I like flash fiction. I didn’t know how much I would enjoy it when I started writing two years ago. I’ve had people tell me how much they enjoy reading flash fiction and then I’ve had a few that couldn’t get past the shortness and crispness of the story. I believe they are the one’s who are the flowery writers. They use lots of adjectives or whatever it takes to add description. I figured out many years ago, I’m not a flowery writer. Maybe that’s why I like Flash Fiction, because it is very straight forward.
An example would be, “Walking down the stone strewn path, I can smell the wonderful aroma of the large honeysuckle vine. It’s vines turning and wrapping themselves though the spaces in the fence.” For flash fiction you could write something such as “Walking down the path, the odor of honeysuckle filled the air. The vines wrapped themselves around the fence.”
The first example had twenty-nine words in the two sentences. The second example had eighteen words. They are very concise, and crisp. Flash Fiction uses limited words. I’ve written from 100 word stories to a 1000 words and it still be termed Flash Fiction. Any number you use requires a complete story. Sometimes it’s difficult to do.
Three days ago I wrote a Flash Fiction piece and entered it into a contest on FanStory. It’s called “The Letter”. I won the contest and I want to share it with you. This is the instuctions I was given.
Write a scene in which your main character receives a strange looking letter beat up with stains on its cover. The letter has no return address. What’s in it? How does your character react to the contents once it is opened and why? This story should not be any longer than 1000 words but no shorter then 800 words.
France, June 16, 1944
Rifle shots are randomly going off around Dan as he sits in the bombed out building. He’s writing a letter that he’s put off writing, because he knows it will break a girl’s heart back in Oklahoma. If you were to see his face, you’d think he’s about to cry tears. His heart is heavy.
Dear Janell, I really don’t know how to start this letter, but it is something I have to do. Sitting in the middle of this rubble, which was once a small town, probably a lot like our home town of Stuart. I’ve spent many months here, crawling through the mud and blood, and thinking of you and getting back home.
Two months ago, the French underground put me into hiding. There was a girl there by the name of Angelique. I called her Angel for short. I have to tell you, we have fallen in love, and I’m going to marry her. You know I never intended to hurt you, but I have to follow my heart. I only wish you the best with your life.
“Mama, would you like a cup of hot tea and a muffin? You haven’t eaten a thing since we got back from the cemetery this morning.”
“Sally, I’m not hungry. Just leave me alone.”
“You have to have something. How about that cup of tea? I’ll get you the tea, then walk down to the mailbox and get the mail. Maybe there’s a letter from Aunt Hattie. She always cheered you up when you read one of her letters.
“Mama, here is some Earl Grey. It’s hot, so let it sit a couple of minutes. I’ll be right back.”
The mailbox was sitting at the intersection of the two dirt roads that ran by the house. How many times had she walked to this mailbox over the years? Today was different because she helped bury her father this morning.
When she opened the mailbox it contained one letter.
The envelope was yellow with age, and had a couple of dark brown spots on the front. The strange thing was the name on the envelope. It’s addressed to mama using her maiden name, Janell Griffin. You couldn’t tell who sent it, because there wasn’t a return address. This is a mystery, Sally thought. I wonder who sent this.
Janell, sitting in her rocking chair, with her eyes closed and a slight smile on her face. She’s remembering the first time she saw her Daniel. We were at a church picnic and began talking. It was if we’d always been together. We spent all the time together we could. In 1943, Dan joined the Army and was shipped overseas. He was there over a year. The letters came regularly at first and I answered each one promptly. I tried to write about everything going on and the people he knew. I knew his loneliness would be terrible. Then the letters stopped coming. I thought he’d been killed. Several months passed with me mourning the loss of my love, Daniel. I went to the drug store for Mother one Saturday morning. When I came out of the drug store, the Grey Hound bus was unloading passengers at the depot next door. When I looked at the unloading passengers, I saw a solider with a cane step off the bus. I screamed and began running and yelling Daniel at the top of my lungs. Daniel was alive and home. I was hugging him and kissing him with tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t believe my love was alive and home. He acted very strange at first. It was as if he wasn’t expecting me to hug and kiss him. He felt stiff when I touched him. He must have been through hell.
“Mama,” Sally called out as she came through the door. “Wait till you see what we got in the mail.”
Janell opened her eyes, stopping the thoughts about her beloved Daniel. “What do you have?”
“It looks like a very old letter. It’s addressed to you but using your maiden name.”
“My maiden name! I haven’t used that name in almost sixty years. Let me see it.” Janell straightened her glasses as well as herself in the rocker.
“It’s post marked from France and I can see the number forty-four.”
“Well, let me see it.”
Sally handed the old letter to Janell. When Janell looked at the envelope, she began to cry.
“Mama, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
Janell sat very quiet holding the letter in her hands for a few minutes. When she was able to speak, she put the letter up to her heart and looked up at her daughter. “Sally, this letter was written by your father. I would know his hand writing anywhere. He was in France during the war. I actually thought he’d died, but God sent him back home to me. I can’t believe I got this letter on the day we buried him.
“Open it up and see what it says.”
Janell slowly opened the envelope with her arthritic fingers. She unfolded the paper and read the letter. She folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope.
“What did it say, Mama? Was it from Daddy?”
“No dear, it wasn’t meant for me. I think I want another cup of tea and I’m going to fix it. Would you like one?
“Yes, I would.”
“Sit down and I’ll call you when it’s ready”. Janell walked slowly to the kitchen and directly to the stove. She turned on the front burner for the tea pot and the flame started. She stuck the corner of the letter into the fire watching it burn and dropped it into the cast iron skillet sitting on the stove. While it burned to ashes she spoke softly aloud, “It wasn’t for me.”