One thing I always intended to do on this blog was post some Flash Fiction – small stories, less than 1000 words, inspired by a quote or a photo or even just a keyword. I even have a list of ideas to share with you.
And then I got busy. So goes the way of good intentions, right?
The good news is that my friend, fellow blogger, and totally awesome photographer Dani of Postcards from the Mothership, along with her friend, author Christine Hennebury, are hosting a new Flash Fiction collective. Dani hands around a photo to Christine and a few other interested writers about once a week, and we’re all invited to contribute a story.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to play every week. But I dove in on this first week. Here’s my result; you can see other takes on the same photo from different authors over on Dani’s blog, here.
I like the way pebbles sound on the concrete steps. I bring a handful with me most nights, scooped up from the edges of the dirt road. We sit at the top, Jackie and me, and I ping them. It’s all in the wrist – hit the top step just right and they ping down, step by step.
The steps are cut into the side of the road that leads away from Jackie’s place – not towards Town, but away, deeper into the fringes. We found them one night while we were stumbling around in the dark, walking off the couple inches of vodka that had been left in the bottle Jackie pinched from her grandma’s freezer. I can never tell if the steps are going down into the ravine, or going up out of it. Now we sit here on Summer Fridays and talk or drink or just ping.
Often Jackie can swipe a bit of weed from her dad, if he’s around, because he’s always too wasted to notice. One time I dared to take one of my mom’s little white pills, while she was on night shift, and I cut it carefully in half for Jackie and me to share. I fell down the steps that night, totally wrecked my elbow, but the high was so sweet that it has become a legendary story, one of our funniest go-to tales. My mom counted the pills the next morning and it was hard to deny anything, what with my elbow still oozing and my bloodshot eyes. Now she has a little lock on the medicine cabinet, which isn’t much of a security system if you ask me, but I’m too lazy to try.
Sometimes Jackie brings Ben, her boyfriend from Town, and I have to concentrate extra hard on the pebbles, ping, ping, ping, while they mess around in the woods at the bottom of the ravine. I’d rather he not be about, but when he first showed up, I just shrugged and said, it’s a public place, ain’t it, and now he thinks he’s welcome whenever. Once he even brought his younger brother — for me, I guess, but that kid was a full two years younger than Jackie and me so I had to step up and say no thank you, keep your kid at home. Town boys never quite seem to know the rules.
Tonight, it’s just me and Jackie and we’ve only got one bottle of beer that Jackie sweet-talked from a guy at the gas station about a mile back. I’ve got a good set of pebbles tonight and I’m in the zone, pinging them step after step. I’ve never actually been able to get one to go the full distance, all the way down to the eighth step where it should, if done right, ping right into the ravine with a nice splash, if it has been raining. Tonight feels like it could be the night.
We’re passing the bottle back and forth and she says, I’m moving up.
I shrug at Jackie. She’s said this before. What about school, I say. We’ve only got a year left, don’t you want to graduate?
She shakes her head. I’ve got a job at the Subway, Ben hooked me up, his cousin works there. High school ain’t gonna make no difference to the Subway.
I frown at her. Ping, ping, ping.
She can sense my frown even in the dark, always could. Maybe I’ll get my GED after a few years, she says. But I can’t stay here any more. Ben says we can get a place.
I know where that leads, I think, but don’t say it. Maybe it’s too late and she’s knocked up already, but I think she’d tell me. Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping – that one came close.
I get it, I say. I know what it’s like here. Maybe I should come too.
She snorts. You gotta finish, she says. You could even get a scholarship or something.
Or something, I nod, letting her believe.
She takes the last swing from the bottle, throws it down in the ravine, and stands. I’m moving up on Saturday, she says. I better go and pack up. You coming?
I say, I’m going to stay here a while, and she nods and heads down the dark road.
I feel my way down the steps to the bottom, reach out my hands into the muddy ravine, gathering my pebbles. When I have a handful, I climb back up and try again.