My Name was Supposed to be Elizabeth Ann

— Stories from the Roads (Not) Taken

So in August, I finally made my new year’s writing resolution.

Not for the calendar year, dear reader. The academic year.

My resolution? To write and post an original microflash every Monday. 

Three reasons. 

First, I’m a very slooooow drafter and wanted to practice increasing my productivity.

Second, I knew time would shrink even further come September and another Covid school year that would include helping to  plan my daughter’s wedding. I wanted a manageable, measurable goal so as to avoid burying my writing life within all those competing demands.

Then I got overconfident and announced my resolution to the world. 

That was either really smart or really stupid, I told my students the first week of classes. I’d made them write and post Goal Cards in the front of the room for everyone to see and figured it only fair if I shared my writing goals with them. 

Which is my third reason: Accountability. I hate letting people down. Myself included. For me, that sickish feeling of failure is a terrific motivator.

And I’m happy to report that my experiment was a success. 

I wrote and posted every Monday through mid-November, the week after my daughter’s wedding. (It  was BEAUTIFUL, by the way, and I have STORIES!!!) Along the way, I learned greater flexibility in my writing practice and how to do more with fewer writing minutes.  I grew more confident with the shortest of story forms and learned I enjoy the challenge of crafting within their restrictions.

I also confirmed my earlier suspicion that, while reading microflash requires little time, crafting good microflash requires way more. That’s why Monday Micro is now Monthly. The first Monday of each month, beginning December 6, I will continue to post an original microflash of 150 words or fewer. I’m striving to make it a good story. One you’re glad to have read. One that sticks with you far longer than the minute or so it takes you to read.

Please let me know what you think.

Until then, I have a story to write.

*****

(Want a tiny story to tide you over until then? Click FICTION, above, for previous posts.)

*****

The day after, Birdie bins and washes, shelves detritus of a home upended. Dust clogs her nose. Tickles her eyes. She sneezes. Blinks. Sneezes yet again.

Birdie knows dust is partly skin, that skin sloughs and regenerates each moon cycle while her bones and heart require ten years of cycles to renew. By which math, she has been reborn five times at least since birth. (Hers and hers, depending.)

But some math Birdie cannot figure:

Volume accumulated by empty rooms. The ratio of bitter to sweet. 

Wonders–

When a child is grown and flown,  is a mother still a mom?

*****

Outside, monsters roam.

They won’t hurt you, bud. 

Behind his mask, curiosity battles fear. How come?

Magic, she says, sidekick to his cartoon hero. Kneeling, she steps his feet into leggings, arranges a cape about his shoulders and goblets on a table. Their cream faces blush dull orange as she pours. 

How’d you– 

Witches’ secret. Drink up. 

He slurps like a cat.  

Slowly, bud.  Trick-or-treat’s just started. The spell needs time to work.

Two weeks, Doc said three weeks ago.

*****

Before Everyone discovered Someone’s bones, 

Someone stored their faces in a box in a drawer in the middle of their dresser and,  mornings when they awoke, tried on each in turn, discarding each facsimile as smallish or loose or lacking in some necessary, elusive detail  heard about but never seen (like unicorns or potted gold), until— desperate and late— they chose at random and hurried unsettled into an indifferent world.

Behind three-starred glass, we swirl pinot while my shade approaches the crowded intersection. Mousy hair, thin-soled Keds. A backpack, frayed, beats an awkward tempo as she scans facades and faces. Awaits the signal forward.

On green, she crosses to me. Presses palms to mine, reflected.  

I want to rush into the twilight. To console her. Scream a warning. To say, you are stronger than you know. You are steel and sunlight, you are….

Instead, I say I’m sorry. 

Don’t be, she says. I’m not. 

You okay, my husband asks. 

My palm is wet, the street empty. 

Yes, I answer. Now.

*****

Fifty words, she says. A happy memory from your youth.

Hnuh.

Too many times I’ve mined that barren childscape. Too long I’ve blamed myself.

Instead,  memory journeys with my long-gone teenage self to the fount of all  my joy. To the only word of  fifty I  have ever loved.

You.

*****

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