Flash Fiction: Anemone

As promised, here is my next story.  I actually finished it only a day or so after posting my last one, but decided not to post too many stories too frequently, or else I’ll find myself scrambling to write one every other day.  This assignment’s word was: anemone (remember how I said last post that it was an unusual word?) and I was stumped for a long time as to how to incorporate it into my work.  Of course I could just throw it in randomly into a sentence, but I like to challenge myself and make my word relevant to the plot at least a little bit.  If I had known my friend would pick anemone, I might not have made my previous story revolve around plants- I don’t really have a particular fondness for writing about greenery, it just kind of happened for these stories.

This time I won’t tell you what song I was listening to until the end of the story, as the title of the song will kind of give away part of the plot (if you read it and then see what song I picked, you’ll see it’s a rather obvious choice.)  I’ll also have a few notes at the end as well.  Enjoy and as always, constructive criticism + comments are always welcome and encouraged!

Anemone

976

“I’m coming; I’m going to buy flowers for Mom.  Yeah, I know.  Bye.”

Cary hung up with a frown, scanning the signs up and down the street.  I should’ve bought them yesterday...  His eyes were drawn to a patch of vivid color and he breathed a sigh of relief, dashing across the street to the shop, its flowers spilling onto the sidewalk.

He was hunting for roses when he noticed the figure next to him.

It was an elegantly dressed woman, with curling black hair that framed her face.  Her features were handsome, with dark eyebrows arched like delicate brushstrokes.  Her cherry red lips were pursed together as she browsed the selection.  Entranced, Cary’s eyes followed her throughout the store.

Her eyes were focused intently on her search until she found what she wanted.  She picked out a single scarlet blossom with a smile.  Cary felt his heart beat a little faster but as he worked up the courage to speak to her, she turned around to pay and left.

After she was safely away Cary walked to where she had been browsing.  “Excuse me,” he asked the florist, “Which flower did that woman buy?  I don’t think I know its name.”

“That was an anemone; not many people can identify it.  She loves them, though.  Comes by every weekend or so.”  The florist winked.  “Don’t think she’s got a boyfriend.”

Cary thanked the old man and bought his bouquet of roses.

From then on, Cary made a concerted effort to visit the florist every weekend.  Each time he missed her, usually coming too late by minutes, if the old man was telling him the truth.

The next time I see her, I’m going to ask her out, Cary told himself as he walked over on his seventh visit.

As he approached, his heart sank to see that it was empty.  Dejected, he was about to return home when he saw her emerge from an alleyway.

He ran over.  “Excuse me.”  The woman turned.

“Yes?”

“Hi.  My name’s Cary…How are you?”  She greeted him cautiously.  “I saw you at the florist before, maybe you saw me too.  He says you love anemones…Anyways, I think you’re really beautiful and I’d love to get to know you.  Would you like to grab dinner or something sometimes?”  Cary shut his mouth before he could rattle on any further.

Her answer surprised him.  “You know, I have seen you a couple times around here.  My name’s Delilah.  I’d love to grab dinner with you.”  She blushed and they agreed on a date and time.

That weekend he brought her a huge bouquet of red anemones, and he loved the way her smile spread across her face.  They caught a movie, then ate Mexican food and dared each other to swallow spoonfuls of hot sauce.  When she invited him back to her apartment, Cary felt like a giddy adolescent.

When they stepped inside they were greeted by a blast of blistering hot air.

“I grew up in a hot environment,” she said apologetically.  “And I get cold really easily.”

“No problem,” he said, stripping off his sweater.  “I was missing summer anyways.  Where are you from originally?”

“Down under.”

“Australia, huh?  Where’s your accent?”  Delilah smiled.

“It’s been a while since I left.”

“I’d love to hear it sometime,” he said, leaning in to kiss her.  Her tongue tasted like chili peppers, though her teeth were a little sharp.  Deciding to prevent any tongue cuts, he moved on to kiss her hair until he stopped, confused.  Did I just feel…a bumpNo, not a bump…something sharper…  He used a hand to surreptitiously investigate.  What he found made him draw back in alarm.

“Um…not to kill the mood or freak you out, but I think you ought to have those things on your head checked out…they could be tumors or something.”

“Those?  I’ve had them since I was born.”  She drew him close but Cary resisted.

“No, those aren’t normal.  They’re like…horns.”

“You think I’m a goat or something?”  She tucked a strand of hair behind an ear.  An ear that’s pointed…and covered in fur?

“That’s messed up.  What’s going on?  What…what are you?”  Delilah shrugged.

“We were just about to have some fun.  No matter.  I’ll still enjoy myself, though you might not.”  Cary felt his blood go cold.

He ran to the door, but it was somehow locked from the inside.  Panicking, he turned around and felt his legs give way.

Were those fangs emerging from her lips?  And her eyes…they had begun to bulge, turning a bright anemone red…

Cary tried to yell but her mouth had already descended upon his.

*

“Good morning, Stan.”  The florist looked up at the anemone blossom.

“Morning,” he said, taking her money.   “How was your date with that fellow?  He seemed quite taken with you.”

Delilah giggled.  “It didn’t work out.”

“Too bad.”  He nodded at the store across the street.  “Well, that young lady that works there will probably be relieved.  She’s been eyeing you for a while.”  She arched an eyebrow.

“Really?  I must make an introduction.”  She handed him a note.  “My thanks,” she said with a wink.

The florist read it and his jaw dropped.  “So much?  You haven’t secured that one yet though…I can’t…”

“It’s payment for the pair of them, along with a tip.  You can redeem it tonight if you wish.  You know where to find me.”

The devils weren’t a bad lot to work with, Stan decided later that night as he slipped into his new, much younger skin.  You didn’t even have to sell your soul to get some extra years.       

He peeked into the bathroom where the anemones grew in the bathtub.  The petals glowed a brilliant red against the white porcelain and Stan nodded in satisfaction.  Not a bad lot at all…

 

When researching ideas for the story, I decided to use the floral variant of anemones and not squishy sea anemones, mostly because those seemed like a less obvious choice.  After looking at the different types, I fell in love with the Anemone coronaria species, especially the red ones, and those are the ones that I had in mind while writing the story.  I also read after finishing that Chinese consider anemones to be “death flowers”- I love it when preexisting legends and ideas you weren’t previously aware of fit so well into your own work, without you even trying!

Once I had started writing, I needed a song to fit with the creepy yet beautiful mood I was aiming to create for the story.  Florence + The Machine’s “Seven Devils” fit the bill perfectly, though now you know why I didn’t tell you the name beforehand- the title definitely would’ve spoiled the ending!  If you get the hankering to read my story a second time, hopefully you’ll enjoy listening to the song as much as I did.

Flash Fiction: Patience

I know this post comes a little late, but Happy Lunar New Year, and Happy Year of the Snake! For handy instructions on how to say it in Mandarin (新年快乐), visit my post from last year. According to the Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes, us Snakes are “elegant, and enjoy reading, listening to great music, tasting delicious food, and going to the theatre.” Yup, sounds just like me. Though who doesn’t like all those things?

I pledged that 2013 was the year for some changes, and since it’s also my zodiac animal year, I feel like I’ve got double the incentive to make it something special. It only comes around every 12 years, after all! Remember how one of my resolutions was to finish a piece of writing? Well, I’m happy to announce that I’ve already reached that goal!

I recently was introduced to the world of flash fiction by a friend and I was fascinated by the idea. With FF, you have to write a brief, fully realized piece of fiction under a certain number of words. Most contests usually have limits that range from 300-1000 words. I’m not really into entering contests (yet) but the idea stuck with me and I found myself trying to challenge myself with a 300 word story. Then I realized- I can make this a regular writing exercise! I can work on refining my skills and write tiny short stories!

I adapted some of the rules and created a writing challenge that I’m doing with a couple friends. I’m actually quite excited, because such a short word limit really forces you to consider everything you put into the story. There’s no room for unnecessary fluff, so you as the writer have to think- does this further the plot or make us empathize with the characters? Does it get to the point and then some?

My rules for the flash fiction writing challenge:

  1. Pick a word limit between 300-1000. Can be as oddly precise as 472.
  2. Pick a single word that must be used in the story at least once. The story doesn’t necessarily need to be themed around the word.
  3. Optional for people who really want a challenge: Pick a genre.

Exchange your word + word limit with your writing partner, and write! Getting a random and unique assignment is much more challenging (and hilarious) than just giving it to yourself, because with another person involved, you can’t just give up halfway and say “no, I don’t think I like the word ‘turnip’ or a 400 word limit.” They want a 400 word story with a turnip, and they’re going to get one. I personally don’t like to set deadlines because then that reminds me too much of school. But to each his or her own. I finished my first challenge in two evenings, because I was so excited to write- a feeling I haven’t felt in a long time. It really helped fire up those creative juices and I’ve already got two other challenges set up with other friends.

One of my resolutions was also to be more open with my work, so after much deliberation, I’ve decided to post my recent writing challenge (format is a little weird in WordPress, sorry!) Word: patience; limit: 563. Any constructive criticism is welcomed, as I by no means think I’m close to being a top-notch writer. After rereading it, I’ve already found things I’d like to change but I am pretty satisfied with it, considering the word limits. It also in retrospect, kind of fits in with Valentine’s Day, but I totally didn’t plan for that. I did however, have Coldplay’s “The Scientist” playing on repeat while I was writing it, so if you like music while you read, I humbly recommend this song.

Patience
563

You could never see the sky properly in the city, Nick thought regretfully. Too many skyscrapers and blinding lights. Not enough trees, either. The air tasted like grease and unhappiness.

He coped by transforming his sad excuse of a yard into a garden. He spent most of his free time there, relishing the smell of greenery and fresh dirt. This morning was dedicated to planting sprigs of rosemary in the corner.

“You spend a lot of time in your garden.” Nick looked up. A pair of mischievous brown eyes peeked over the fence.

“Morning, Carrie. What’s up?”

“Just thought I’d be neighborly and see how you were doing. Can I come over?”

“Sure.” She disappeared briefly and emerged through the gate that separated their yards.

“You look nice.”

“Thanks, I’ve got a date with Jason,” she said, giving her dress a self-conscious pat. “We’re celebrating my birthday.” Nick scratched his head.

“Wasn’t it on the first? That was like three weeks ago.”

Carrie smiled with delight. “You remember?”

“It’s a pretty easy date to remember.” Her smile widened briefly.

“Well, he had work that night. And then things kept popping up— I had that conference, then he was training for his marathon…anyways, we’re celebrating it now.” She eyed his vegetable patch.

“You sure love gardening, don’t you?” She pointed towards her yard. “I do too— I’m growing the city’s nicest weeds.” Nick laughed.

“I grew up with trees and plants everywhere, so gardening helps me forget I’m in the city. Plus, it’s kind of nice when you get to eat the fruits of your labor, no pun intended.”

“And you’re willing to wait for weeks and months for them? Aren’t you afraid of them dying?” She crouched down next to him to sniff the rosemary.

“It does take a while,” Nick admitted, “and sometimes I get impatient. Sometimes they die. But the good stuff is worth waiting for, I think. It’s a chance you have to take.”

She shook her head. “I guess I just don’t have the patience, then.” She stood up and brushed herself off.

“Well, I’m off. See you later!” She waved goodbye as she left through the gate.

Nick came across Carrie on her front stoop that night, sitting alone.

“Hey,” he said. “Where’s Jason?” She looked up and he was startled to see tears. “What happened?”

“It’s over.” She laughed bitterly. “I brought up moving in together and he freaked out. We were moving too fast, he couldn’t commit. He wanted a break. We’ve been together for ten years, and he wants a break? I told him I couldn’t wait around any longer.

“I waited for him when he went to do his Peace Corps mission. I waited for him to finish his master’s. Every year I waited for that ring. My friends told me to move on, but I always hoped…”

Nick sat down and allowed her to muffle her sobs in his chest. He waited a while before speaking.

“You going to be OK?” Carrie wiped her eyes.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine, thanks.”

“You know earlier today, you said you were growing weeds.” She shrugged.

“So?”

“I think you’d enjoy actual gardening.”

Carrie laughed. “Really?”

“I’m just saying, it’s really therapeutic for me. Though weeds are low maintenance, I guess.” She thought for a moment, then smiled.

“Ok. First thing tomorrow— let’s clear out those weeds.”