Friday, January 29, 2010

Lament -- flash fiction


I'd seen the red ball before of course. Just yesterday as a matter of fact. Little Brianna was playing with it. Bouncing it on the building whap whap whap. After an hour the sound had gotten on my nerves. Bounce whap bounce whap bounce whap over and over. I had leaned out of my window and spoken sharply to her. She had smiled at me and apologized, sweet child that she was. She then sat on the ball and quietly colored with chalk on the sidewalk instead.
This morning as I rushed off, coffee and car keys in hand, I paused a moment to look at her fanciful drawings of unicorns, rainbows and fluffy clouds with happy faces. I smiled and carefully walked around them to avoid smudging any of the outlines.
Now, at seven in the evening, after a full day of mindless paper pushing, here I stand watching the street cleaner hosing down the pavement. He is hosing the last of Brianna's beautiful happiness from the sidewalk. The water swirls into the gutter to meet and mingle with her red ball as it bounces against the curb.
I can't help feeling that I need to rescue the ball.
The red ball that is bouncing whap whap whap in the gutter sloshing in the water that swirls both with rainbow colored chalk and the bloody leftover bits of the car that killed Brianna.




A link to this week's 79 #fridayflash stories at Mad Utopia

65 comments:

Sulci Collective said...

Stunning. The twin metaphors of the sound of the repetitive ball and the chalk drawings you know at some point in the future will be washed away. I had assumed by rain, but no, by the man washing the blood off the sidewalk... So simple, so unadorned and pure. Literature stripped down to its emotional core. Superlative

marc nash

Cat Connor said...

You had to use Brianna huh? lol I'm not reading her this story!! :-)

Amy J Taylor said...

Very sad and engaging. I could see her happy little unicorn drawings. And I loved the contrast between stepping carefully around them, and mindlessly washing them away.

mazzz in Leeds said...

Ouch! I wasn't expecting that :-)
Nicely done!

As an aside, "I want to give a confident powerful female main character a Z name" - Zoe? Not too puppyish or spaceish, I think?
And yes, I do have an irritating tendency to take things literally :D

Jen B said...

Ow. I wasn't expecting that, either. Great repetition. And the "bloody leftover bits"... my brain won't make them into the car, it makes it the child. Skilled juxtaposition, and very disturbing.

Cascade Lily said...

I could see the end coming, but methinks it's because I just read Pet Sematery for the first time and I cannot shake the image of a young child being minced by a truck. And the way you set up the piece signalled we were not in for a happy ending!!! Nice top and tail, the whap whap whap repetition really brought the piece together.

Al Bruno III said...

I have sent an award (and hopefully some traffic) to you

http://tinyurl.com/ycldvyz

Al Bruno III said...

Btw...the story was awesome... it hurt.

(In a good way)

Alan W. Davidson said...

Knowing your penchant for humour, I was expecting something funny at the end...boy, was I surprised! A well-told tale in such a short piece. Great job.

peggy said...

The surprise slammed me. Very deft. This one will linger.

netta said...

This has the voice of "shell-shocked", which is perfect for the situation you've set up. The foreshadowing of the red ball especially caught me.

Nicely done. Peggy is right. This one lingers.

Karen from Mentor said...

Peggy,
It's hard to surprise just about anyone these days, we're all so jaded. I'm so glad that this worked for you. And it's amazing to hear that it will stay with you for a while. Thanks!

:0)

Karen from Mentor said...

Netta,
That's exactly what I was going for, that stunned disbelief that the ball was still there but the child was gone.

Thank you for the "nicely done."

Karen :0)

Karen from Mentor said...

@Al and Alan, thanks so much guys for taking the time to read and comment.

Alan, don't worry, I'll be funny next time.

Al, I stopped over to your place to thank you for the shout out.

I'm pleased that you both liked the piece, surprising writers is always fun.

Karen :0)

Karen from Mentor said...

@ Lily,
I've never read Pet Semetary, but if I reminded you of Stephen..yay!

Naming it Lament did kind of tip the idea toward a not happily ever after ending. I'm glad the repetition worked for you. This was my first piece ANYTHING like this. I even put it in the collector as "literary"....which dammit...means I can't publish it at Pow.
[sigh]
Karen :0)

Karen from Mentor said...

Jen B said:

"Ow. I wasn't expecting that, either. Great repetition. And the "bloody leftover bits"... my brain won't make them into the car, it makes it the child. Skilled juxtaposition, and very disturbing."

Karen said:

The thing I wrestled with ALL DAY yesterday Jen was changing the last line so that it read
"the bloody leftover bits of my car." That would have tipped it right into suspenseful horror, because then we wouldn't know if the act was intentional or not.....

I finally left it alone.
I'm glad that it works this way for you.

Thanks for stopping in and taking the time to comment.
Karen :0)

Karen from Mentor said...

@ Amy and Mazzz, thanks so much for stopping in with a "very sad and engaging" and a "nicely done" in you pockets.

And Mazzz...to answer your aside... the literalness or not of my random thoughts in the sidebar are left solely up to the reader. :0)

Karen from Mentor said...

Cat YIKES!! I'm sorry for using a name that is precious to you in a grisly story. We'll chalk it up to .... (a)you always call her breezy, and (b) Brianna is SUCH a beautiful name.....

[forgiven?]

Karen from Mentor said...

Marc,
I want to put what you said on a tee shirt. Or maybe my tombstone.

*skips happily off.....*

Lou said...

Beautiful writing. I have had so many moments like this, when I realized my own stress was affecting the way I was treating my children, only to go back and indeed lament it after seeing more clearly. I have to say, even without this ending, I think your story would be powerful on its own. You have a perfect metaphor for the simple realization that our children's childhood is so very temporary, and this all too often gets lost in the hardships of our adulthood.

livloveslit said...

What a powerful story! Everything about it was just right, except that now I'm feeling too unsettled and sad. The "bounce-whap" repetition works beautifully. Now I need to go have a drink! ~ Olivia

estrella05azul said...

Wow, that was sorrowful... Very nicely written Karen, and it's a good message to send, everyone needs to be patient because we can never know what's around the corner.

Kris said...

Well, I won't be blowing my kids off at all today after reading that! Too sad!

Well written and good at provoking emotion though!

Gotta go play Wii with a 3-year old...

Marisa Birns said...

I read and reread this piece because I loved it so much! An excellent example of well done literary fiction.

*APPLAUDS*

Michael Solender said...

this is waht flash is all about, a beginning, middle and end, with a nice flow and super reveal. well done.

Laura Eno said...

Grisly, breathtaking. Makes you want to go out and find a kid to hug...

Eric J. Krause said...

Chilling. What a great story!

David Masters said...

Beautifully sad. I particularly liked the repetition of the 'whap'.

Unicorns, rainbows and fluffy clouds I like too.

Lettera22 said...

Holy...

~Tim said...

I think that if anyone could influence the editor of POW to accept this it would be you. ;-)

I like this ending better, but I see your point about how different the feel is with your alternate.

Draco Torre said...

Hard-hitting tale with beauty. The linking 'whap' of the ball puts it all in perspective. Wow.
-David G Shrock

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Good grief that was sweet until the very end! Interesting she wants to rescue the ball and now the child? Or maybe just left-over yuck from the accident earlier.

Very good short flash. You are so good at those short ones - you really have POW!

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks Anne. It's interesting that you pegged the narrator as female. I pictured a natty guy in a business suit. Love that you think the piece has Pow.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Karen :0)

Karen from Mentor said...

@ Tim ...probably with a little arm wrestling.

@ David S...thanks so much for the "wow"

@ David M... and hearts for some reason they always draw hearts too....

@ Lettera22....thanks for stopping at "holy" Jen, since it's a pg space. So glad you stopped in missy ma'am...been missing you.

Karen from Mentor said...

@ Lou and Estrella and Kris, it is amazing what we take for granted in our lives and are shocked when it's no longer there.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!

[big giant grin]

Karen :0)

Karen from Mentor said...

@ Laura...Thank you for the "breathtaking"


@ Eric...thank you for the "chilling"

so MANY great superlatives today. I don't know how many more I can take and still get my head through the doorway.

[but don't stop]

:0)

Karen from Mentor said...

@ Olivia...oh no, I'm sad that I've driven you to drink. I really liked the bounce whap too.

So glad you liked it.

:0)

Karen from Mentor said...

Marisa said:
I read and reread this piece because I loved it so much! An excellent example of well done literary fiction.

*APPLAUDS*

Karen said:

Wow. Such a wonderful thing to say. Thank you Marisa m'dear.

*skips happily off*

Karen from Mentor said...

@ Michael thanks! I think flash can be VERY short but still build and have punch. I'm glad this one was a good example of that for you.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

Karen :0)

Laura Eno said...

I thought the narrator was female too, although I always do when it's not specified. Just one of my many quirks, I guess.

AJ Campos said...

Too sad of a story for me to enjoy, but your writing skills are undeniable.

J. M. Strother said...

Wow, how sad. Good story, well told, but really rips the heart out.
~jon

Karen from Mentor said...

So sorry to have made you sad Jon and AJ, I sent you both an email to make up for it.

:0)

Karen from Mentor said...

Laura, I think a lot of people default to one sex or the other. [at least when reading fiction....we're not here to judge...]

:0)

Deanna Schrayer said...

Wow Karen, this is SUPERB writing! So sad, and chilling, because it is so well-written. You need to do this more often. This is one that will stick with me for some time to come, I'm sure.
Bravo!

Emma Newman said...

Oh!

Haunted now... that's a compliment :)

Karen from Mentor said...

Deanna, I'm laughing because I'm sure you meant write sad stuff more often, not write well more often, but that's of course where my funny bone took me.

Thank you so much for the superb and the bravo.

I now need a bigger hat.

:0)

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks Em! Off to read yours.....

CJ Hodges MacFarlane said...

Sheesh. That was kind of sadistic. I need to start paying more attention to titles. Well done, the noise the ball made was especially vivid.

G.P. Ching said...

UGH. As the mother of two little girls I connected with this too closely. When my kids are being really annoying I always remind myself that I will miss the tapping, stomping or whatever when they've grow up. Your story was just heartbreaking. A credit to your writing that you can elicit that kind of emotion. Nice work. (but sad)

Karen from Mentor said...

@ CJ and GP,

Wow I've gone from a stunning and superlative to a Sheesh and an UGH...laughing....I totally get that reaction though. I can't even imagine losing my child. And just so you know? I would have rescued the ball. And oh yeah not spoken sharply to the neighbor's child in the first place. As a matter of fact I would have gone down and bounced my ball on the building too until someone threw shoes at us.

Sorry to make you guys sad.

Sam said...

Oh, nicely done! Excellent story - you made me cry.

Laurita said...

Oooh. It hurts. Very well done, not one word wasted.

Karen from Mentor said...

Thank you Laurita. This one seemed to want to be written very lean.

So sorry Sam! Didn't mean to make you cry....but thank you for the "excellent" you bestowed upon me through your tears.

I think I'll go back to being funny. It feels weird to be responsible for bumming so many people out in one weekend.

:0)

shannon said...

I braced myself before I started cuz I just say your "guilt about making readers cry" post. :-) Lean and mean, this one! It makes me want to scream "Where was her mother??!!!!" There, I feel better.

dan powell said...

Powerful piece. The details you mention create a very real picture of the scene. I like that the narrator is not identified, it allows the reader to decide just who is telling the story. The voice is adult but could be neighbour, parent, even the driver of the car. The subtle shock in the narrative voice helps create the stunning effect such an event has.

Karen from Mentor said...

Wow Dan, That is EXACTLY what I was going for. So glad you came and commented.

:0)

Karen from Mentor said...

Ah Shannon, if I told the story of the mother...you really would cry....

bwahahahahaha

Thanks for stopping in. And thanks for the lean and mean. I like this one. I was really thrilled to be able to pack so much emotion into 234 words. :0)

petherin said...

Powerful and sad. Brilliant writing. I'll be back for more.

Karen from Mentor said...

Peter, I'm glad you came to visit. Thank you for leaving such a wonderful comment.

Karen :0)

Cynthia Schuerr said...

Wonderfully written, Karen. I thought you were going to say that Brianna was still there in the same place, sitting on her ball and drawing on the sidewalk. How sad. I hope she is in the hospital, still alive.

Dana said...

Ouch, totally caught off guard by this.

It was very powerful, and almost poetic.

Karen from Mentor said...

Cynthia, just for you I'll hope that the narrator was misinformed by the tow truck driver as to Brianna's fate.

:0)

Karen from Mentor said...

Dana,
Thank you for such a lovely comment. Sometimes I do feel poetic.

But usually if I lie down it passes.
:0)

katirra said...

Oh wow, a sad & touching story. I love reading your stories.