In a fit of angst about how frickin long it’s taking to finish my novel, I decided (with encouragement) to try a flash fiction challenge so I could finish SOMETHING.
The challenge: Write a short story in 90 minutes or less based on a prompt (in this case, the prompt was: Swing). You’re supposed to do it on Sunday afternoon, but I’m impatient so I went ahead and did last week’s challenge last night. And I’m insane so I did it in 35 minutes.
This is what I wrote.
Long hair and twisted ropes don’t mix well. I was seven when I found this out, screaming for my mom my dad my grandma anyone.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. What country kid could resist? Sure, we lived on three acres set in the midst of another hundred acres of wild California high desert. Giant climbing boulder right there in the front yard. But I had never had a swing before, not outside the school playground.
So when Dad carried that sanded board out to the hitching post in front of Indian Joe’s Trading Depot, and hung it with two pieces of thick, frayed nylon, I figured rope burn was a small price to pay for the glory of twisting up in that thing as high as I wanted and letting it spin spin spin spin to the bottom and back up again.
Did you know that hair is even more magical than usual when it’s flying out around your head like that?
For Samson it was strength. For me, I could hear. That time we found the bird, stunned silly by a run-in with the picture glass windows on the front of Ye Olde Country Store. Mom made a little box for it and it talked to me as it died, not in words so much but I felt the joy of the wind, the rush of the dive, the call of a beloved mate, the sorrow, oh the sorrow, of goodbye world.
Gnats spoke to me too. That’s why I had to rescue them out of the fresh paint on the door Grandpa was fixing for our ugly little house. They didn’t say much, it’s true. Just mating and water and mating and blood. And flight. Oh, how they missed flight, lying there on their backs in the paint, the smell of it like death. So I washed them, even though they screamed how the water was all wrong, stuck in it like that, in and out, and then I placed them in the sun and most of them died anyway but I had to try. Goodbye world.
There was the baby deer. She didn’t really talk to me at first, except that little baby bleating sound they make out loud, because at first she was fine. It was later her internal organs shut down, said the vet, because she didn’t get the colostrum (when your mom raises livestock you know big words like “colostrum” even when you’re just a little girl). Because her mother died too soon. But we didn’t know that and so she slept by my bed, I fed her every few hours out of that bottle. When she was hungry, while I warmed the bottle of goat’s milk, she’d suck on my fingers. Her mom died so soon, that little deer—Kara, I named her—she thought I was her mama.
How she cried, that last day, on her way to the vet. I watched Mom close the door on her, she standing there on the pickup truck floor, and I heard her, not just the bleating—that was loud enough too—but the other talking. I felt what it is to fly over a fence, even though she had never felt it herself. Maybe it was her mother. Straight up in the air and over, soaring. And love, oh the love, the aching aching love—for me—for ME. And goodbye goodbye oh goodbye as she drove away.
Later, Mom told me how in her panic and her fear, she forgot to take a bottle of goat’s milk with her and little Kara was so scared and she was so hungry and Mom had nothing to give her as she lay there dying on the vet’s table. But I knew that already. Kara told me. Goodbye, oh goodbye world.
So you see I couldn’t ever cut my hair. Because when my hair flew out around me like that, I could hear them all. Not just the dying ones. I could hear the crow overhead, feel the flight and the joy without the sorrow, not yet sorrow. And the rattlesnakes, did you know how much rattlesnakes love the sun? Ladybugs, ladybugs, the beautiful hum of the ladybug song flying, mating, flying, eating. The horse and the beetles and the goats and the duck and the dog all of them all of them.
My hair flying out, like it does when you wind up the swing and let it go again, how could I resist that?
But old rope and long hair don’t mix, it turns out. Especially twisted old rope. Mom, dad, grandma, anyone, brother even, grandpa come come oh come. I don’t know who came, found me hanging there by my hair, twisted up in the rope so far so tight I couldn’t hear anything but my own screaming. I just know that was the last time the last time the last time… It had to be cut and they didn’t understand of course, they couldn’t, they didn’t know. They didn’t know my hair was magic.
Goodbye, birds, gnats, snakes, crows. Goodbye, oh goodbye. Goodbye.
P.S. Visit Absolute Write and join the challenge. You have to sign in & there’s a password–someone will give it to you once you’re a member. You can pm me for it. Or just do it on your blog and link to it from here, please. So I can read it.