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July 26: Flash Fiction Challenge

The train has left the station, and a suitcase remains on the tracks. Which is bereft? The passenger who will miss what she packed, or a transportation company who has failed to make good on its reliability? Maybe the suitcase grieves.

Perspective can change any story. It can even change our personal narratives and shape our identities. How much choice do we have when it comes to success and failure? Is it a matter of perspective?

I’m walking the surf at McLain State Park, relishing in the windswept waves, pondering another perspective — the difference between worries and wishes. I’m thinking about wishes because every time I bend low to search a patch of water-tumbled pebbles for a possible agate, I find a wishing stone.

My daughter, who has an undergrad degree in geology, told me about wishing stones — any rock encircled completely by a mineral vein. Usually, I find one or two basalts with a vein of quartz, or maybe feldspar ringed with epidote. Today they are abundant.

I wish…to find a big agate!

I wish…to have a successful class at Finlandia U.

I wish…for Cynthia to get her house rebuilt.

I wish…for the Hub to be happy in his present condition.

I wish…

That’s when the worries slam down like an unexpected big wave, taking away my breath. I realize wishes and worries are equal energy wasters. Both feed off the same emotions. Both give control to matters beyond myself.

Instead, I recall that accountability leads to empowerment. I will do my best to create and lead a successful class at Finlandia. I can define what success looks like. That will help me shape the course. Students will be an unknown factor. I’ll focus on one rule: we are a marketing class, and we will behave professionally. I’m sure I’ll be pushed to define that over the year, as well.

But more than wishing, I can be accountable for each step and response I make.

For my friend Cynthia, I’ll continue to offer my help. She’s now in our RV which is parked at a beautiful home in the country not far from her beloved Ripley. I’ll stay in communication with her, attentive to ways I can offer my strengths and let others offer where I can’t fill in. Together, we are a community, and that’s empowering to all of us.

As for the Hub, his happiness is his own. It’s hard to watch a loved one falter. No doubt, life has dealt him an unfair hand, yet we all encounter such losses in life. He will have to come to terms with the impact of long-term TBI and how it complicates PTSD. It’s both neurological and psychological. Some days I want to flee. Mostly, I stand in the gap for him to hold the space he cannot.

But I’m no saint, and wishes and worries wash over me as I comb the rocky beach. I’m no hero, either, yet I’m on my own journey to be who I can be.

What about those who don’t or won’t? Or can’t because of circumstances stacked against them? Can the hero’s journey extend to those who don’t answer the call or step out of the cave?

And so I’m brought back to perspective. My perspective is that I believe I can push through and be all I can be. Funny because that’s the US Army slogan — be all you can be. Where did that get the Hub? Bashed knees by the age of 25 and damaged brain matter by 50.

It reminds me of the Vietnam vet who said, “Those who fight for the freedom for others are never free.”

My perspective progresses; my husband’s stays locked in the cave. I want to shout into the dark, “You have the key! Get out, get out!” But the sound of his own troubled perspective groans louder.

The suitcase remains on the rails. I want to pick it up — it seems so natural to me. Even success and failure are but different perspectives. If I don’t find an agate, I have failed in the hunt. Yet, I can average the number of agates and hunts and say that my success rate is high. Or I can call other finds a success in the absence of an agate. I might even claim that any day spent with feet in Lake Superior and eyes upon her rocks spells s-u-c-c-e-s-s.

I don’t want to perceive failings because I want to spend my energy pursuing what brings me joy. If I fail, I can try again. If I fail, I can learn from the experience. If I fail, I can choose another way. Failure can lead to resiliency, breakthroughs, and unexpected opportunities. More than perspective, it’s also a matter of choice.

So there the suitcase sits. It doesn’t matter why. It’s what happens next.

July 26, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about what happens next to a stranded suitcase. Go where the prompt leads you, but consider the different perspectives you can take to tell the tale.

Respond by July 31, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.


Keeping Secrets (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Anabelle found the suitcase in the hayloft, upright as if ready to travel. She didn’t see the slim shadow of a boy slip out through the stalls below. She grabbed it and ran to the farmhouse where her uncle was frying supper.

“Uncle Henry! Look what I found.”

“That’s Grandma Mary’s old medicine bag.”

“It’s a suitcase.”

“It’s what she used to tend to the Ottawa. Been missing for thirty years.”

“It was in the hayloft, plain as day.”

“I’ll be. Someone brought it back.”

Annabelle open the latches. A single sketching of Cobb McCanles drifted to the floor.