Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), It by Bill Chance

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”
William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

Nambe Lake, New Mexico

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#31). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


It

 

He had paid in full for the trip before it happened. The trip was not cheap and he had saved up for several years. Nothing, of course, was refundable. After it happened, he didn’t want to go.

But at the funeral everyone said, “You need to go, it will be good for you.”

This was inevitably followed by, “It is what they would have wanted you to do.”

So he went.

The first day he had planned on a hike to a high isolated mountain lake perched in a rocky cirque below three sides of vast cliff faces. It was listed in all the guidebooks as a top ten dayhike in the entire state.

He parked his rented car, slung his tiny daypack and set out. The first section of trail was fairly level through a thick forest. He felt as if his boots were floating above the ground as he moved, the forest was filled with an invisible fog, and his mind was somewhere far away.

Then the trail turned into the wide canyon that led up to the lake and he began to climb. It was very steep and rocky. His legs quickly began to tire and his breath came in difficult gulps. The pain galvanized him and he welcomed it. The ache reminded him he was alive and helped to get his physical self – his muscles, bones, and lungs in line with how he felt in his head.

The trail twisted up and around beside the tumbling stream coming down from the lake above. The cold mountain meltwater had a subtle unique ozone-like odor, bracing and pleasant. He noted this, along with the tinkling splash of the falling water and the cold air pouring down from above, hitting him in the face, refreshing while the sun rose burning overhead. He sensed all this, but his heart was hard and it didn’t reach him like he hoped it would.

On he climbed, getting tired and thirsty as his water bottle ran out. The canyon kept turning in a rising spiral. He expected to find his destination after every curve, but was only presented with more steep rock.

“Where is that damn lake?” he cursed under his breath.

And then, around a last bend, there it was. A smooth oval of that almost milky turquoise mountain water, tinted with fine glacial rock dust. It was high up, almost to treeline and the evergreens surrounding the lake were twisted – stunted with the winter struggles against snow and wind, but dark green and thick, holding the water in a cup between their trunks. All around rose vertical walls of rock, a vast enveloping escarpment of mixed grays, punctuated with patches of brilliant snow trailing strings of melt water falls. High above, like looking up from the bottom of a wide well, was the sky – a deep purple from the altitude and spattered with thin, high clouds.

The beauty of the scene assaulted him with power and grace. But he was still immune. The lifeless numbness that enveloped him since it happened shielded him from the gorgeous allure of the lake no matter how hard he had worked to enjoy it.

After a few minutes he turned around and started back.

“It will be easier now, going back down,” he said to himself and he was right.

“Well,” he thought, “that was one wasted hike.”

But he knew that sometime in the future there would be another one that wasn’t wasted. At any rate, there were nine more in his guidebook. And more states after that.

Time was what he needed. It was all he needed.

 

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This is another sketch using a writing prompt from the book by Brian Kiteley, The 3 A.M. Epiphany. It… and its companion, The 4 A.M. Breakthrough, are unusually useful collections of  writing exercises (rather than simple prompts). I thumbed around until I found a prompt I liked… it was the second one I looked at.

Writing Prompt #110

Sweet and Sour

Describe briefly a lake or a backcountry mountain trail (in other words, a beautiful natural setting) as seen by a person who has just lost a parent in a sudden, unexpected death. The last time this narrator saw the parent, they argued violently. In your narrative do not mention the death, the parent, or the argument. Do not tell a story. Simply show us what the lake or forest or street looks like to someone under these circumstances. 500 words

 

 

Why Would You Row A Boat Race?

“I have never heard anyone profess indifference to a boat race. Why should you row a boat race? Why endure long months of pain in preparation of a fierce half hour, or even six minutes, that will leave you all but dead? Does anyone ask the question? Is there anyone who would not go through all its costs, and more, for the moment when anguish breaks into triumph – or even for the glory of having nobly lost? Is life less than a boat race? If a man will give all the blood in his body to win the one, will he not spend all the might of his soul to prevail in the other?”
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Dawn, Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas

The Dawn Remaking the World

“Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern.”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

A duck at dawn, Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas

Water Off A Duck’s Back

“-Hey, listen,” I said. “You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance?” I realized it was only one chance in a million.”
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas

I watched the ducks go about their start of the day routine from a bench along the water at dawn. One ritual was to repeatedly duck under the water and rise up – letting the water run off their feathers. Like taking a little duck shower.

Crew Practice

“How often have I watched, and longed to imitate when I should be free to live as I chose, a rower who had shipped his oars and lay flat on his back in the bottom of the boat, letting it drift with the current, seeing nothing but the sky gliding slowly by above him, his face aglow with a foretaste of happiness and peace!”
Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

Bachman Lake at dawn, Dallas, Texas

Out of bed at five AM out of the house at five-thirty. My son Lee was running a 5K – four laps around Bachman Lake at dawn. I enjoyed sitting by the lake, watching the sky brighten and the sun rise, the early morning planes lifting off from Love Field, the ducks coming to check if I’d give them something to eat, and the early morning crews rowing on the smooth lake. There was no wind – the only disturbance was from the ducks and the boats.

Lee wanted to run a fast time on the flat and open course. He did succeed in a personal best, beating a time he ran years ago, in high school.

Racing the Wind

White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas

“hark, now hear the sailors cry,
smell the sea, and feel the sky
let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…”
― Van Morrison

racing_wind

“Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling’s father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.”
― Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Messing about in boats

“There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”

Spoken by Ratty to Mole in Wind in the Willows a children’s book by Kenneth Grahame

Sailboats on White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX

Sailboats on White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX

(Click for a larger and more detailed version on Flickr)

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea…”

– Antoine de Saint Exupery