or Ghosts
Lia was there when she needed her. But some things are too good to be true. When Lia is exposed as no longer among the living, is there something otherworldly to blame?

A New Color of Sunrise
In a world where technology has advanced to creating news tastes, smells and colors, it’s the reign of the rich to enjoy them. 

No Roots
A curse takes them one by one. Is there salvation or selfishness left for the final sisters?

On Sunlight’s Edge
There’s always a price to be paid, but is the promise of a legacy worth the cost? Cienna is willing to give, and the witch will grudgingly take.

Sinners and Saints
It wasn’t the ring Jyn had wanted to give Lila, but sinners and murder force their hand.

Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lie
Caleb was left working a dead-end job as a single mistake leaves him at rock bottom. A friendly face may be the key to his revival. But is it so simple?

A Space Between the Stars
“‘You’re as dumb as an ox, Cam.’ He believed them, but felt he was made for more. As the years go by and doubt settles in, Cam makes a decision.

 Watch Us Fly
He tracks the butterflies as their numbers die away, but remembers another losing battle they’d not given up on.

Weather the Storm
An office worked learns that personal rain clouds aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

We’re Only Braiding Roses
A princess forced into a marriage of treaties gets an unlikely savior.

 With the Pieces
When a teenager breaks her own heart—literally—she learns how to fix it.

Flash Fiction: “I’ll Be Your Misfit”

It wasn’t that the dog was ugly, per se.

It’s fur was sparse, mismatched lengths in a mottled grey and brown where it hadn’t been shaved. It’s skin was pink with tiny bumps raised along the shaved areas—the adoption card said it’d recovered from mange. It was medium height, longish but not long, with legs that were shortish but not short. An in between that wasn’t quite enough of either to be cute, but rather came off as odd. In the low light of the shelter, it’s eyes—her eyes, the car said—seemed jet black, like they would suck your soul from your chest. Like she could devour you with just those beady black eyes from where you stood.

Okay. Maybe she was just a little ugly.

But so was he.

He bent down low on his knees, sticking his fingers between the links of the fence. “I’ll be your misfit if you’ll be mine? How does that sound girl?”

She didn’t move. She stayed laying down in her bed, staring at him with those dark, abyss eyes.

Her eyes weren’t black.

He didn’t learn this until the following day, as he sat eating his cereal at his kitchenette table. She’d spent the previous day sniffing through the house room by room, nose to the ground. He’d not been able to shake her from her task.

Today she stared at him—or more likely, his food—with honey brown eyes that melted his heart.

“Where’d those come from?” he asked her, knowing not to expect an answer.

She licked her lips, and he snuck her some toast under the table, even though there was no one to be sneaking from.

He was surprised to learn when her fur started to grow back that the mottled colors were actually a mix of black, white and brown splotches, along with tufts of grey from old age.

By the time it had grown an inch, it looked endearing, and she’d begun to sleep in his bed. When his niece had been spending the night and opened his door to ask for a glass of water, she’d growled at her loud enough to send her running to her bed. He’d tutted at her and left the room to calm his niece down.

When the fur had grown several inches, and she had become fluffy enough for the hair to stick to the couch, Lilah—as he had finally named her—fell asleep on the couch with his niece, and barked fiercely at his brother when he’d come to pick his niece up.

On her adopt-aversary, he went to the local dog bakery to get a special treat for Lilah. He became overwhelmed quickly at all the dog biscuits, peanut butter baked bones, scones, pretzels, and pupcakes, enough that other customers began to take notice.

One in particular took pity on him. The stranger came over, smile wide, shoulders relaxed and held out a hand towards the array. “Having trouble? Want some ideas?”

He let out a sign in gratitude. “Thank you, that’d be a big help. I just adopted Lilah a year ago today, and I can’t decide what to get her.”

The stranger chuckled and nodded in approval. “I love to hear about fellow adopters, and yes, it can be overwhelming. This may sound weird, but all the food can be eaten by dogs and humans, so me and my dog Leto will share a few treats together. The Strawberry Lemon cupcakes are great, so are the Carob Chip and Pretzel Bars. Oh, and we like the Dill Peanut Butter Pretzels. But we’re kind of misfits.”

He smiles, leaning in closer, and hopes that Lilah doesn’t mind sharing.

“I love misfits.”

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Rue|Lou Prompt Series: “Never Seen a Ghost Like…”

For the 6/5/2020 prompt, Lou submitted ‘Never Seen A Ghost Like…”

Below are the prompts submitted for this week. Thank you to all the participants!

Click on the links to read each individual submission.

MASTERLIST:

“Tap. Tap. Tap. He’s still tapping on the window, distracting himself, when the girl, the woman really—Jeannie, she introduced herself as Jeannie—comes over.
The Whispers, Alicja

“My fourteen-year-old daughter pushes grass through wire for our hens to peck at. I watch, eyes soft behind dark sunglasses, as she crouches in the dry grass and whispers to them.
Never Seen A Ghost, Lou Willingham

Rue|Lou Prompt Series: “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”

For the 5/21/2020 prompt, Rue submitted ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”

Below are the prompts submitted for this week. Thank you to all the participants!

Click on the links to read each individual submission.

MASTERLIST:

“”Why are you bringing this up now?” I yelled, my eyes surveyed the broken plates on the floor, smashed to smithereens.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, Becka Writes

“Hisssss.
I lift the iron from the fabric, place it on the side. Let it rest.
I fold the green shirt and stack it on the counter-top beside me. Beside his phone, which he just abandoned when he came in.

Hisssss, Dewi Hargreaves

“The biting air prickled the skin on his face. Caleb saved his hands by burying them in his coat pockets, but the cold still penetrated down to his bones.
Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lie, rue sparks 

“I have a band-aid on my arm. Above my elbow, at the back. I can’t see it without a mirror. I don’t know how I got it on.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, Leona Storey

“Dante has never refused to tell me anything before, and he’s frozen like a statue. How can I trust him when he’s so intent on guarding his feelings from me?
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, Lou Willingham

Flash Fiction: Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lie

The biting air prickled the skin on his face. Caleb saved his hands by burying them in his coat pockets, but the cold still penetrated down to his bones.

It had been a terrible start to his new job. Possibly soon to be his old job if things didn’t change. His boss had taken him aside at the end of the day to warn him of his poor performance—as if he hadn’t known himself.

Walking towards his subsidized apartment along the deserted street, it took all of his willpower to keep the damning thoughts at bay. He’d messed up, and now the best he could hope for was a minimum wage job serving white middle-class accountants and doctors their morning coffee. It was a dead-end job, and he knew it.

Maybe it was better to just give up now.

Rounding the corner, he jumped as a dark shape ran towards him, his mind only retroactively registering that it was behind a metal fence. The shape, a black and white, hulking pit bull, stopped at the edge and stood up on his hind legs to try to reach him, his whole lower half shaking with his tail. He was panting with joy in his eyes as if he had been waiting just for Caleb.

With a worn smile, he reached his arm forward to let the dog sniff at his fingers. It’s mouth closed and head tilted as he—she?— did just that. Once the dog was satisfied that he was an acceptable companion, it bumped it’s nose into his hand, demanding pets.

Caleb’s smile became warm as he scratched behind the dog’s ears. He twisted the collar around to read the name on the metal tag: Daisy.

“Hello, Daisy,” he said, “It’s nice to meet you. You have such a beautiful smile sweet girl.”

Daisy licked his hand at his crooning, rubbing her head against his palm to keep him petting her.

And if he entered his apartment with a smile, no one else would ever know.

His visits to Daisy on his long trek home became routine. By summer, she waited for him like clockwork at the fence. In turn he brought her dog biscuits, toys, and bits of rope they played tug of war with.

Work got better. Actually, everything got better. By fall he had a job offer one town over that promised paid time off and benefits. He was being given a second chance, and while he was overjoyed now that his future seemed to only be getting brighter, there was another bright spot in his life that he would miss.

The day the moving truck was loaded, he knew it was time to say goodbye. He had bought a large box of peanut butter cookies meant for dogs from a local bakery, complete with a red bow on top and a card. It may have been overboard for someone who wouldn’t understand the gesture, but Daisy meant more to him than she would ever understand anyway.

Except Daisy wasn’t in the yard. It wasn’t unusual—he rarely ever saw her this time of day, so he shouldn’t have been surprised. But that didn’t move the lump forming in his throat.

Making an impulsive decision, he decided that if Daisy couldn’t come to him, he’d go to her. He rounded the corner to the building that was connected to the gated yard. It was an attached brick home, two stories with the black metal gate along the side. It wasn’t cheap, even for that area, but he was filled with an overwhelming need to see his rescuer before he left.

Gathering his courage, he walked up the concrete steps and knocked firmly on the door. He heard noises coming from the other side, and after what felt like minutes a stocky, white-haired older woman wearing a soft gray knit sweater opened the door.

“Can I help you?” she asked, her voice congenial but confused.

He floundered for a few seconds before he offered her the box. “I live in the apartment a few blocks down, but I’m moving away. I just wanted to give these to your dog, as a thank you.”

The woman shook her head, mouth thinning. “I don’t have a dog. You must be mistaking this house with another.”

Caleb furrowed his brow, mouth gaping at the unexpected answer. It was a strange request he was making, sure, but this was unexpected.

“Daisy isn’t your dog? Then who’s dog is she?”

The woman’s eyes widened, and she brought her wrinkled hand to her chest. She inhaled with a start, tilted her head in question. “Daisy? Whenever did you see Daisy?”

Caleb lowered the box of biscuits, his heart pounding with fear. Did something happen to his Daisy? “I saw her just yesterday, in the yard.”

The lady wiped at her eyes, shaking her head and mouth quaking.

“You must be mistaken, young man. Daisy died four years ago.”

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Flash Fiction: Fear Not the Gods

I often wonder what the Gods thought would happen upon their return. Maybe they thought we needed guidance, that their magnanimous but firm hand would turn the human race into something of universal beauty.

They probably didn’t expect a war. I wonder how omnipotent beings didn’t see it coming. If there’s one universal human trait, it’s that we don’t like to be told what we can and cannot be. Even by our creators.

But it’s not the Gods I fear. It’s men.

“You cannot be serious?” I echo. My compatriot grimaces at my tone, baring his teeth in his annoyance. He turns away and continues setting the charge.

We’re three hundred feet below street level of one of the God’s free cities. They’re utopia’s where humanity enjoys equanimity and safety… provided they worship the hand that feeds them.

“You think I got time to joke?” he says, straightening when the last one is ready, grabbing the roll of wire by the dowels on either side of the plastic base. He lets it loose as he walks backward. I follow behind him at a clip.

“I was told this was a reckon mission, not that we were going to blow up part of a city and all the citizens in it!” I rush forward, grab either side of the roll by the dowels so he can’t keep moving away from me. “ I did not agree to this.”

“Of course you did,” he says with a sneer, face smudged with dirt and grease from our trip into the undercity. “What, you think those people up there are innocent? They chose their side, now they can pay for it.”

He tries to yank the roll back but I hold tight. My voice is steel. “I. Did. Not. Agree. To. This.”

He jerks the roll out of my hands, glaring daggers at me. “You didn’t have to.” The tone holds no room for argument. “You can do your duty, or die with them.”

He continues moving back, and after a moment I follow him.

I wait until we’re out of sight of the charge, near out of the undercity, when in a moment of trust, he turns his back to me to pick up the pack we’d abandoned.

The shot from my pistol is muffled by the silencer. No echo to sound my betrayal, to sound the alarm for our troop nearby. The shot through his neck is an instant kill. 

His body drops. I catch it, wary of setting off the still-active charge. I’m debating my next move when I first hear, then feel the rumbling ground beneath my feet. There’s a white-hot shot of fear in my chest as I remember the still active bomb below the undercity. I’m debating whether I have time to deactivate it before the earthquake sets them off when the ground above my head is suddenly peeled back, as if the crust of the city were nothing but a thin layer of wrapping paper around me. I dodge rocks and bits of steel as debris falls.

When the sunlight strikes my eyes, I turn my face upwards to face the God I knew had found me.

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Flash Fiction: A Space Between the Stars

“You’re as dumb as an ox, Cam.”

The other kids, his teachers, his parents, his best friend- they were all in agreement.

They weren’t wrong, he’d think. Cam imagined the cheerleaders, the jocks, the geniuses of his high school as stars of a constellation, each their own bright light. People like him, people who were as dumb as an ox, were only the space between the stars.

But Cam wasn’t going to stay that way. He didn’t know what, but he knew he was meant for something. Something great. Something his little town had never seen.

As he grew into his twenties and his picked up shifts at the grocery store became full-time employment, this belief never waned. He would be something someday. So he paid his dues- he stocked beer and toiletries, swept floors, and asked his peers to ‘have a nice day’ in the most pleasant and hopeful tone that he could muster.

When his thirties came, the thought became a mantra. He knew he was meant for something. And when it came, he would show the world he wasn’t just empty space.

His thirties flew by, and his forties hit like a sledgehammer. His mantra became more desperate, and the desperation was plain on his face. In his drinking. In his failed relationships.

By the time his fifties came, he hadn’t thought about his childish dreams in some years. He was too old now, he thought, too jaded. Too worn down for hope to be anything but a fantasy. He looked on at the youth wasting away their lives on their iPhones and swept the floor of the grocery store he still worked at.

At 60 years old, Cam was staring at Orion in the driver’s seat of his pickup, moments before he’d been ready to turn the engine over when something occurred to him.

He’d been waiting too long.

What if he took what he longed for?

This is where our story changes. Not in the narrative, the subject, the point of view. Cam didn’t become an artist, a writer, a Hollywood star. Instead, Cam did what Cam did best.

The following day, Cam put on a smile and asked the young cashier how her new baby was doing. He helped an older woman reach a jar off the top shelf- after all, Cam may be as dumb as an ox but he was also six foot two. He whistled as he swept the tile floor, making a toddler walking by giggle.

And Cam knew at that moment he’d become something.

Some people spend their lifetimes finding the place they’re meant to be, the person they’re meant to be.

We are all giants just waiting to stop looking at the ground.

Look instead to the stars.

<Back to Flash Fiction>

Rue|Lou Prompt Series: “I’ve Heard Enough About Love”

For the 3/12/2020 prompt, Rue submitted ‘I’ve Heard Enough About Love.” Below are the prompts submitted for this week. Thank you to all the participants!

Click on the links to read each individual submission.

MASTERLIST:

“Not for the first time, Karmis looked up at his big friend with wonder. He was eleven feet tall, his skin rough and rugged and his beard long. A maul dangled casually in his hand, a weapon so big a strong man would have struggled to carry it.”
Heard Enough About Love, Dewi Hargreaves

“Their footsteps echoed on the steel floor beneath them, a metal clang swallowed by the empty streets. It was morning yet, the sun barely risen, the pinks and oranges reflected back from the galvanized walkway.”
Enough About Love, rue sparks

“The door shuts between me and Will. Right now, I could hate Dan for getting to keep him.
I’ve heard enough about love, Lou Willingham