Last week I wrote Xs and Os for Mid-Week Blues Buster 3.07, and I found out today I won. For those of you who write flash fiction, you should try your hand at MWBB. They use a song prompt, and it always makes my mind spin a story. 3.08 is going on right now! I was super excited to win, since this was the first flash piece I’d written in some time. I’ve been so busy this month.
Here’s the cool badge I won:
Not only have I gone on a semi-second Honeymoon with my husband in Punta Cana (you have to go there), but I published a book, The Devil Within. My mother-in-law came in town, and we took the kids to Stone Mountain. And this coming week I’m going to the Midwest Writer’s Conference. So much going on!
And today, I’m celebrating another accomplishment. I went for a run and did 2 miles in 11 minutes 44 seconds. This has taken me forever to accomplish. And now I can work on increasing my mileage over the next few weeks and speed. I’m intending to do a 5K sometime later in the year (because you know, I don’t have enough on my plate). I mostly run because it helps keep the weight off and I’ve struggled with weight for some time. I also do it so I can organize the thoughts in my head. Running is great for planning and plotting out works-in-progress. Today, I worked on figuring out the next steps in the new Southern Lit novel I’m working on. More details on that later, when I’m at a point where I feel like I can share.
I haven’t shared my flash fiction in awhile, because I haven’t been writing it as much. Between promoting The Devil Within, editing Little Birdhouses, and writing my no-name work-in-progress I haven’t had time. But this week, I decided to write for Mid-week Blues-Buster.
The song this week is Little Blue One by Cowboy Mouth, which is an upbeat song about a sad subject. When I heard this song, after not having listened to Cowboy Mouth for years it took me back to a crowded concert venue in Atlanta in the late 90’s or early 00’s, where I’d gone to visit my childhood friend, Stacy, at college. I hadn’t heard them before I attended the concert with Stacy and Andrea and a few other friends, and I immediately liked their music.
Fair warning: the subject matter is about divorce or the end of a relationship.
Here’s the song if you’d like to have a listen:
So here’s the Dear Jane letter…
Xs and Os
The dream again. Your face. But when I wake up you’re not beside me in the ocean swell of what-used-to-be our king sized bed. The room wreaks of your ghost. I pretend not to think of you. I tell my repetitive thoughts to still the image of you in my mind as I pour two cups of coffee instead of one for the third time this week. Without thought, I pour the second one down the drain. I think about picking up the extra cup and smashing it against the wall, but instead I set it in the sink and think about how you would have told me to “just put it in the dishwasher.”
The photos of you and me in the Caymans eating turtle soup. The smile on your face is eternal. You don’t live here anymore with me, but every waking moment I have to tell myself you’re gone. Today, I’ll take the photos down. It’s been six months, and I know you’re not coming back. I’ll put them in boxes, and I’ll wrap them up, and it will be like our life together never existed. That’s what you wanted.
When your text pinged my cell at 2 AM, I had to stumble from the couch where I’d fallen asleep watching Geraldo. I knocked the half empty bottle of wine onto the rug. You remember that rug, don’t you? We spent four hours debating on whether to get blue wool or the checkered cotton at Pottery Barn. I, like the sales clerk, wanted to gouge out my eyes with knives before you’d make up your mind. Back and forth. Wishy washy. That was always your way. Maniacal laughter erupted from my lips when I thought how ironic it was that this rug, your baby, your precious, had been left in my incapable hands. It’s in the green trashcan waiting for pickup on the curb now. So long sucker.
The laughter turned to tears when I read your text. “I want an annulment.” The words stung. Married for six years and just like that you wanted to pretend we didn’t exist. Well maybe you didn’t exist, but I did. I waited for you, lost in your blue world of depression as you were. I stuck with you when no one did. I made sure they pumped your stomach. I made sure you didn’t die on the pink title floor of our bathroom by sticking my finger down your throat. Covered in your puke and half-digested pills, I helped get you to the hospital. I saved your life…literally. And I helped you find your way. Even if that way was away from me.
So, my little blue one, now that you’ve found your way you want to pretend that none of it ever happened? Move on, put me behind you and that period of your life when you couldn’t control yourself. You couldn’t control your emotions.
The answer is no. I’ll grant you a divorce, but not an annulment. Because not every day was filled with vomit and fights over rugs. I walked on the beach with you. I kissed you under a gazebo. I imagined our life together, complete with babies, and I thought I’d be with you forever. I can’t pretend that never existed.
I can’t believe the A to Z Challenge is coming to an end tomorrow. I’ve loved doing it. I thought about writing, “It’s not over YET,” as my “Y” post, but I had some flash to do, so instead I just named one of the characters Yvette. I think I’ll do a reflection post on Friday about the A to Z Challenge. I’ve enjoyed the experience so much.
Without further ado, here’s the piece I wrote for Mid-week Blues-Buster. The song, to me seemed to be about internal demons, but it spun a great little thriller piece in my head. This is one I may develop further at another time.
Peace at Last
The rain rushed in as Yvette tried to kick in the door with her heel.
“Let me do it,” Steve said, pushing her out of the way.
We thought the house was empty. It’s true what they say—when you’re wrapped up with the wrong group of friends, you never realize it until it’s too late. That night, as the lightening crashed down around us, and the moss on the oak trees swayed like ghosts dancing in the rain, fate started shaking its ugly fist.
Steve and I both had pistols. Yvette and Coco raided the kitchen. I didn’t know why in the hell they always went there first. I followed Steve toward the bedroom. The house was dark, but looked lived in. A magazine was tossed on a coffee stained table in the living room, a stuffed bunny abandoned on a multi-colored rug. We rounded the corner, and looked up stairs that led to a loft, but continued past to the master bedroom. If the girls had told us food was simmering on the stove, we would have walked out the door, but that’s not what happened.
They were in bed, and the commotion had awakened them. A terrified look on their faces like a deer right before he’s hit by a car.
“I thought you said no one was home,” I said.
“Shut up,” Steve said.
The half-naked man and woman in the bed shook, huddled together with fear. Steve had his gun out now, and so I took my gun out too.
The half strangled word came out of their mouths, “No,” before it was cut off by the sound of the bullet crashing into the man’s skull and the woman’s scream, which I quickly silenced with a bullet of my own. My heart raced in my chest like thunder rolling down a mountain, and I couldn’t believe what I’d done in that split second. Now, I wasn’t just a thief, I was a killer.
“Oh my God, we have to get out of here.”
Steve laughed. That nervous type of laugh, you know the one a kid has after he’s done something he’s not supposed to.
“We killed them, Ollie.”
My face blanched, but I refuse to look back at the bed where Steve was staring.
“We came here to rob the joint and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The girls were sitting sullenly in the living room.
“What happened?” Yvette asked.
I was too stunned to answer. A few minutes later Steve came out with a bag full of Lord knows what. I didn’t want any of it—I just wanted to rewind time. My head was spinning with the knowledge of what we’d done.
And then we heard it.
We all looked up. A little girl, no more than four stood up at the top of the loft stairs looking down at us. Steve pulled out his gun, but I grabbed his arm. It happened so quickly, when he pulled the trigger, the bullet traveled into my skin and through my side.
“It’s just a flesh wound,” Coco said.
“I can’t believe you were going to kill that kid,” Yvette said.
“Let’s get out of here,” Steve said.
I stood, blood dripping everywhere, and I looked up the stairs to see the little girl’s wide blue eyes looking down at me, like an angel from above beckoning me to join her. Coco, Steve, and Yvette were gone by the time I stumbled over the side of the couch. I tried to stand, to get my footing, but I slipped on something wet. When I hit the floor, the blood pooled around me like embryonic fluid. When I closed my eyes for the last time, I felt the little girl’s hand on my face, soft and warm. Peace at last.
What else could F be for but Flash Fiction? Today’s story was done for Finish That Thought and for Mid-Week Blues-Buster. I killed two birds with one stone. Both of these were difficult for me today. The song on MWBB didn’t really inspire me, and I don’t consider myself a sci-fi writer at all, so using an alien protagonist for Finish That Thought was difficult for me.
Frayne’s Sacrifice @laurenegreene 490 words
It was the night of a blood red moon. His fourth trip to Earth to look for Basha. Frayne hated this place. Last time he’d come, he landed right in a drone path. Took all his power to steer his ship to safety. He couldn’t understand a whole world intent on killing each other.
He stumbled around in the dark, staring up at the moon. The last of four blood red moons from 2014 to 2015. He knew the Christians of the earth thought this was religiously significant. Frayne laughed at that, shaking his head at their lack of astronomical knowledge. They’d been using Christianity to explain natural phenomena for centuries. He didn’t know what Basha saw in these earth people, and he was sick of looking for her. She needed to take her rightful place next to him on the throne of Planet Bingo, where they would rule and reproduce as necessary, and then their little spawn would take over after their time was up. Until he found her, their duty could not be fulfilled and he would feel incomplete.
The red barn stood at the edge of the field. The farmhouse was in the distance, lights dancing in the windows. He snuck up to the house, and folded down upon himself until his knees were touching the grass. He placed his hands on the edge of the window frame and peeked into the house.
Basha was in the kitchen, making a meal. She was moving as he’d never seen anyone move before, swaying her hips. The human man walked up behind her, and what was he holding? Was that a baby human? Frayne saw the paleness of the baby’s skin and the truth hit him like a penny falling from a hundred foot building. Basha had reproduced with this earthling. He glanced back through the window, and as he was about to turn and walk away the screen door opened.
“Frayne—come out from behind there. I can sense your presence, you know.”
Frayne unfolded his seven foot body and stomped over to Basha.
“We were to be married. You could have had this on Bingo.”
She shook her head, and he noticed she was holding the half-earthling, its little fists waving in the air.
“I could never have this, Frayne. The earthlings believe in family. There’s is a love so eternal; I can feel it in my core.”
“You’ve seen the wars, same as I have.”
“They fight because they’re so passionate. It is something you could never understand, unless you let yourself live as one. They love as no others love.”
“I don’t understand this thing you call love.”
“It’s a feeling—something you can’t touch.”
“I’ll tell the council you died,” Frayne said.
“You’ll do that for me?”
“It’s what you want.”
She walked back toward the dim light of the farmhouse, but turned around to look at Frayne one more time.
Yesterday, my family traipsed all over Alabama. I had memories of my childhood, where my parents’ special talent seemed to be turning a four hour trip into an eight hour trip. We drove to Moundville, AL and on the way home we came through Selma, AL. In case you didn’t know, the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Movement is this year. Today, the walkers who recreated the 1965 walk from Selma to Montgomery are arriving in Montgomery. We have come so far, but there is still a lot of hate in our world. There are still a lot of people who are denied rights. There is still a lot of racism. Teach your children well, to love all men, and there will be a lot less hate and racism. Hate begets hate. Love begets love.
I took this, not so wonderful cell-phone picture, of the Edmund Pettus bridge from the backseat of a mini-van. Sorry for the glare, but it shows you where my inspiration for this week’s Mid-week Blues Buster came from.
The Hanging Tree 635 words @laurenegreene
The last few times they’d visited the tree a rope had been hanging from one of the branches, a perfect circle, a hangman’s rope, Pamela knew. They’d put it there as a warning, the men with the tall white hats who ran around haunting the town.
Pamela and Nathan had ridden their bikes down to the five and dime to get a peppermint stick that day. They liked to sit under the shade of the old oak tree on the edge of town and talk.
Danny Risen nodded at them as they left the store, the jingle of the bell following them as they secured their feet on the pedals of their bikes and rode through the town of Selma. Old plantation houses loomed. A town, rich on textiles, and the center of what Pamela’s mother said was the Voting Rights movement. Just a few days before, the march had taken place. Pamela’s mother and father said it was about time. But Pamela knew they were in the minority. The kids at school had nothing good to say about it.
They pedaled, the wind rippling through their hair, out to the edge of town and turned the corner on the dirt road toward the tree.
“Danny Risen is one of them.”
“How do you know?” Pamela asked.
The Ku Klux Klan members in Selma kept their identity a secret, but Nathan always claimed to know who was who.
“They set fire to a cross in front of one of their black preacher’s houses the other day. I heard Bucky talking about it at school. Said his Pa did it. Seemed right proud too.”
They pedaled down the dirt road, but even from this distance Pamela could see the shadow of the man hanging. Her heart sped up as her feet moved faster on the pedals.. She thought maybe if she could get there she could save him. Nathan always chastised her for wanting to save the world. “It’s too big of a task for a girl to take on,” he said.
Nathan had fallen behind, even as Pamela pedaled faster. When they reached the tree, they saw the limp legs, hanging. The shoes untied and the feet at an awkward angle. Pamela slowly moved her eyes up his body, taking in every detail, until she saw his face. Ghostly white and young, his eyes were open, staring into the unknown face of death. There were scratches on his face and neck, where he’d tried to get the rope off his neck as he slowly suffocated to death. Pamela had overheard her father say that when men were hung they danced a jig, their body jerking strangely, as they were slowly deprived of oxygen.
“I thought they put bags on their heads,” Nathan said.
Pamela shook her head, looking down at his feet again, his shoes seemed polish to a tee. This was a proud man, and he’d been pulled from Lord knows where and murdered for no reason. Pamela’s tears fell into the dirt, and Nathan placed a hand on her shoulder.
“There ain’t nothing we can do for him now, Pam. Come on. Let’s go home and tell someone. The least we can do is that, and maybe he can get a proper burial.”
Pamela shook Nathan’s hand off her shoulder.
“We need to get him down.”
“He’s deader than a doornail. A big ‘ole man like that. How do you think we can do that?”
She didn’t answer, and they turned to leave. From then on, her memories of the oak tree weren’t of spring and summer days with Nathan, unwinding and laughing in the shade. Whenever she thought of the oak tree, she’d see the man’s face, bloated with eyes wide open and lips slightly parted as if he was questioning, “Why me?”
I wrote today for Mid-Week Blues Buster. My goal today was sunshine and unicorns, but obviously I’m just not that type of writer. I write emotion, drama, conflict, and real life through horror. It’s just the way I’m made. Everyone has a gift, and as someone told me recently, mine is to make people cry. What a wonderful gift (I jest). Anyway, the song Another Nail In The Heart didn’t exactly lend itself to happy, but I did my best. And I’m pretty happy with the product! Enjoy!
A Writer’s Conundrum @laurenegreene 443 words
“Another Nail In My Heart,” she wrote, then crumpled up the paper. The words dripping from her pen were filled only with sorrow. And why? She had a charmed life.
The next sheet of lined yellow paper sat before her, a blank slate for her to fill. And this time, she wanted to fill them with happy words, words of rainbows and lollipops. Words of hope and inspiration. Instead of her usual: horror, pain, and sadness.
Diego plopped down beside her on the couch craning his neck to see what she was writing. She covered it with her arm like a child trying to keep someone from cheating off of her paper.
“Oh come on, I just wanted to see what you’re writing. Let me guess, another tale of killer clowns. Or divorce on a hike?”
She nodded towards the four crumpled balls of paper on the floor, and he reached forward and squeezed her leg gently.
“Maybe that’s your gift—making people cry…or scream.”
“Very funny,” Ana said. “How do you make happy interesting? Drama is much more fun, because it produces conflict immediately. There is always an issue to resolve.”
He took a swig of Sam Adam’s and put his arm around her. “You’re the writer, I defer to you.”
“A lot of help you are.”
He found the remote and started clicking through football games until he found the right one. Ana leaned up against him, tapping her pen against the empty pad, leaving tiny ink marks in her wake.
“Oh, did I tell you? Nick Hutchins and his wife are getting divorced.”
Ana sighed, set the pad down next to her on the couch and turned her attention to her husband.
“Didn’t they just adopt twins?”
“About six months ago, yeah. But turns out Nick was sleeping around. And guess what? She caught him in bed.”
“With who? Oh wait, don’t tell me, Shelly from accounting?” Diego was always telling Ana about what a slut Shelly from accounting was.
“No. With Patrick Weasler.”
“Oh God, that’s even worse. Who did you hear it from—Nick?”
“No, I heard it from Shelly. She’s best friends with the wife—what’s her name—and went over to pick up the pieces after Nick left.”
Ana picked up the pad, the blank lines seemed to suddenly fill up with words of woe, sorrow, divorce, infidelity and unhappiness: the shit of life. Diego flipped through the channels absentmindedly, not content with any of the games on T.V. as his wife scribbled furiously across the paper.
“Unicorns and rainbows?” he asked.
“Divorce and despair,” she said. “I guess, it’s just what I’m fated to write.”