Flash fiction: Leaving on a Jet Plane


Simon was whistling a tune, an old song I couldn’t place. I heard Cara huff. We’d taken a picnic up to the roof – cold salmon, cheese and bread, olives, too much wine – and we lay on the rug amongst the empty bottles and chimney stacks. When I opened my eyes an aeroplane trail had cut the blue sky in two.

‘What is that song?’ I said, turning onto my side.

Simon’s lips were stained red.

Cara staggered angrily to her feet. ‘Simon thinks I’m going to leave him,’ she said to me.

‘Well, you are, aren’t you?’ Simon said.

She swayed; whispered. ‘You’d never let me.’


This is a 100-word (or so) flash fiction piece inspired by the picture above. You do need to know that old Peter, Paul and Mary song to know what’s going on. This week the picture was provided by Melanie Greenwood, and the whole Friday Fictioneers thing is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Join in. Read others.


The paperback of my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, has just been published in the UK, and I’m delighted that it’s been chosen as a Richard & Judy Book Club book (the closest we have to Oprah), and also the Waterstones Book Club. Read more here.

56 thoughts on “Flash fiction: Leaving on a Jet Plane

  1. Dear Claire,

    I’m a Peter, Paul and Mary fan from way back. Now I’ll be humming it for a while. 😉

    I’m a bit confused here. Is Cara referring to Peter in “He thinks I’m going to leave him.” or is this her husband and Peter has no intention of making a commitment?

    Well written as always, nonetheless. Congratulations on the book club.




  2. I opened your story and got distracted, came back, read about Peter, refreshed the page, wondered what happened to Peter and now listening to Peter, Paul and Mary. Oh Claire, you offered so much entertainment today! Loved the story and loved the music. You painted such a vivid picture.


  3. Read the title and started humming the song, though have to say I couldn’t remember who sang it – a senior moment! I enjoyed the story and was there up on the roof (another song?) Great take on the prompt.

    PS I took a photo of your book in our local Waterstones was going to add it here but don’t seem able to do that. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your book, great imagery and imagination, loved it.


  4. I have to agree… the comments are almost as good as the story. I fear I now have the song stuck in my head.
    That last line changes everything!
    By the way… you are my January read for my Year in Books. On chapter two and enjoying it so far!


  5. Love that song! Now it’s stuck in my head, which is a happy coincidence. I loved the story. Although, I did struggle a bit to understand the ending. Still, lovely images and sounds. 🙂


    • Thanks! I guess I should explain it a bit. Three people on a picnic. Simon hums the song. There is obviously tension between him and Cara. He’s winding her up by singing it, and finally she explains to the narrator that Simon is singing it because he thinks Cara is going to leave him. He agrees. Then Cara admits that Simon wouldn’t let her leave. (I was meaning to suggest that he has some control over her – physical or mental I’m not sure.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Without the link to the song, I fear I would have been completely lost here. With that context, the story is somewhat more complete. Stylistically, I wouldn’t change a thing, but it seems as though there is much more to this story than can be managed in 100 words. You told this portion well, so I’m aching to read the rest.

    All my best,


  7. I realy like the atmosphere you set here, with the red stained lips, the roof, the plane’s exhaust cutting the sky… The meaning is open to several interpretations, which isn’t a bad thing. I think it’s clear that Simon wants to control Cara, and that she lets him. But with the PP&M song, it would be more a leaving to do her own thing, not the end of a love. But apparently, as I understand it, he can’t tolerate it.
    And congrats on the book. I read it, too, and found it beautifully written and very thought-provoking.


  8. First of all, Congratulations on the continued success of your book. Next, good story based on a song I liked so much. Well written as always. It would be uncomfortable to be in the middle of that personal confrontation. — Suzanne


  9. okay okay….that song is now going round and round in my head! Love that you initially (before I read it) used Peter as the name……shifting it to Simon now makes me think of Paul Simon as in Simon and Garfunkel…..another powerhouse of my generation. Maybe there was a bridge over troubled waters with these two also? 🙂 Really enjoyed this!


  10. C…I like the uncertainty in this story. What is left unsaid is more powerful than what is on the page. Are they married? Lovers? Married to others? The possibilities and consequences are huge.


  11. Simon sounds like he needs to be left. I hope Cara finds the confidence to do it. And soon. Great atmosphere and mood in your story – the plane slicing the sky, the drunkenness, Simon’s red lips, the interesting role of the narrator as a third party and observer of the tension. Great.


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