Contentment: Flash Fiction

This is one of the first things I ever wrote, and I still think it’s awesome. It began as a “show vs. tell” exercise, so it’s filled with similes, metaphors, senses, all that descriptive-y junk. Sometimes that stuff can get convoluted, but I tried to evoke a different sense with each description so as not to overwhelm. Either way, it being pretty much the first thing I wrote is a little sentimental, so I could just be biased. One day I might attempt to rework it.

 

Contentment

The rush of air slapped him in the face as Stan exited the complex. Gravel crunched under his tattered brown boots as he stepped forward, his eyes wide, his arms encircling himself in comfort. Men in uniform marched in front and behind, chins pointed upward. Their expressions were hidden by wide-rimmed tinted sunglasses, and with the sun’s glare at full strength, Stan wouldn’t have been able to see their faces anyway. He slowly tilted his head at an attempt to peer around the front guard, and he managed to view the bus. So this was the vehicle that would transport him into his new life? Even after fifteen years he wasn’t sure he was ready. The vehicle itself didn’t seem up to the task of introducing him back to society. Its pale paint was having trouble remaining in place, giving way to spots of rust, and the widows had all but disappeared under a myriad of dirt and grime. Flies speckled the windshield like a child’s prize finger-painting. The shrill squeak from the door opening was audible even to him, sixty yards in the distance. Clearly, the bus had seen better days. It reminded him much of himself. We’re kindred spirits you and I, Stan thought, and a small smile tugged at his mouth.

The interior of the bus mirrored the outside, and the effect was enhanced with the perfume of mold protruding from the fraying seat cushions. When he slowly eased into one at the front, Stan’s nostrils flared as the scent floated upwards, encasing him in its putrid embrace. The portly driver didn’t seem to even notice the smell, probably because his own odor rivals this one, he thought dryly. With a now familiar whine, the driver pulled the lever that shut the door, and they lurched forward. Stan laid his head back against the seat, folded his hands graciously in his lap, closed his eyes, and became lost in an antiquated world.

 

“Stanley darling, would you make sure there’s enough Champagne out there? I would hate to read in the newspaper how our party could have been smashing if only there had been more Champagne! That’s just what happened to the Jones’, remember? Now no one calls on them! A fate worsethan death if you ask me!”

“Yes of course, I’ll uncork another bottle right now, dear.”

“Oh thank you. Now I really must get back. That silly Morgan von Hyde is out there parading her new ring around. I just can’t stand it! And it’s just terrible looking, but of course no one says anything about it but me! You think it’s just hideous too, don’t you darling?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Well then, don’t forget the Champagne!” And with that Catherine rushed off in a swirl of gossamer fabric. Stan had trouble understanding why Miss von Hyde’s ring was of such great importance, but then again, he was used to not understanding his wife. Henry theorized he had trouble understanding all women, and maybe his best friend and business partner was right. Take this party for instance; Catherine had felt the need to throw a lavish party the second after hearing the gossip going around town about the speculative engagement. Women will do anything to upstage each other, Stan supposed as he struggled to uncork the coveted bottle of Champagne. With a pop, the cork was free and the sweet drink bubbled in thanks as Stan poured it into the stylish glass flutes Catherine had just had to have for the event. He always did have trouble saying no to her.

When the glasses were safely on a table in the main room, Stan had to admit, his wife had outdone herself this time. His usually modestly decorated living room had been transformed into a poet’s wet dream. Candles adorned nearly every surface, the orange glow of their flames basking the walls in pale luminescence. The scent of vanilla and lavender radiated out of the candles, giving the impression of being in a distant memory of a picturesque spring afternoon. Where there weren’t candles, there were vases of every design filled to the brim with flowers straight from a Monet painting. Soft jazz rose from his surround-sound speakers and showered Stan in kisses as he moseyed around the room.  As silly as he knew the party was, he couldn’t imagine a time in his life where he had been more content as he was at the second.

As if on cue, fate hurled a rock at the precious mirror that was Stan’s life. He didn’t even notice the absence of music until  hands were seizing his arms and roughly wrenching them behind his back. Cold, hard steel dug into his writs like a desperate lover. He heard words like “silent” and “court,” but it meant nothing to him. He was lost in a whirlwind of confusion. The last thing he saw until his head was pressed against a foreign car’s leather seat was Catherine’s unsurprised eyes as her lithe lips slowly formed a familiar smirk.

 

Stan was jerked awake by the screech of the bus door, and still a little groggy from his repressed memories, he gazed out the window. A dilapidated old building stood on the corner of an unkempt street, and he soon realized that this was his new home. This was where he would spend his time making new memories. He couldn’t say he was altogether thrilled with the idea, but anywhere was better than where he had been, right? He had better make the best of it, as he had done before, as he always did. He waved farewell to the indifferent driver, and moved into his future.

After a few weeks, Stan had neatly settled into his new life. He had made friends with his elderly neighbors, and had recently been given the honor of attending their weekly Bridge game. He had even procured a job at a local convenience store working the dreaded graveyard shift. He didn’t mind; he had trouble sleeping. When his shift was over, he usually would meander over to the small park across from his building. He would sit on his usual corroding bench, and if he was lucky, he would catch the first rays of the sun. He lived to see the violet and crimson hues that painted the sky, casting the ramshackle park in a new light. The brown dying grass became alive with freshness, the drab blossoms bloomed anew with promise, and the air imbued Stan with the memory of his perfect spring afternoon, with vanilla and lavender anything but an afterthought. The soft calling of birds awakening and the delicate laughter of children as they made their way to school would drown out all thoughts of doubt. He would smile then, his eyes closed in bliss. This is life, he would think.

He was at last content once more.

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One response to “Contentment: Flash Fiction

  1. Lindsay, I enjoyed this story too. It’s always so difficult to know how much is too much where description is concerned. The vividness of an image can be nullified by excessive wordage. But I am not of the opinion that thought comes first and words follow. Word themselves have beauty are are able to drive thought forward. It’s a highwire act, to be sure, but that’s how it is. This is not an admonishment of your work, quite the opposite: I am telling you this because I believe you are a young and talented fiction writer.

    I wrestle with the same problems myself. If you care to look at my blog
    http://exiledprospero.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/spit-fire/
    you will see what I meant.

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