I wanted to post a flash fiction piece yesterday, but I couldn’t think of anything. I had to go back to my grad school days and come up with a scenario on the spot. I’ve always been a fan of restrictions because they get me to focus on the most important details.
That’s why in this story, I have a person stuck in a car with his parents and he can’t do anything but sit around. I honestly didn’t know how this would go. When I got towards the end, I had the usual trouble of figuring out how to end this story.
Does anyone else have a problem figuring out when a story ends? Do you just decide a story is over when you can’t write anymore? How do you write an ending in a story about nothing? There’s a very obvious ending that I wanted to avoid, so I did. Hopefully it works.
Also, in case you’re not already aware, it’s Book Lovers Day today! If you’re interested in something to pick up from your local, independent bookstore, check out my August Reading List for inspiration!
I watched the white-washed trees through the raindrops on the window as I sat in the back seat of a ’99 Camry pretending I was in a sad music video. Nothing was actually wrong, but I always took the opportunity to be sad when I was presented with one.
I liked to think about how I was younger and how I’d go back to those simpler times in an instant if it were possible. I felt myself getting older; I was aware of how depressing birthdays were; I’d be turning twenty-six in October.
The woods just past the shoulder of the highway were shielded by a layer of fog. Whenever we go for a drive, and I’m not the one driving, I’d look for animals waiting patiently to cross the street. The best I could do were the squirrels who’d dart back and forth, playing chicken with the cars and trucks, often losing.
For a second, I thought it was selfish of them; their lack of fear and inability to look at their friends and family crushed violently and repeatedly by our tires until they were nothing but fragments of their hide and an awkward blood stain etched on the asphalt.
The longer I stared, the longer the ride went. I couldn’t fall asleep. I never fall asleep on car rides. I could miss something: a license plate from a state too far to make sense of what they’re doing in New York; an accident; a black bear high in the trees; parachuters falling slowly from the sky — a sign we were getting close to town.
But I remembered it was cloudy and raining. It wouldn’t be safe. There would be no signs of when the end was near. All I could do was wait, and stare.
We finally made it out through the mountains and down the long hill, maximum security prisons on the left and right of the highway with deer foraging in the fields safe inside the barbed wire, I found myself comparing the lives of career criminals and the deer. Both found peace behind the walls. I tried desperately to relate.
When that failed, I focused on the irony of maximum security correctional facilities. What’s being corrected? Were the inmates secure? I, of course, was picking and choosing what the definition of those words was. Anything was possible in a debate with myself.
I had enough of these thoughts. There was nothing to gain from them. I was painfully self-aware of the stupidity pouring through my mind. But what could I do? No one in the car liked classical music, but my dad insisted on raising the volume. I couldn’t drown it out with my own music. I couldn’t talk to him, either. I’d have to yell and I hate that.
So I sat, stared. I thought about asking my mom if we could stop somewhere to eat, but I knew once we were in the car, we didn’t stop unless there was traffic or a serious emergency. At twenty-six, what kind of emergency could I have on a trip with my parents? How hungry could I really be?
“Are we close?” I asked, as if this were the first time making this trip. “We’ll get there when we get there,” my father said. It felt nice knowing so much time had passed and nothing had changed.
If you’re interested in submitting your own flash fiction piece for the 2018 Winter Issue of Come and Go Literary, see my submission guidelines for more details. There’s still time to submit so please don’t hesitate. There are no fees so you have no excuse.