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Weekend Flash Round-Up: “Carving Out a Space” and “Third Time”

In terms of Scooby Snacks to my ego, this has been a fabulous contest week.

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First of all, over at Angry Hourglass’s Flash Frenzy, I managed to get another FlashMaster badge for “Carving Out a Space”, an SF piece based on a pic prompt of pumpkins. It got featured here, for Humpday Quickie #39.

Then, on Tuesday, I did a Finish That Thought over at Alissa Leonard’s blog. This week’s thought was, “It is time to make the announcement…” And had to include an envelope, a beaded necklace, a bridge, and a glass of water. My piece “Third Time” (straight fiction again–what’s happening to me??) also took first.

Third Time

It’s time to make the announcement, I decide, dropping beads one by one over the guardrail into the foam. Red, blue, purple, green, purple…

The river seems gentler in spring, like you might survive the jump and drift along with the tufts of cottonwood. But you jumped into unforgiving winter waters, and your family is still asking why.

My jump would have been in early fall if it hadn’t been for you—or rather the necklace twined around your wrist. I wouldn’t have hesitated but for that scatter of colors on a worn bit of yarn.

A child made that, I said through your mollifications. The corners of your lips dipped just enough to confirm it: a child no longer around. And then I wondered how the hell could you believe life worth living if you’d lost a child? And how could I claim it wasn’t when my problems were trivial by comparison? So I took your hand and clambered back to the walkway.

If you hadn’t offered to buy me a drink, we would have parted ways and you would have always been the good samaritan that talked me off the bridge that one time—my first real attempt. But the way you fingered red-blue-purple-green-purple like a rosary beckoned me into your confidence.

A niece, you said. Hit and run driver. Some drunk.

If I weren’t so busy straggling my own bitterness, I might have tried to pry open the fists around yours. I probably could have guessed the truth in the way you were nursing a glass of water while re-ordering me dark lagers. But you’d  peeled away a layer of isolation and I didn’t want to sabotage it.

If I hadn’t already burned the bridges back to my old life, I would have crawled into a cab, ever grateful for that guy who paid my tab. I wouldn’t have followed you home like an abandoned three-legged puppy.

If your couch hadn’t given me the best sleep in years, I would’ve slipped out before you’d woken up, leaving a note of thanks. I would’ve been too embarrassed to leave my number even though I wanted to. But my hangover couldn’t refuse the scent of maple syrup and coffee. I wouldn’t have stayed just to Thanksgiving, then just to New Year’s.

If I hadn’t spilled cereal across the counter, I never would’ve opened the envelope you’d left or known where to find you. You might have talked yourself back from the ledge.

Finger-bone trees tore at the haze. Frost stubbled the guardrail. You swayed like a cypress in a gale. The rapids swallowed gin-and-tonic sobs.

If it weren’t for the truth I carried with me, you might have taken my hand and let me buy the drinks.

Red, blue, purple, green, purple. So, the announcement has waited through the winter. I imagine it’s why you indebted me to you in the first place: someone has to tell your brother the real reason you kept the necklace.

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