The challenge was to capture an entire lifespan in 99 words. Not only did writers meet this challenge with a variety of perspectives and lives, but the results are beautiful and profound. Moments are fleeting and lives are full of meaning.
Readers, prepare to be moved. Every word counts in these stories based on the January 14, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a life span.
Named by Charli Mills
The seed endured frozen ground. When the thaw brought moisture, the seed swelled, pregnant with life. A bud born in the dark sought the light. Pushing against obstacles like million-year old stones and pasture sod and moss, gasping it emerged. Rain wet the bud, sun coaxed it to grow tall. Beneath a circling red-tailed hawk in a blue sky, the bud unfolded white petals. The horse snorted at it, then pressed a velvet nose to the grass and munched. The day the children plucked the seed grown up, they shouted its name in delight, “Mama! A daisy for you!”
Life Cycle of a Book by Rebecca Patajac
Each printed marking felt warm on my leaves. Though the binding hurt a little, it was finished soon after and I was in darkness.
Rumbling, stop, start, up and down, until the light came again and I saw many others like me.
Many, many others.
Light and dark cycled, until a creature held me.
The creature opened me, our souls linking all through the wondrous moments it spent with me and my leaves became well worn.
There was darkness for a while, until one day, more light though this time, a smaller creature, with big eyes and soft hands.
Summer by Pete Fanning
Albert dug in at the makeshift home plate, where many summers later his own headstone would rest. Ed delivered the pitch, a steaming fastball that later earned him that scholarship to State. Albert fell behind the pitch, just as he stayed back after the family farm dwindled from many acres to only a few.
The fastball thunked the Chestnut tree, the one his grandfather planted after the war. With a chuckle, Ed wiped his brow. Supper was called.
At dusk, Albert would hobble out to the sprawling tree, where he’d sit with a smile and listen to the memories.
Life Span of a Project by Paula Moyer
First, a glance in a needlepoint store. The picture on the front of the kit – a violin. It spoke to Jean. She had started college as a music major but switched to history. Now in graduate school, not even a page of sheet music in her apartment. Still, the idea of music.
She bought the kit and juggled yarn, diagram, pattern on canvas. Every night, after work and classes. Violin emerged, then black notes of music. It accompanied to her summer job.
Every stitch finished, but canvas torqued. A friend blocked it. Six months later, framed and hung. Finally.
Renee’s Dash by Pat Cummings
Renee rocks; she has discovered her toes.
She stumbles often; walking with halting steps.
Renee runs through life. Her boundless energy takes her to school, church, the park where she swings up to the sky.
Renee dances everywhere; her entrechats and battements are perfection, her Argentine Tango passionate.
She runs to lift her child: swings him away from electric cords, into child seats.
Renee walks haltingly toward her husband in the hospital bed, takes his hand one last time.
She stumbles, her tears flowing as she stands beside his headstone.
Renee’s coffin rocks as it descends into the grave.
A Life Span by Irene Waters
The florist delivered more buds. Listlessly she read the attached card, these from a childhood friend of his. Not many had known him from birth. This was close. Happier times. They’d have better memories than her. The career failure, withdrawal, excessive drinking, anger. How that anger had hurt her. And him. His abuse caused his body to fail. The dementia that came and left him needing care. Those final hours as he battled for breath, his legs and face both purple.
Now the flowers arrived. A sick joke. She preferred the cards. Flowers, like him, buds one day then dead.
Merlin’s Life-Span Reflection by Tally Pendragon
Is it so hard spending the afterlife in a tree? It certainly gives me perspective. I look at those tender young years in Avalon, the beauty of ritual, the unconditional love of the women–how the magic grew there! I look at the life of Merlin the Kingmaker–solemn work, with little respite, little thanks! But it’s to the early years that I look most, all that bright adventuring with my beautiful archaeologist and her mild-mannered man: we built the impossible monastery, showed the world that there was another way–such a shame it didn’t want to listen.
Process by Anne Goodwin
A tiny seed, at first unnoticed, blossoms in my mind. I watch, awestruck, as characters and settings crowd my head. Words spill onto the page as if from a bottomless pot.
My characters play hide and seek with me, switching identities and desires. My hero is too timid to embark on his quest. I write through their stubbornness like I’m breaking in a horse.
Some days, words stumble. Some days they flow. I try to rein them in as they quickstep towards the end. Triumph, relief, sadness that it’s done. Now I’ll rest; the cycle starts again next week.
Ant Life by Larry LaForge
“On average, you’ve got 60 days. Make them count.”
With that cheerful news, I was given my birth certificate and directed to my assigned ant farm. The Queen was a real b****, so I decided to head out on my own. After all, I only had about 60 days.
I found a nice home with lots of crumbs on the floor. I kept a low profile, had plenty to eat and a warm place to sleep. I watched videos every night with my unsuspecting host family.
On day 67 it happened, by accident I think.
The kid stomped me.
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.
If Only Ms. Summers Knew…by Roger Shipp
Leaving the kickball field I sprinted to the front of the second grade line.
“You boys are fast,” smiled Ms. Summers waiting for the rest of the class to line up. “Nice job, Mathias. You almost caught him.”
“Thanks, Ma’am.” Mathias smiled his innocent smile. “I tried.”
“Yes, you did. Why don’t you and Andrew hold the doors for the rest of the recess classes today. Just meet us in the lunch room.”
“That would be great.” his smile even more compelling.
Drats….My pocketed hands looking for my change… Matthias’s tuna sandwich again. And we were having tacos!
Nothing For A Life by Sherri Matthews.
Maurice staggered backwards, crashing into the hard, granite edge of the kitchen counter before sliding down onto the marble floor.
“What the fuck..Sonya! What have you done!” He wailed as the cold steel of the knife sliced deeper into his chest.
He heard the click of Sonya’s lighter as she lit up a cigarette.
“Not enough, bully-boy, not enough…” said Sonya, flicking ash on his chest.
Maurice’s eyes closed as his life ebbed away. He could only imagine his wife’s shock when she discovered that he had left his entire estate to their housekeeper. And her cat.
A Gentle Smile…by Ruchira Khanna
Heard about his demise so went to the funeral.
Saw him in his casket with the same old smile that he wore ~40 years ago. It made me go back to the time when I met him first. The boy who excelled in anything that he touched, or had an aspiration.
Worked hard for a living and enjoyed nature and captured it well.
He was a helper, a good cook, and brought a smile to many in need. All were there when he breathed his last shutting down all organs of his body yet leaving with that same old smile.
Guessing Game by Sarah Unsicker
The six-legged alien emerges in the warm viscous sea.
Bumped by rugged orbs much larger than itself, it seeks a home. It chooses a host and drills in. The new-found dwelling attacks. A fierce battle. The alien emerges victorious; the host is now its captive.
The universe sneezes. The alien, with its host, is thrown into the cold, thin air. It begins to die in this alien space, before it suddenly enters a new universe, hospitable as the old.
Still inside its host, the alien divides and evicts its children.
The six-legged aliens emerge into the warm viscous sea.
This Hand by Jeane Lombardo
This hand was first a plum, a silk-shot pillow that hung, soft and cool, round my mother’s neck, plucking pearls from the air with snapdragon fingers.
It grew to be a swan, long in neck, studied in its movements. It preened; posed; glided. It graced the shoulders of young men, and lay peaceful in repose.
Then it hardened. Knuckles became nuts. Work traced a map on its back. Rivers bulged purple beneath skin thin as an onion’s.
Now, it is a tool, plucking truth along with beauty, fashioning thoughts into time-prints on a page.
A fallen fruit, unadorned, beautiful.
Flash Fiction by Georgia Bell
She started and ended the same way. Fragile, dependent, full of curiosity and wonder. In between her first and last breath, she learned to love, to hate, to be brave, to forgive. She learned that grief made her life more meaningful and taking risks is what kept her alive. She became stronger than she thought she’d ever be, and softer too. Able to soothe the glorious, savage beast her body brought into the world. She watched the tiny boy grow into a man she loved as much as the one she had lost. She had lived. She was proud.
Uncomfortably Numb by Geoff LePard
Mary let the sun caress her. Paul watched, worried as she said, “Do you ever know another person? I thought I knew dad. He was my hero. Omnipotent. The war, the battles with illness. Sanitised snippets, like a highlights show. Some doubts, little dustballs in the corner – they made him fallible, more human, you know? They were never so bad I couldn’t forgive him. Always. But this? He’s dead and there’s this whole other him I knew nothing about. Adulterer, father of my twin who might be buried in the garden. What am I going to do, Paul? What?”
Cherished…by Sarah Brentyn
Soft fur. Pristine caramel-colored puppy. Shiny black eyes, fluffy paws, perfectly embroidered mouth. Lifted from a box. New. Untouched. Unloved.
Matted fur. Dingy dark brown dog. Thread, like cotton scars, keeps arms and legs and ears attached. Small bits of stuffing ooze out seams not sewn tightly enough. Tucked into the crook of a tiny arm. Old. Snuggled. Loved.
Patchy fur. Filthy coal-colored animal. Loose thread dangles, ears and one arm gone. Bald spots show linen on legs and nose—tufts of grimy fuzz cling to the tail. Left in a dark corner of the closet. Old. Untouched. Unloved.
RIP Miss Jenkins by C. Jai Ferry
Beehive hairdos and saddle shoes recite conjugations on demand. The restless seniors do not intimidate my new arch supports, knee-length polyester skirts, and freshly printed diploma. I chaperone juniors through Romeo and Juliet but fail to eradicate the split infinitive from the incoming army of bell bottoms. My determination carries me forth, diagramming compound sentences across verdant walls as neon miniskirts and bouffant bangs stare back at me. Still, I am mortal. As my shoulders hunch and my skin puckers, I cannot withstand the text-message jargon invasion, until one day I am no more, erased like a superfluous comma.
Lucia by Phil Guida
A wallet size black and white photo of Lucia as a younger woman was hauntingly familiar. While doing a thorough document search the image of her dark beauty followed me from room to room. Lucia died 3 months ago. Her husband Henry preceded her 6 weeks later. The house was vacant of life except for the furniture. There were diaries and books, jewelry and music all pertaining to the world of séances and rituals. My pace began to quicken when I discovered another photo in my pocket. I quickly said a proper goodbye, but never forgetting that she lived.
Magnum Opus by Norah Colvin