“I recommend you start your foreign language requirement right away,” the department assistant says. “You need three quarters so you don’t want to leave it too late.”
“Huh.” Jane looks down at the catalog. French, her nemesis. Couldn’t get it in high school; no reason to think anything’s changed. “No Italian?” she asks hopefullly. Italian is so beautiful.
Movement in her peripheral vision draws her eye: Two people entering the language office, hands fluttering like birds, fingers flying.
It’s a sign.
Jane double-checks the catalog for confirmation. “American Sign Language. That’s what I want to take.”
Every week at the Ranch, Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fingers that fly. Think about the different ways we use our fingers and what happens when we add speed. Go where the prompt leads.”
The mindless chatter of two dozen people washes over Jane’s head, normally a wall of sound to hide behind but today, something to navigate. She balances her paper plate of cake – carrot, with cream cheese frosting, a favorite – careful not to jostle as she makes her way to where Barbara sits, queenlike, amid bona fide paralegals.
“I’m so sorry to hear Marianne is leaving,” Jane plunges in as Barbara glances up. “Are you accepting applications for her position?” She smiles brightly even as Becca’s eyes shoot daggers from across the room.
One woman’s going-away cake is another woman’s chance.
Every week at the Ranch, Charli hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about carrot cake. It can be classic or unusual. Why is there cake? How does it feature in the story. Go where the prompt leads.”
Jane bends to scatter crumbs from her morning muffin. Will Edgar come today?
Ravens. Birds of Apollo and Odin, messengers from these gods of prophecy. Harbingers of death and loss. She can’t lose much more. She’ll feed her raven instead; give him a name.
Flapping heralds Edgar’s arrival. He pecks his breakfast, fixes his unnerving gaze on her. He hops aside and she sees it.
She edges forward but Edgar has already retreated, perching on the fence. She stoops closer, in awe. A ring, gold in color only, plated finish well-scraped.
“Yes, Edgar,” she laughs. “I love you, too.”
Every week at the Ranch, Charli Mills hosts a flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven. It can be in nature or used to describe humanity as a metaphor. Follow the bird. Go where the prompt leads.”
Jane blinks as the man comes fully into the bus stop shelter. His open shirt flaps in the winter breeze, his chest white and cold-looking, ribs like slats. But the shirt looks starched and his trousers are sharply creased. A wool coat is clamped to his side, under one arm. He sets a strapped attache case onto the bench, buttons his shirt, produces an already-knotted tie and slides it into place. He smooths his hair, his neatly trimmed beard. Puts on the coat, slips the attache strap onto his shoulder, checks the posted metro schedule. His shoes glow with polish. Mr. Businessman, just another commuter waiting for his connection.
Jane’s seen this guy before, every time finishing his dressing as he arrives at the stop. She looks around at an area she already knows too well. Blocks away from the nearest homeless camp. There’s no gym nearby; only dirty concrete buildings nestled into industrial yards full of equipment and unidentifiable junk. She looks at her own barely-pressed self, trying hard to look like anything other than what she is. If he’s homeless too, he’s pulling it off a lot better than she does.
Then she spots the battered booth back across the median, behind them.
This bit is in response to Carrot Ranch’s monthly #twitterflash challenge. February’s cue: “Write a 200-word story (give or take on the words) incorporating the theme of congruency.” The guy in this story is real. I can’t figure him out and decided to plunk him into Jane’s world. I can’t remember the last time I saw a phone booth, though.
“Well, at least you got out of it. You corrected your mistake.”
“That marriage wasn’t a mistake,” Jane says.
The counselor raises her eyebrows.” Oppression, abuse…how was it not a mistake to marry a man like that? Not that I’m blaming you. You couldn’t have known.”
“Our daughter,” Jane says. “Only he and I together could have made that wonderful human being. Without him, I wouldn’t have her. She’s the fireweed that redeems it all.”
“Your daughter? Didn’t know you had a daughter. Where is she?”
Jane looks at the floor, silent. That’s a volcano all its own.
Every week, Charli Mills hosts a flash fiction challenge at the Ranch. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes fireweed. You can use it as the plant, a flower, a metaphor or as the name of someone or something. Go where the prompt leads. Burn bright when you write.”
Becca heaves her bag onto her shoulder, making sure she has her lunch, her phone, her bus pass. Another Monday. Joy.
Out of the elevator, she pauses at the door to the street, looking down.
New shoes. Brilliant new shoes. Stylish new shoes. Affordable new shoes. Comfy new shoes. She couldn’t wait to wear them. Brilliant black, blinding white. Wannabe swoosh.
And before she walks an entire block in the Pacific Northwest wet, the black and white will be gray all over. Ruined.
“…point of having shoes I can’t even wear outside,” she mutters, heading back up to change.
Each week at the Ranch, Charli Mills hosts a flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features something black and white. It could be a nun in a zebra monster truck, a rigid way of thinking, a bird in a tuxedo — be imaginative and go where the prompt leads.”
Jane is halfway across the bridge when the panic hits. Suddenly she is gasping, hot, her hands clammy and her mouth dry. She barely catches herself from bolting backward, right into rush-hour traffic. She clutches at the fencing with one sweaty hand, her eyes drawn over the edge.
Why not? How long can she keep trying, keep losing? The open air calls beyond the chain-link mesh, beckoning to the water far below. It would be hard, and it would be cold, and then it wouldn’t. And for a few seconds, she would be flying.
Would it be so bad?
This week’s flash fiction challenge prompt at the Ranch: “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that goes to the edge. Consider what the edge might be and how it informs the story. Go where the prompt leads.”