Howdy and hello. I’m posting a (much less) late response to this week’s flash fiction challenge at terribleminds.com. My internet doesn’t much feel like letting me access the site at the moment, so a link is not available just at the moment.
In short, the challenge was to choose three names of apple varieties and incorporate them into a flash length story. My varieties, chosen by a random number generator, were Brown Russet, Lord Lamborne, and American Beauty.
Now, here’s the thing. I wrote this story because I want to get back in the practice of writing regularly and the flash challenge is a good way of doing that. I had some ideas about this story, a bit of something to go on. But. Well, I could be more pleased. I find the story (admittedly, a first draft) clunky and ham-handed and not very successful. Feel free to join the chorus of criticism. On the other hand, I wrote something. So we’re going to chalk it up to practice, and post it, warts and all.
Flash Fiction Challenge 17 October 2014
Belinda fussed with the blankets around her granddaughter. “Young Mary rushed through her chores. She longed for a glimpse of the handsome Lord Lamborne.”
Mel smiled, remembering the fairytales of her youth. Belinda continued to draw the beautiful Mary and her gallant Lord Lamborne closer together in her narrative. At last they met again, by the kind of luck engineered by two people in love.
“The girl felt ashamed of her brown russet clothing in the face of the nobleman’s finery,” Belinda said. Mel’s smile flickered at the image of the powerful man and the poor girl, with her shabby clothes and low opinion of herself. Belinda’s tale continued. “But Lord Lamborne saw past her drab clothes to see Mary’s beauty.”
Mel crossed her arms against her stomach as poor old Mary and the dazzlingly wonderful Lord Lamborne, against all likelihood, grew ever more in love. The nobleman fulfilled his role as the eldest son in his family, while courting the humble girl in secret. He worked and planned and sacrificed for his love. Mary, meanwhile, sat around fretting over her coarse clothing and looking pretty. Only consideration for her daughter, the eager audience, prevented Mel from snorting at the conclusion to the story.
“And they decided to run away together,” Belinda said. She brushed Jeannie’s hair back from her face. “They sailed away together to a new land, where Mary would be his wife and his American beauty.”
With Jeannie down for the night, Mel followed Belinda into the kitchen. Belinda set a kettle to boil and pulled a mug from the cupboard.
“Well, that Lord Lamborne sure sounds like a catch,” Mel said. Her mother smiled at her as the water warmed in the kettle. “Miss Mary, though, she could use a bit of personality.”
Belinda turned away to fix her cup of tea. “Oh, it’s only a story,” she said. She didn’t turn around to say goodnight as she retired for the night with her cup of tea.
Mel kept track of the next several nights of stories. Miss Mary ended up having a surprisingly glamorous life in the colonies. Timid Violet was rescued away from her dreary existence by a dashing young lad who turned out to be a prince. The lovely, though dull, Sarah became a princess by marrying a dashing young man, who apparently had low expectations in a partner.
One night before story time, Mel pulled Belinda aside. “Mom, can we talk about the stories you’re telling Jeannie?”
Belinda folded her hands on the table in front of her, her composure becoming absolute stillness. The frown lines between her eyes appeared.
“I love that you are staying here now and I love that you are spending that time with Jeannie, I do,” Mel said. In her avoidance of an accusing tone, she sounded pleading. “I just wonder if we could mix them up a bit. You know, not all princesses and falling in love.”
“Jeannie likes princesses,” Belinda said. Her hands remained clasped in front of her.
Mel nodded. “I know she does, but she would like any story you tell her. She used to like bugs and paperclips and tea parties with Ninja Turtles. It would be nice if she thought about girls going on adventures or doing experiments or becoming president,” Mel said.
Belinda’s eyes swept up Mel’s body, taking in the sneakers, jeans, and sweatshirt. Her glance traveled to the spartan living room. “I think she gets rather enough non-princess girl reality in her everyday life,” she said. “Wouldn’t you like her to have a more happily ever after than you?”
The comment turned Mel cold and sparked an argument that led to a ban on bedtime stories. Mel wondered how much concern for Jeannie, sting from her mother’s criticism, and her own insecurities went into her decision.
Jeannie tugged at Mel’s hand as they entered the craft store, dragging her toward the patterns. Mel held Jeannie in her lap as they flipped through the glossy pages of the pattern books.
“How about a turtle?” Mel asked. She pointed to the sketched image of an elementary school kid wearing a stuffed green velour turtle shell. Jeannie shook her head and turned the page.
Mel advocated for several costumes, from cowgirl to mummy, astronaut to pumpkin. Jeannie kept turning the pages. Finally she came to a stop and her finger landed on a picture of a princess.
“I want to be a princess,” Jeannie said.
Mel bit her lip. “Why do you like this costume?” she asked.
Jeannie put her hands on her hips. “Because princesses are pretty and they get married to princes and they live in castles.”
“You know, real life princesses-” Mel paused, trying to think of what a modern day princess might get up to. “Real life princesses do charity work and help people.”
“We’ll come back to this one,” Mel said. She marked the page with the princess costume.
Jeannie’s enthusiasm waned to the point of becoming grumpiness. Mel’s patience wore to the point of transparency. Eventually she bought the pattern and the shiny, netted, lacy fabrics to go with it.
In line to pay for the makings of her pretty princess, Mel said, “You know, princesses nowadays can go to school and get a job if they want to,” Mel said.
Jeannie shrugged. “I’ll probably be a princess that’s also a fireman and sometimes a ballerina,” she said.
Mel laughed and squeezed Jeannie in a quick hug. She wondered again if she had overreacted or corrected course just in time. She wondered if mending her other relationship would be so straightforward.