2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 23

Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today's prompt is to write something based off a random word.
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Sometimes, the smallest thing can be used to spark inspiration. Today, I challenge you to write a story based off a random word. You can use anything that comes to mind, or even use a Random Word Generator (like this: https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator). My only ask is that you name your story after the word that inspired you, so the rest of us can see it!

Flash Fiction Challenge

Remember: These prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.

(Note: If you happen to run into any issues posting, please just send me an e-mail at mrichard@aimmedia.com with the subject line: Flash Fiction Challenge Commenting Issue.)

Here’s my attempt at fanning the flames of inspiration:

Wide-Eyed

I watched Cooper circle the grass once, twice, a third time, before he gave up and went back to rooting around in the leaves.

“C’mon, dog,” I grumbled. The leash clip clacked against his collar as I tugged it. I tried to keep him in my cell phone’s light. I’d hoped the spotlight would remind him why we were out here, but I should have known better.

A gust of wind smacked me in the face. I gasped and sputtered. I used to think there was nothing worse than the winter wind in Philadelphia, sweeping up innocent commuters in its icy tunnel and causing tears to stream over-hot down their cheeks. But the Eastern Shore’s wind could give Philly a run for its money, the way it reached right inside with clever fingers and stole the breath straight out of my lungs.

Cooper scraped his paw against the ground, body rigid with excitement, before he huffed the hard ground and wagged his tail.

“Cooper, please,” I begged. “It’s almost midnight and it’s freezing. Please just go to the bathroom.”

Cooper blinked passed the phone’s light at me, shivering even in my jacket, before he turned his attention back to the ground. He circled once.

Twice.

Picked up a stick and wagged his tail.

“If I weren’t absolutely sure you’d crap on the floor and I’d have to clean it up, I’d make you go inside and wouldn’t come back out until morning,” I said.

Cooper’s tail slowed to a stop. His dark eyes stared at my face. I sighed, defeated, and encouraged him to walk down the yard ways.

After a few moments of watching him put down the stick and circle and then pick it up again, I cast my eyes to the sky, an aborted prayer for help. But then I got stuck there, neck strained, the wide, deep expanse of the night sky and its billion of stars ensnaring me.

Suddenly, I was eight years old again, sitting by the firepit’s snap-pop near the hay field, a marshmallow drooping off my stick and into the flames. My parents were cheerfully bickering and the wind was warm and lovely.

I was sixteen and lying next to Samantha in the bed of her truck, lying to myself that everyone felt toward their best friends the way I felt about her. I tried to catch the strawberry scent of her shampoo on the breeze. The line of her arm pressed against mine was searing and my heart was in my throat, and I thought, “It will never get any better than this.” It was bitter and sweet, like cough syrup.

I was twenty-one and half-buried in cooling sand, listening to my friends celebrate our recent college graduation. Truth or dare that was about to get out of hand. The future was dark and deep and frightening. It stretched out every which way in front of me, an ocean of its own, but then a friend passed me a beer and it was all tolerable.

I was twenty-five and newly married, ducking outside at my own reception to press some vodka-spiced kisses into my wife’s mouth, half-hidden by the trees. Her hand on my waist, her laughter in my mouth, were pure joy. “It will never get any better than this,” I thought. It was only sweet.

Now, nearly-thirty, divorced and alone in the cold, trying to convince a dog to poop. I felt too small and too large for my skin all at once, vulnerable like a crab in mid-molt.

How many times had I changed under these silent, watchful stars? How many times had I looked up, startled that I could ever have forgotten how it felt to be so small and insignificant and wide-eyed with wonder?

Cooper tugged me forward. I stumbled to catch up, narrowly side-stepping the huge pile of crap he’d left right in my path.

“Coop, c’mon!” I complained.

He huffed excitedly and looped around back to the house. I settled back inside my body, shaking off the waking-dream of my life. The stars were only watchers, I knew. Their judgments didn’t matter.

I followed Cooper back to the porchlight, where it was warm and smelled of home.

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