2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 5

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 about a couple.
Author:
Publish date:

I hope this challenge is serving you well! I’ve already written more complete stories than I did for all of NaNoWriMo 2020. Yay!

Have you noticed a common thread among your stories? I’ve noticed that my first drafts are fun to write, but I don’t quite yet know what they’re saying. Some of them feel like excerpted scenes instead of a complete story. But that’s okay; that’s what future revisions will be for!

Flash Fiction Challenge

Since it’s February and we’ve all got love (or the lack thereof) on our minds, today’s prompt is to write a story about a couple.

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

Note on sharing your work: If you wish to share your stories, scroll to the bottom of this page and use the comments section. If this is your first time commenting on the site, go to Disqus to create a free new account, verify your account on this site below (one-time thing), and then comment away. (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 writing about a couple:

Someday

The computer’s fan kicked on, the whir disturbing the relative quiet of the house.

Joann clicked through a few random Facebook ads. She was heavy with something she couldn’t name. It pressed down on her, on her chest and her stomach and her shoulders, made her slow.

A dog barked somewhere outside. The sound of it bounced off the air-tight windows of her house and ricocheted in the space between their building and the next. The computer fan whirred. Click. Click. Click.

Baby announcement photo.

Political meme.

Political rant.

Instagram photo of someone’s dog in a scarf.

Engagement announcement photo.

Joann sighed. She shoved the computer away from her, scrubbing her hands over her face. The air conditioner kicked on, a wisp of cold air floating across her shoulder from where she faced the vent.

Eventually, Alan drifted into the room. He barely looked up from his phone as he sprawled across the couch, the springs rasping under his weight until it settled. Joann watched him for a moment without seeing him. The sink dripped unrhythmically, splattering against one of the unwashed dishes in the sink.

There was a whole world inside Alan’s phone, Joann knew. It was a world that she wasn’t privy to, but she guessed it was just as boring and unfulfilling as the world inside her computer.

“Ordering Popeye’s,” Alan said after a while.

“Chicken sandwich and potatoes for me.”

“Spicy or classic?”

“You know the answer to that.”

Alan grunted and they fell back down into silence. In another room, the Alexa dot they’d gotten for their wedding chimed to let them know it’d been updated. A neighbor hollered something unintelligibly from their porch across the street.

“Where would you go,” she asked, “if you could?”

Alan blinked up at her, his eyes glazed, before he huffed and looked back at his phone. “That game was only fun when we could go somewhere.”

“C’mon. What else are you doing right now?”

Alan was quiet for another few moments, still, like he thought she might lose interest if there was no sudden movement.

Eventually, he sighed out of his nose, his phone clicking as he locked the screen. “Vietnam.”

“Haven’t heard that one in a while.”

“Eh. I’ve been thinking about it. Catfish and Mandala was a good read.”

“Haven’t heard of it,” Joann said, knowing that Alan knew that.

He shrugged, eyes on the far wall. “Andrew X. Pham. It’s good.”

They were silent for a little while. Joann thought about what she knew about Vietnam. Not much. She hadn’t even learned about the war in school, which was a little baffling since there was a diploma in a box in her closet that had both her name and “minor in history” printed on it.

“How about you?”

“Hm? Oh.” She scratched the back of her neck. The air conditioner kicked off. “Ireland.”

“You always say that.”

“Mhmm.”

Six months after they’d gotten married, they’d gone to Ireland for Alan’s cousin’s wedding. She’d known that he was Irish, of course, born and raised in Brooklyn with annual Christmas calls to the family overseas, accents ebbing and flowing and crashing against each other over bad connections and staticky Facetime. But he hadn’t been back to the family farm in a long time. It had seemed distant to her, the way that most facts did. The earth revolved around the sun. There were deserts in the middle east. Alan’s great-grandparents were from Ireland.

But it was different, going there. It had been January, so it was cold when they came off the plane, stumbling alongside the little rolling suitcase that was their carry-on. It was dark, so she saw hardly anything as she peered blearily out the window on their way to the hotel.

And that first real day there—after the hotel buffet breakfast of roasted tomatoes and mushrooms and eggs—they’d gone over to his family’s farm. She’d never before been to a place that felt so simultaneously old and wild and untamed and that also felt loved. It felt like it...belonged. When she’d tried to express this to Alan, he’d raised his eyebrows at her and nodded vaguely, the way he usually did when she was speaking from the clouds.

They hadn’t stayed long in the country, only stopping to tour Dublin the day after the wedding. She’d wanted to see the Book of Kells, and Alan, who had seen it before, had reluctantly taken her.

“You stand in line for, like, an hour to look at a few pages you can’t even read, and then you get shuffled aside by the next hundred tourists who are waiting to do the same thing,” Alan had grumbled.

They shuffled forward in line. Joann scanned the pamphlet they gotten at the front desk for the seventh time. She was mostly ignoring Alan—it was a skill she’d developed over the years.

“It will be worth it,” Joann had said.

And she was right.

They’d seen the boarded the plane back home the next day and that had been that. Alan and his parents all caught terrible respiratory infections almost the day they’d arrived, so they didn’t have the fondest memories of the trip. Joann, who had managed to avoid it, wished for nothing more than more time to trip up cobblestone streets in the cold, ducking into every wool shop and university library she could find.

“If Ireland was off the table?”

Joann blinked. The dog had stopped barking, but a lawnmower had taken its place. It reminded her of summer days growing up, laying around while her dad mowed the acres of lawn around her family’s farmhouse.

“Canada, maybe?”

“Canada? Really?”

“The cross-country train, remember? You can hop-on-hop-off at different national parks.”

Alan grunted, looking down into his lap as his phone lit up. She wasn’t surprised that he didn’t remember. It had been her dream for their honeymoon, but then they’d gone to grad school right out of undergrad and money had been too tight for them to even think about honeymooning somewhere that wasn’t in-state.

“It would be neat to see the parks,” Alan said, an echo of himself from years prior. “Maybe someday.”

A heavy bass started up in someone’s house in their row. Joann closed her eyes and listened hard, but she couldn’t place the song.

The doorbell rang. Alan made a happy sound in the back of his throat, levering up off the cushions and snagging his mask on his way to the front door. She could hear his deep voice clearly as he shouted thanks to the delivery driver.

The sink was still dripping in that offbeat way: plink. Plink. Plink-plink. The lawnmower kept on its steady drone. The air kicked on again, a brush of cold air causing her to shiver.

“Maybe someday,” Joann repeated.

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