Sunday, May 17, 2009
FLASH FICTION-FIRST TRY, FIRST FAILURE
Put a wedding cake in my sight and I become all girly. I wanted to illustrate just how hard flash fiction can be by putting up my first try. I have completely discarded this piece-especially the ending. Even my husband who usually likes what I write went, "Huh?"
And it may turn out that my wedding cake will merely be something caught in a blink of the eye. You can't trust me to get closer to wedding paraphernalia. Obviously.
Here it is: tell me where I went wrong.
THE WEDDING CAKE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD
The 459 skidded on a patch of black ice that day, and although she was somewhat preoccupied with a book, Lena glanced up in time to see a small cake sitting in the middle of the road. Its improbable location made her giggle—just loud enough to disturb the drowsing passengers. She tilted her head toward the road, but by now the cake was no more than a pale glimmer in the rearview mirror.
“Oh, you missed it,” she said. “Pity.” The heads around her bobbed in unison as the bus moved bumpily toward town.
Later, at her workspace: fifth row, fourth desk, she thought about it—who’d put a cake in the middle of a country road? And why no box to protect it? It’d be ruined it in no time. On the way home, the road was empty of things other than imploded tires, Big-Gulp cups, and discarded shoes. She remembered the spot perfectly though: a stretch of birch trees stood across from it, a well-tended farm lay just ahead.
Two days later, the cake was there again, and it had grown. It was now a two-layer cake with the same silky white frosting. A trail of pink roses circled it. It rested on a pale blue plate. A birthday cake perhaps? A surprise for a child on the way to school? Again, no one else seemed to see it. Was the cake meant for her alone?
The cake was three-layers next. A pale green vine etched the pastry. A layer of thick cream topped it. She didn’t really want to share it, but her finger darted out before she could stop it. A schoolboy looked up, followed her finger, and made a face. His finger circled his head. Daft. Maybe she was daft.
Pillars held the three layers up soon. The cake was quite tall now and she wondered how the bus driver managed to miss it. The blue plate had been replaced by a silver tray. It was raining but the cake seemed impervious to the damp. It merely glistened a bit more than usual. The woman next to her gave a start, and for a minute, Lena thought someone else had the eyesight or attention or imagination necessary to see it. But the woman sneezed instead. “Bless you,” Lena said.
A groom stood atop the cake the next day. Lena strained to see him. He was very handsome and wore the traditional attire but seemed lonely. He held out a hand as if waiting for a bride to join him. She rubbed her eyes but he was still there. Waiting.
On Saturday, Lena went shopping in town. The bridal shop was only a few doors from the shoe repair store so she stopped in. She tried hard to imagine what his bride might wear but there was nothing suitable. It was all too modern.
Her last stop was at the Thrift Store. She had a bundle of her mother’s clothes to donate. It was there she saw the dress—in a section at the very back of the store. The sign over the rack said, “This is just what you’ve been looking for.” And it was. The dress was in perfect condition because, of course, it had only been worn once. She tried in on; it fit perfectly. The price tag was missing and the clerk let it go for a song. “I hope your day is as special as your dress,” the woman told her. She didn’t correct her. She didn’t know what the dress was for. What the day was.
It seemed odd to wear her dress on the bus. She covered it with a coat despite the warmth. She rang the bell as they approached the birches and the well-kept farm. “Here?” the bus driver yelled. “You want me to let you off here?”
“If you don’t mind,” Lena said, walking down the aisle. Nobody noticed either her dress or the heels she wore on her feet. Not the gloves, not the flowers she’d tucked into her bag. Nor her. No one ever had.
“Sure you got the right spot,” the driver said again. “There’s nothing here but an old farm.”
“It’s the right place for me,” she told him, feeling surer of it all the time. As the bus drove off, she worried for a moment that the cake wouldn’t be there. But when the fumes cleared, she saw it. It had a canopy now, and small birds perched upon it. As she neared the cake, she saw the groom was still there. In his black tux with a red rose in his lapel.
“I’ve been waiting,” he said, holding out his hand to her. She took it and climbed up the layers very carefully, taking her place beside him. “The dress is perfect,” he said. “You are perfect.” She smiled. The two of them looked out into the growing dark.