Welcome Readers, Writers, and Friends,
I am currently listening to Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, read by the author, and it is the deliciously dark sort of brilliance I love from him. If I have a gripe, it is not with the writing, or even the story, but rather a personal kind of preference.
I hate stories featuring adultery. Even as a child I had nightmares that one of my parents would cheat on the other and our hearts would break and our lives upend. It makes me a little heart sick every time I read a story where one partner betrays the promise of fidelity. Even if the object of that cheating is an actual monster using ancient and fantastical powers to manipulate the humans around her. I still hate the characters for being so weak that their love could be thwarted by something so obviously wrong.
But that has nothing to do with today.
Today is Friday and that means flash fiction. We pull a couple of prompts and write whatever pops into our silly little heads. I bluster along with no editing, no corrections (other than what auto-correct so graciously bestows, and it’s a lot), just an impromptu bit of fiction. You use them however you like, and then comment with your piece or a link to wherever we can find you.
Today’s prompts are: the smell that brings it all back, person who doesn’t feel attractive enough
Martin didn’t think of her often. It was hard remembering her shy, green eyed glances and the color of her lips. He didn’t want to pine, but if she came up he couldn’t help it. His chest would empty itself out, making room for the memory. and the memory in turn would call out to be connected with the flesh and blood figure that had held his hand for a few brief moments that August night.
He’d been kicking about the docks in the little nothing town his parents had picked for the summer. They always picked little nothing towns because they wanted to get away. Not go somewhere interesting, with attractions and bustle and all the sorts of things a teenage boy wants to see and do. No they went out of their way to get out of the way of anything interesting or fun.
Sitting out on the docks, watching the stars come out way too late into the evening was one of Martin’s favorite past times on these summer trips as it gave him time to sulk and day dream about the day when he would be the one planning his own vacations, going exciting places.
It was in one of these reveries of his put upon situation, that he sat with his feet in the shallows. The boats, hardly boats really as they were so small, bobbed up and down in the water, rhythmically thunked against the wood. He skipped a rock out across the water and heard rather than the typical splash, a yelp of pain and a rather rude exclamation against himself.
He stood, looking out into the dark water and discerned a head, shoulders, and torso making it’s way through the water toward him.
“If you can’t see where your skipping, keep the rocks to yourself.” She rubbed her head where the rock had no doubt struck her. “I don’t need a concussion, thank you.”
“Sorry. Really I didn’t think there was anyone out here.” Martin stood and offered her his hand. She looked at it as though not sure if might throw another rock at her. But in the end she took it and he pulled her up.
She dripped water everywhere, soaking his jeans. But Martin hardly noticed. He watched her wring out her long dark hair, and the faint bit of moon that was chasing the now set sun past the horizon glimmered off her.
She didn’t reply. He wondered if she had heard him. Maybe he had only thought he’d introduced himself.
“Where are you from, Martin-who throws-rocks-at-girls?”
“I said I was sorry. I wasn’t throwing it at you, just trying to skip it.” Martin realized too late that anger had crept into his voice at being so accused. He cleared his throat. “Austin. I’m from around Austin.”
“Here for the summer like the rest?” She was wringing out a tank top that covered enough to pique his interest, and he made some noncommittal noise in response to the question. “And I bet you’re bored out of your mind, which is why you are sitting here fishing for mermaids with stones.”
“Am I ever going to be forgiven?” Martin asked.
“Once my head stops hurting.” She flung her hair out of her way, and it sprayed the last drops onto Martin’s shirt. “Come on, I’ll show where everyone hangs out.”
She started up the dock with a look over her shoulder. “Well, everyone worth hanging out with. And I’m Mina, by the way.”
And that’s how it started. Mina showed him the gully where the older, wilder kids got drunk every chance they got, and the floating restaurant that stayed open 24/7 making deep fried anything. They spent the next two weeks in each other’s company, Mina playing tour guide, Martin the grateful recipient of her localized knowledge.
The night before his family was to pack up and head home, he found himself on that same dock, with new reasons to sulk. He did not want to go home. He did not want to leave Mina. She found him there, feet in the shallows, skipping rocks again.
She kicked him.
“Wasn’t hitting me bad enough?” She plopped down next to him a waxed paper bag of fresh hush puppies in her hand.
Martin just shrugged. He didn’t know how to tell her the he liked her and he was miserable to be leaving now, just when they were having such a good time without sounding like a complete idiot.
He knew he was going home in two weeks. He knew this wasn’t even a semi-permanat situation, and yet he couldn’t help feeling like he was leaving something precious here in this nowhere town.
She opened the bag and offered it to him. The starchy-sweet scent assaulted him, and even though he wasn’t hungry he took one, his fingers immediately greasy and salted.
Mina watched him not eat his snack. “You can just come back next summer, you know. It’s not like this town’s going anywhere.” She popped a puppy into her mouth, just as the wind kicked up and the berry scent of her shampoo caught the breeze. It married with subtle scent of fish coming off the water.
Then she took his hand, greased up fingers interlacing.
“You’re ok.” She said. “It’s just summer. It all goes away in the fall and comes back again the next year.”
They spent the rest of that night talking, telling each other what they were going to do in the year to come until they saw each other again. And Martin thought a dozen times about kissing her, but he never did.
He was a particularly rank brand of surly on the way home, and when he got there he considered writing to Mina, only to realize he’d never taken down any of her information.
He managed to cajole his parents into returning to that nowhere town the following summer, but it wasn’t the same town. It was all just as he remembered, but there was no Mina. The wild kids in the woods didn’t know her, the cooks at the floating restaurant didn’t recognize the name, and even though he sat on the dock every night hoping, she didn’t show.
He wondered after that if he had imagined her. Maybe he’d made her up to make himself a little braver, to go out exploring. But then he’d remember the feel of her hushpuppied fingers interlacing with his, and the smell of grease paper, the water, and berry shampoo all mingled together.