A Short Story with a Gargoyle, A New Piece of Flash Fiction

On the night of August 1, 2015, I was staying up really, really late, working on my new novel, when my eyes became too tired to stare at a Word doc anymore. So I went online, to browse around and read interesting things, and discovered a flash fiction contest on the website Writer Unboxed.

The rules for the contest are simple — write a short story that is 250 words (or less) about the picture provided as the story prompt. For August, the picture was an image of a gargoyle, titled “Gideon.”

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I thought this photograph made a great prompt, and even though it was well after midnight, and my eyes were tired, I opened a new Word doc and created an entry. You can read all of the entries for this contest here, since writers enter the contest by submitting their short stories as comments.

I promoted this contest to my critique group partners, and I encourage anyone/everyone who has an interest in creating flash fiction to submit! September’s contest opened this morning, and you can read about this month’s contest here. The image prompt for Round 9 is a covered wagon —

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I admit, I don’t find that picture nearly as exciting as the little gargoyle, but such is life. The deadline for this contest is Saturday, September 12, 7:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

My flash fiction short story for “Gideon” didn’t final in the contest (or win), but I thought — hey! I can always share my work on my blog — which feels like this secret club of readers I have, my cherished blog subscribers. People who believe in me, inspire me, my team of supporters who want me to make it one day, sell a manuscript, find an audience for my work, and be able to make an income from my scribbles.

There are days when having a blog is my favorite haven, this place where I come to speak and share ideas with my secret club. Because while anyone can read an online blog, not everyone subscribes to them, which makes blog subscribers a special kind of awesome.

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So, thank you, subscribers of Thought Candy, for giving me a place to share a piece of flash fiction!

While I’ve written earlier this summer about how much climate change weighs on my mind, my flash fiction submission didn’t deal with that subject. I did finish a short story about climate change for Glimmer Train, a prestigious literary fiction journal, and I’m working on a new short story for a sci-fi/fantasy contest called Writers of the Future. This fantasy story involves fairies, and takes place in the Bakken oil fields, in northwest North Dakota, which I’ve been reading about quite a bit the past two weeks. In June, I watched this video segment the PBS NewsHour aired about the high death toll in the Bakken, and the story obviously stayed with me, and haunted me, because the horror in the Bakken provided fertile ground for my new fantasy story about the terrors and destruction of climate change.

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Last night, I found myself reading more about the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in Canada, which occurred on July 6, 2013, when an unattended 74-car freight train carrying Bakken crude oil destroyed half the town of Lac-Mégantic and killed 47 people. Parts of that town are a permanent disaster area, and can never be rebuilt or occupied again. It is believed five people were completely vaporized in the blast, as no remains of their bodies was ever found. Bakken crude oil contains high levels of hydrogen sulfide, a gas that is flammable, corrosive, poisonous, and explosive, and it is believed that the hydrogen sulfide content in the tanker cars contributed to the strength of the blast.

It is just absolutely heartbreaking to me, that we are drilling and fracking, pouring carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, while so many workers in the industry are maimed and killed, with horrifying accidents like the one in Canada on top of this death toll — just for petroleum and gas, when we have other, safer ways to power our world. People should not have to die for electricity. The cost of fossil fuels is so high, so incredibly high — not just in a future world killed by climate change, but in the here and now, in the ruin and death toll of extraction.

Facing the horror of fossil fuels continues to power my fiction, and I feel very much like a caterpillar spinning a chrysalis, because the writer I’m becoming is not the same as the writer I was.

In the meantime, here is my flash fiction piece for Writer Unboxed, based on that photograph of the gargoyle above. My story is titled, “Entente.” Hope you enjoy!

“Entente”

Sticky scents of wild ginger and freesia twined through the open screen windows, while I surveyed the boxes left to unpack, then noticed David striding over the yard. Shoulders back, whistling brightly, and swinging a sledge. He disappeared in the brush like a Sumerian warrior, anticipating mythic destruction.

I found him deep in the woods, swatting mosquitoes before he took aim with the hammer, his skin as damp with sweat as my own. He grinned when he saw me.

“What are you doing?”

He lifted his chin toward an Oregon ash, overgrown with manzanita and woodruff, a ring of dark pine farther in like a secret.

“You see it?” he asked.

Atop a small pedestal, worn and tarnished with age, perched a stone gargoyle the size of a tabby. Stubby black horns crowned a jinn’s smile, the unscaled demon wings as smooth as a dream.

I glanced at David again, this time in reproach. “Why would you—”

But he left without a word, his mouth tight with fury.

That night in bed, David faced the wall. He threw off my hand when I touched him.

I said, “You don’t have to smash everything.”

I said, “You could have divorced me.” His adultering wife.

We sweated in silence, each pretending to sleep.

In the morning, David kissed my cheek and went for a run. I dressed, made the bed. Skipped downstairs to make coffee.

The gargoyle’s head lay on the burnished counter in pieces. Shattered, still smiling. Like us.

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