Flash fiction: Currents by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is, “Let’s write a story using the following words: boat – flowers – snow.” Today’s story comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series.

Val Muller

The sun ticked past noon above, but it was chilly for May. Mel adjusted her weight, and the boat shifted, creating ripples on the water. She looked to the shore. Waved to her parents. They either didn’t see or didn’t care.

And why should they? By their own reckoning, Mel had wasted thousands of dollars in application fees, tuition, room and board. Probably the only reason they kept the vacation rental was that they made the reservation a year ago, and it was too late to cancel now. But their demeanors were colder than the weather.

Mel hadn’t expected it to be so hard. All the freedom was just too–well, her teachers had been right. College required much more independence than she had been given in high school, where the whole system kept kids on such a short leash that they were allowed no mistakes.

So, her first mistakes happened at college. Flunked half her classes, passed the others miserably. Traded essays for friends and parties. It’s just that life is so full of details she’d been allowed to neglect until now. She’d been trained to be careless, and here was the result.

The boat stilled, and the late spring flowers on shore reflected on the water like a Monet painting. She felt like the Lady of Shallot, floating in her last moments of life. Indeed, she watched her parents’ reflections. Yes, they were likely to kill her, with those grades.

No, not kill her literally. Just as a metaphor. They were sending her to community college, moving her dorm furniture to their basement, making her get a job. Killing her social life, her independence. She could save up and pay to transfer back to school after two years of community college penance.

She would be wandering in purgatory, much like the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Sent to suffer ineffable tortures unfit for mortal ears. Mel’s parents got up, walked back to the rented cabin. It was like they didn’t care if she drifted off to the other side of the lake or not. Maybe they hoped she would.

She picked up the paddles and stroked gently. The boat glided on the water toward the other side. She slowed as she neared the opposite shore. There was a tree, maybe a pear tree, maybe an elderberry or a silverbell. The new leaves were pushing the flowers away, and they fell gently like snow on the water. Mel thought of Ophelia, the flower girl, the one who had everything stripped away from her—father, lover, ambitions and hopes. Mel leaned over and stared at her reflection, her face speckled with petals mottling the surface.

She was no Ophelia. She wouldn’t have the courage to drown away her problems.

She looked up at the houses and shops lining the street just beyond the tree line. Maybe she could dock there and run away. Like that guy in The Things They Carried. Tim. The narrator Tim, not the author, when he was given the chance to run to Canada during the war. Maybe she could just run away.

But Tim didn’t, did he? He stayed on US soil and went to a war he hated, knowing he could be marching to his death. All the characters from her English class danced in her head. They disapproved of her attitude. Her troubles were nothing compared to theirs. Her problem was a petty one. A completely manageable one. She remembered them like good friends. Why she couldn’t translate that knowledge into a good grade for Professor Snell, she’d never guess.

Mel eyed the distant shore, where her parents were emerging again. They were starting a fire. It looked like maybe they had marshmallows and skewers. So, they weren’t going to abandon her. Not yet. Maybe a little purgatory is what she needed to purge away the last of her irresponsible childhood. Maybe this was the key to opening the door to the rest of her life.

Her parents didn’t even like sweets. It was clear the marshmallows were for her. An apology? No. Maybe a peace offering. A step in the right direction. Two years wouldn’t be so bad. Retake some of the classes, knock out basic requirements and figure out a real major. She turned the boat around and like Pi crossing the Pacific or the crew of the Kon-Tiki pushing for discovery; she cut through the waters, pedals spreading in her wake as she rowed into her future.

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/





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