Flash Non-Fiction- The Challenge

Good Monday Morning!

Here’s a piece I wrote a couple of years ago, my first foray into Flash Non-Fiction. It’s a really exciting and accessible genre that focuses on crystallizing ideas, images, plotlines into their most pared down form. Most Flash pieces are under 1,000 words and they can run as brief as 25 words! It’s a challenge to reduce the constellation of experiences and subjects to a few lines, but it’s also fun and the result is quite powerful. I’ve submitted many of my Flash pieces but none have been published, maybe they’re no good, maybe they’re just not what publishers are looking for. Who knows, rejection is part of of the writer’s game, to be sure. The American writer Shirley Jackson is one of my mentors and her writings about houses, the interior lives of women and children, and the painful limits gender places on many of those deemed less powerful are incredible. She trusts the reader and knows they are smart enough and curious enough to not need the whole story fed to them; we eagerly pick up the pieces she leaves for us and re-imagine them in our minds. So grateful for women like her!

The Challenge 

As she sits on the toilet pondering yet another failed relationship, Nova looks at her cat waiting in the hallway, then to the infant pearl of water about to drop from the faucet and considers the challenge ahead. Through the droplet she sees blue, the colour of her workout shorts and her heart, which is being deprived of its rightful air, its love. She thinks about things that have no hue of their own, like water or the colour white, and how they use the chemistry of other things and light to become known. But the heart’s not like that, it pulses with red wet life and breathes us into being and connection with each other all on its own. It’s supposed to, anyways. Nova sighs and leans against the inside of the upturned toilet lid, which feels cold and familiar, surveying the interior of the room. On the opposite wall hangs a photo of a compass and someone else’s hands holding all four directions, the brass figures of Indian deities collect their usual dust, and the red lightbulb sits bare atop its art deco sconce. She knows all this, sees it every day and yet this morning these things hold her as she struggles between resilience and sadness. She finally thinks the truth and settles on the three decisions she must make: get off the toilet, tell him how she feels, and commit to the 30- day yoga challenge.

Making the first and last decisions were easy, however, the one in the middle that has engulfed Nova like a non-lethal but debilitating virus proves much harder to resolve. Why does she have to do the emotional work and ask for kindness? Anger and self-pity energize her in a strange way and as she stomps through her apartment with no real purpose, the possible ways of broaching the issue steam through her mind like smart couplets that will never find a page. Infuriated, Nova reaches for her phone and sweeps her thumb confidently across and down the required screens until she arrives at her destination. She stares at the ten digits she won’t remember and the man she can’t let herself forget, melting once more at the sight of him in the contact image. The phone suddenly feels very heavy, an enemy object, and she thrusts it to the floor where it lays like a black rectangle of inert power. The bright screen flickers and then dies. Staring blankly into the afternoon sun, Nova feels the darkness coming and there she sits under the sky of betrayal that rains down its tears, inaction, and sorrow. She rises from the floor, slowly and on her own, and heads toward the room of white at the end of the hall.

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