It probably won’t surprise you to find out that I have my Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. One of my favorite exercises during undergrad was Flash Fiction Fridays. At the beginning of each Friday’s class we would have twenty minutes to knock something out. 500 words or less was the only condition, otherwise we were free to explore any topic we desired.
I thought that might be fun to bring to Bookstr. So without further ado, here’s a flash fiction short story that I’m particularly happy with.
By Hilary Schuhmacher
I’m lying in bed, resisting sleep, distracting myself with thoughts of thunder and conversations between frogs and how the waves on the beach sound when it’s a bit too windy. This sort of calming, soothing, soft and slow. I’ve been doing it since I was old enough to remember, around the time my mom stopped putting me to bed. She taught me her secret, her secret to stop the world from spinning so she could finally catch a breath.
I’m conducting my own coastline symphony and it’s ninety-two degrees even though the sun’s been down for four hours. It’s Death Valley in early November and I’ve been running my air conditioning on Arctic Blizzard for three days straight just so I can keep myself swaddled in the down comforter she kept locked in that trunk so moths wouldn’t eat the already worn-thin fabric into Swiss cheese.
It’s the heat. The heat is making me crazy. And no amount of nighttime soothing sound effects are going to make a difference, but I’ll do it anyway because this blanket and that advice are the last two things I have left of my mother’s.
As I finally close my eyes and drift to sleep, everything stops. For the first time in a long time, I’m completely and totally calm. I’m fine. I’m unconscious, and everything’s fine. The air conditioning stops blowing and my brain stops searching for a reason why my mother disappeared and the raccoons outside stop banging on trashcans, frozen, hovering over day old bread crusts and half eaten strawberry yogurts.
Parked outside my house in a beat to shit 1986 Toyota Corolla, a private investigator points his camera down the street. He’s been there for an hour and so far he’s flossed twice, named the raccoons he’s watched dig through my garbage with their little human hands, and eaten most of his snacks. The moment the raccoons stop moving, the moment time stops at my house, he doesn’t notice. He’s singing along to the radio and doesn’t notice the pigeon on the hood of his car has paused mid liftoff. He’s wiping off his camera lens and doesn’t see the mosquito frozen in the air inches away from his nose. Once he does, it’s too late. When time stops, it runs extra quick to catch up.
The mosquito shoots up his right nostril. The pigeon might as well be a hummingbird, wings so quick you can only see torso. Raccoons tumble over each other in a blur. The moon sets and the sun rises and suddenly it’s nine in the morning and I’ve walked up to that beat to shit car and that man looks up at me like he’s seeing the second coming of Jesus and I’m it.
He snaps a photo and judging by the size of his lens he has a fantastic close up of my incisors and not much else. His tires spin as he hightails it down the street, past the couple he was surveilling. All three now wearing that same dumb shocked look on their faces as he speeds away, turning and looking for someone, anyone following him.
No one’s following him. No one cares. No one cares because it’s too god damn hot to give a shit.
Featured Image via Discreet Investigations.