Flash Fiction Challenge: Last Lines First

This post is a short story in response to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge that he issues on his blog every Friday. Last week he asked for last lines. This week, he chose 10 of those for us to choose from and turn it into the first line of our story.

So, for those of you who don’t know about Chuck Wendig, go check out terribleminds.com to get the full scoop on his awesomeness.

Here is my story for your reading pleasure. I hope you enjoy it and would love your feedback.

Summer Cleaning

She closed the book and watched as it turned to dust. Maeline let her fingers sink into the deep red powder that had once been a leather binding and felt the cool white softness of the pages underneath that now rested on her knees. As her fingers reached her skirt, she pinched the layer of fabric and flicked her wrists to send the dust flying. It swirled and danced through the air like snowflakes. Glimmering in the stream of sunlight before settling on the floor, it joined the layers already hibernating there.

Maeline knew it was time to go. She looked to the wall where the bookshelf had been. The wall  paper now held only a faded pattern left by the sun that told the story of the books that had been there. This had been the last book on that bookshelf. When Maeline had picked up the leather bound tome to begin the reading, the bookshelf crumbled to nothing; its purpose served.

She brushed her hands across her knees and laughed at herself for doing so. “Mae, you cain’t get yourself clean, no point in tryin’.” she chuckled, slapping her skirt just to watch the dust tornado away into the room. She wrapped her thin fingers around the arms of the chair, readying herself to stand. As she pushed off, the creaking of the chair matched the creaking of her bones. Then it was barely a whisper of a sigh as the chair decayed and wilted into the floor, sending ripples of dust to the four corners.

She stared out the window, across the field to the gentle hill, remembering playing there with the other children when she was younger.  No one was left now; just Maeline and this house in the valley.

“Ain’t no point waitin any longer, now.” Maeline assessed the the empty room creating rivers and currents of dust with every step or turn. “Just one thing left to do. Now, where was that?” She shuffled across the room to where she thought she remembered the rug had been and kicked out her skirts to help clear the floor. As the layers of powdered bedspreads, dishes, and wood drifted away, she found what she was looking for. Just a small hole in the floorboards, a little knot in the wood that was just the right size.

She snaked her hands under her hair and behind her neck to find the clasp. Her gnarled fingers fumbled, but unhooked the locket from around her neck. She held it up to the light to refasten the clasp and and watched it spin for a moment. Then she bent over to drop the trinket through the knot hole, watching the chain slither through the dust and hearing a soft thunk as it hit the ground under the house.

Maeline shook our her skirts and smoothed out her hair as she approached the door. She chuckled again “Silly habits. Who’s gonna see you?” Her hand shook as she reached for the door knob. She turned it and could feel the breeze begin as soon as the door was ajar. Maeline closed her eyes and stepped through the door onto the stone walkway. She let go of the door knob, felt it fall away, and the breeze turned blustery. She kept her eyes closed and leaned into the wind until it died down, the dust of the house completely blown away.

When she opened her eyes Maeline stood at the end of the stone path with the warm sun beating down on her. It was an odd place for the path to just end. As the long grass waved in the breeze, something caught her eye. Maeline stepped off the path into the grass, smiling as it cooled her bare feet.

“Oh, a pretty necklace!” She trilled as she picked it out of the blades. She pulled the chain over her head, tangling it in her braids in the process. Maeline sat down and crisscrossed her legs, forgetting what her mama said about sitting like a lady. She worked and tugged to get her braid unstuck and felt the necklace fall into place around her neck. She tucked her chin and looked down at it while her little fingers twirled it in the sunlight.

“Maeline! Its time to go! Don’t make me come and git you.”

“Comin’ mama!” Maeline hollered back as she stood and skipped up the hill to her waiting family.


On emulating the bats…

I have a tendency to always be in a hurry and have too much on my to do list. It is an easy rut to get into.

Well, a few weeks back I was in my regular mode of picking my daughter up from daycare, and then hitting the grocery store and running errands on the way home. At some point in the drive my daughter asked if we could have a picnic for dinner. I said sure.

So of course, the errands take longer than expected. We get home and I rush to get dinner on the table before it is sooo late that she would have to go right to bed afterwards with out any down time. About half way through the meal, she wails out “Mommy – we were supposed to eat outside!!” Yes, I had agreed to that earlier, hadn’t I? With twilight upon us, we picked up our plates and moved our dinner to the deck to finish things up.

It really was a beautiful night and my husband cleared the dishes when we were done so my daughter and I could sit on the swing for a bit. I took a deep breath and realized that this was one of those moments. You stop rushing. You forget about the million little things you still wanted to get done tonight. You just sit on the swing and cuddle with your kid, laughing as the bats swoop and chase their dinner.

And that got me thinking about those bats.

Bats use echolocation to find their way around and find food. (That is a form of SONAR, not RADAR. SOund Navigation And Ranging) When they are hunting, the sounds they emit are synchronized with their wingbeats and breathing. This means there is no extra energy expended for them to find what they are looking for. They are built to focus on and acquire what they need. It is part of who they are and how their tiny little bodies function. They send out little noises, and the world echos back to help them out.

I need to be more like those bats.

I need to focus on the more important things and not get bogged down in the mundane day to day drudgery. I need to send out my own little clicks and whistles and see what the world sends back to keep me on my way. I know this may sound new-agey, but I have found when you put your desires out there into the universe, it is amazing how co-incidences seem to occur with more frequency, providing a nudge in the right direction, or a helping hand over that last hurdle.

For instance, a few days after the night spent watching the bats and getting all philosophical about them, I went book shopping with my daughter. Looky looky what I found – a wonderful children’s book about bats called Nightsong by Ari Berk and Loren Long. A perfect bit of synchronicity for my current state.

I’d love to hear about your own ‘reminder’ experiences that keep you on our path. I’ll sign off with a snippet from Nightsong:

Sense is the song you sing out into the world,
and the song the world sings back to you.