Flash fiction: Frost and fire

frost-on-a-stump-sandra-crook

Richard laid branches in a wide circle on the frozen grass; then the skeletons of old Christmas trees which Flora’s father had stuffed behind the shed every January; and finally a layer of straw, like a bed. Almost comfortable.
‘Ready?’ said Richard.
Flora would never be ready, but she bent to lift her end. Her father’s body was heavier than she had imagined, and she and Richard had to swing it three times. Richard held out the matches, but Flora shook her head. Instead she watched the white grass around the edge of the fire melt into green and then blacken, as if seasons had passed in the space of a minute.

***

A piece flash fiction which is supposed to be 100 words, but I’m 112 this week, oh dear. Usually I can slice and edit with no problem, but this week somehow everything here I wanted to keep. Friday Fictioneers is brought to us by the wonderful writer Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and the picture this week is supplied by the equally wonderful writer, Sandra Crook. Click here to join in with Friday Fictioneers, or here to read other people’s.

***

Tin House, my US publisher has posted the first chapter of my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, on their blog. Have a read, if you like.

64 thoughts on “Flash fiction: Frost and fire

  1. I like it. I think they’d need some kind of accelerant, but dumping a can of petrol would make this a very different sort of story. When I get pressed for words, I generally restructure my sentences to get rid of conjunctions. Sometimes this approach has led me to a different style. It’s a fantastic exercise.

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  2. Sometimes it’s tricky to lose words. I spent fifteen minutes writing a hundred and a bit words last night, then another hour to shave it down to 100…

    I love the skeletons of Christmas trees – it’s almost as if he left them for this reason. There’s so much in the last sentence: Flora’s grief, a life gone too quickly. Great piece!

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  3. Dear Claire, (I hope you remember me even though you’€™re now a published author!)

    I’m thoroughly enjoying you€™r writing/ blogs. I’m so pleased that I’€™ve been able to track you down and that everything is going well. Looking forward to reading more…

    Kind regards
    Daryl

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  4. This was a really good piece, even if you did go over! I sometimes agonize over making that brutal cut and hate to remove a sentence I really enjoyed constructing but in the end I have to comply! I don’t know why, its not like I am going to get arrested but I just can’t go over the limit.

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  5. Some terrific detail in this – I liked the ‘bed”like quaity of the funeral bier. And the images of the white grass turning green then black. Lovely. When he held out the matches and she shook her head I wondered how the fire had started, but I guess Richard did it? Or maybe, as I later toyed with, it was some magical property of the body that was melting the perimeter of the fire. Whatever, I enjoyed it. I hope you are enjoying your new celebrity status. 🙂

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    • I know. There needs to be a pause in there while Richard lights the fire, but I was already too many words over. At least you got what was going on. And thanks for pointing it out – constructive criticism is always appreciated from you, Sandra.
      Claire

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  6. Dear Claire,

    I think your story is lyrical and well written. You parse the moments in such wonderful ways and allow us to see into the minds of your characters as they experience life, loss, love…

    It is a pleasure reading your work.

    (What is Daryl on about? Should I be leaving a resume too? The price of new found fame, perhaps? I love that your dedication to craft and skill and persistence is leading you into uncharted waters. i have a feeling you’ll be a great swimmer and an excellent navigator.)

    Aloha,

    Doug

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  7. There are so many things I love about this story.. that single scene told me so much, like the keeping the old Christmas trees said something about the father, and the fact that they build a pyre for him in the backyard.. somehow I want to know more.

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  8. Beautiful, and what Björn said. I’m intrigued why they burn the father outside instead of some kind of funeral. I’m also intrigued how they burn the ‘junk’, the old Christmas trees, like cleaning the place (through fire).

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  9. Pingback: In the Media: 15th March 2015 | The Writes of Woman

  10. This was very different, a creative way to settle the problem of cremation when it’s too frozen to have a buriel. It was so descriptive I could see it happening. Well done as always, Claire. I intend to follow the link and read the first chapter of your novel. 🙂 — Suzanne

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