#19 Counting

by Jodi Barnes

She learned like everyone else: the ordinal naming of fingers and toes, red M&Ms, Lego and puzzle pieces. Dreaded peas on her plate, days until Santa, pennies in her plastic pig, peonies on grandmother’s bushes. Holding her breath, the consonants in rhythm, the miles between her parents’ houses. All the books she’d ever read, crushes, then after the accident, her real friends.

For six years she’s counted on their pity. Today she wheels across soft patches of green and brown to her grandmother’s headstone. Perched there, a lark. In its beak a tiny heart-shaped petal, the same pinkish purple on her toenails prom night. It took seven months for the last paint chip to disappear. She looks down at her Spiderman sneakers: Decorations, like her legs.

Often she dreams she doesn’t get into her dead boyfriend’s car. She dances solo in her stupor and calls her mother who’d promised, “I’ll pick you up; no questions asked.” In the dream she opens the passenger door, throws up on the driveway. Late morning she stumbles out into sunshine, head throbbing, to hose down the drive.

Now when she wakes, she holds her breath, not knowing which dream she’s in. She counts to ten before failing to swing her legs to the floor. She’s sick of dreams, useless legs and calculations. Infinite what-ifs bear down like a heavy wheel.

Something stirs in the trees. As the lark begins to lift, she’s moved by its idle feet, that it’s all in the wings.

20 comments:

Anora McGaha said...

What a fresh and haunting story! The details. The dreaming. The parallels. Such talent!

Jodi Barnes said...

Thank you, Anora!

De said...

Jodi, this is simply stunning. A haunting, powerful piece.

Marie Elena Good said...

Oh my word. This is the epitome of so-much-in-so-few. Jodi, I love the detail of thought ... years of who she is laid out simply, contrasting with the reality of her reality. WOW.

Jodi Barnes said...

So happy to make others happy and excited about flash fiction. Thank you De and Marie. I truly appreciate your words!

PSC said...

Poignant piece, Jodi -- wonderfully written! "It's all in the wings."

Lisa Pellegrini said...

This is so beautiful and sad, Jodi. It tugs at the heart. A very thought-provoking piece about regret. Great writing!

Jodi Barnes said...

Thank you, Pamela and Lisa!

Stan said...

Wow. Good job!

Jennifer Crossan said...

Very captivating. Thanks, Jodi!

Jodi Barnes said...

Thank you, Stan and Jennifer. Very grateful for your comments and glad you liked it.

Willie James King said...

This piece is simple gorgeous, Jodi. And it does read like the best powm.Awesome! Congrats!

Willie James King said...

What happened!? It is gorgeous, Jodi! And it reads like the best poem! Thanks, Jodi! You always keep me inspired.

C Sonberg Larson said...

Very well done. LOVE the last line, that flash of realization, the glimmer of hope that seems to change your character in a nanosecond. Nice.

thunk2much said...

Lovely and haunting, beautifully done.

Jonathan Riley said...

This one is just really good. Love the sense of regret and the hint of hope.

Peter said...

Really good piece, strong contender!

Lisa Pellegrini said...

Jodi, I would like to add to my previous comments that there is a lovely FLUIDITY to this piece, which I think is an important ingredient in good writing. One of the things about this story that gives it so much octane is that it has a poetic flavor to it -- the whole thing, not just the last line. Simply one of the very best I have read in the contest.

Webjr65 said...

Excellent piece, Jodi. You're full of WOWS.

injaynesworld said...

One of the most powerful, beautifully written stories of any length that I've ever read. Well deserved win, Jodi. Now where do I read absolutely everything you've ever written? Huge fan.