I'm so excited to post this: the first piece in the Flash Fiction Challenge! The first prompt come to us from Kate Higgins (who can be found online at kathleenhiggins.blogspot.com and cedarmoonstudio.com).
Kate sent a collection of randomly chosen words to include in my piece: andiron, hurricane, Novocain, tomato, mustache, nephophobia, and oscilloscope. And I worked them all into my (500-words on the dot) piece you can either listen to me read in the video clip or read below...
Kate's prompt was fantastic, and I can't wait to see what prompts roll into my inbox for the October chapter of this challenge! More details about the October portion of the Flash Fiction Challenge will come soon...in the meantime, congrats to Kate Higgins, who is now in the running for the yet-undisclosed prize in time for the holidays...
The Fear Of Clouds
“Safe,” Mia says, same as she had when we first stepped through the front door five years ago, smelling like a couple gators who’d crawled right out of the bayou.
I’d trusted her, back when summer sweat lay far thicker on my lip than my spindly mustache. Trusted her like boys always trust their moms…Even though she made me call her by her first name, squirming every time I slipped and didn’t pronounce that first vowel. Squirming every time I accidentally called her Ma.
“Don’t know nearly enough to be anybody’s mother,” she’d always said, the way pretty girls roll their eyes at compliments because they already feel beautiful.
She was older than any of the other mothers in my class. And she loved that years had taught her to measure up a situation like an oscilloscope, tracking electrical currents around her. She could sense things no one else could, making decisions and moving forward without any fear she might be wrong.
“Landlocked,” she’d said when we’d first arrived, letting me think of the miles from the shore as an enormous security blanket.
I was safe. Mia said so.
Now, scraggly remnants of last summer’s tomato plants bend the way palm trees had five years ago, when we’d raced from that angry hurricane, that Katrina, who tore our house apart like old rags…just like Mia knew she would. Suddenly, Missouri’s arms don’t feel comforting at all—just hard and cold, like the andiron by the fireplace.
“Maybe we should leave,” I say, my voice buzzing against my raw gums, my sprouting wisdom teeth making me wish for a Novocain-laced milkshake. Were you supposed to run from a tornado? Or fall to the ground and play dead, like an opossum, waiting for the danger to pass? I look to Mia for an answer.
She just laughs, like I’m totally irrational. Like I’m a hypochondriac, or an agoraphobe. Nephophobia (fear of clouds). The word pops into my head. But don’t dark, churning clouds make everybody’s mind wander into a hundred murky directions? Is it a phobia if it isn’t really irrational? What’s wrong with her?
A lawn chair does summersaults. Gusts throw pea-sized hail against the glass door. This storm is a late-night invader with a gun. My heart begs my feet to move.
But Mia keeps laughing, the wrinkles around her eyes turning to ditches.
“We’re safe,” she insists, but my worry stretches. I grab Mia’s elbow as a cloud begins to grow its own black arm—a funnel.
“Hey,” she snaps as I push her into the basement. Storm sirens shriek like a wounded dog as I lock the door; the floor above us rattles beneath the angry wind. Mia’s shocked eyes hit me as glass shatters upstairs.
I push her into the corner and huddle over her like a human security blanket. She yelps when my chin rubs her cheek. A surprise to us both that suddenly—and after all this time—my beard is rough as coarse-grit sandpaper.