2022 Clarion West Write-a-thon

Kathryn Lyon

June 6, 2022 12:00am - July 30, 2022 12:00am

My Writing Goals

My goal is to write one flash fiction piece a week. Here goes . . .

Progress and Stories

Week 6 Update

And that's all, folks! Just managed four new stories and two revisions of previously written ones. But it was a great experience. I love flash!

Week 6 Flash Fiction

 

 

Salvation

by Kathryn Lyon

The rusted white junker floated around the curve, suddenly feeling like a sports car, cornering effortlessly as Frances sped up. She stared entranced at the side-view mirror; the massed bougainvillea flowed backward, blossoms glowing crimson, edged by a blacktop shimmer. And not a single sound. The cassette tape silenced. The tires noiseless. The engine’s growl, gone. Time stretched. And then snapped back.

A shudder of relief as the spell released her. She glanced at the speedometer and eased off the pedal. That had been a mad risk on this road, for sure. But how extraordinary to have opened a door—for just one perfect moment—with a simple charm. One to remember in her old age. 

#

“I swear, I’m going to quit. They got no right.” said Norma. She checked the monitor on her cart and adjusted the patient’s IV drip.

Her momentary companion raised an eyebrow and turned back to ventilator’s monitor. “Hell, she’s managed to pull off her pulse oximeter again,” he said.

“Francie’s nothing but stubborn, aren’t you, Francie?” She placed the pulse-ox clip back on her patient’s finger and looked down at her face, a parchment map of fine wrinkles. Rheumy, sightless eyes blinked back at her.

Frances thought the woman sounded familiar. A little condescending but familiar. Norah? Nova? The name was gone. She gave up the struggle to recall it. The endless hiss-thump-hum of the ventilator made it hard to think anyway.

What had she just been thinking about? She felt a fleeting memory-echo of excitement. Satisfaction? Something to do with colors? She tried to see, to really see. It was a true memory; she was sure of it. Maybe she could get it back this time? That would be a salving. But all she could get was a faded blur of red and black. She could name the colors but she couldn’t see them, couldn’t savor them. Not anymore.

#

“Oh dear, she’s fretting again.” She saw a frown crease her mother’s face, twisting up one side into a mockery of a smile. Her mother’s fingers plucked restlessly at the bedding.

“She’ll settle down. Don’t you worry.” The nurse’s bulk dwarfed her patient as she bent forward to gently raise her up and adjust her pillows. She upped the dosage in the drip.

“You’re all right now, aren’t you, Miz Frances?” After a moment, Frances’s fingers stilled. “I can see you’re fine now. Just fine.”

“It’s all right, Mama. I’m here. I’m right here.” Her mother’s chilled hand relaxed into hers, and she stared down at nails gone ivory down to their beds. The monitor beeped and blinked. Faux cheer smiled down from the hospice room’s flowered wallpaper. Not long now, she thought. Not long.

“That’s right. You just visit with your mama for a spell,” the nurse said. The door clicked shut behind her.

#

Oh, there it was. The magic. The colors of the bougainvillea. Salvation.

 

END

 

About the Author

Kathryn is a lifelong practitioner of the craft and a novice tarot reader. Her stories of magic and love have been published in Uncanny Romance, Shadowbook, and Modern Pagan.  She is the editor of the 2021 edition of the Hedge Witch Almanac. She lives with her life partner on the sacred boundary of the Salish Sea in Port Townsend, Washington, where she’s still trying to cast that one perfect moment.

 

Author Note: I loved the idea of the prompt to write a fictional author bio, so I tacked one on here. And, yes, it is entirely fictional, although I do love the hedge-magic feeling that animates one special pub in the real Port Townsend.

 

Week 5 Flash Fiction Story

The Wood

by Kathy Lyon

 

“Once upon a time . . .  They all start that way, don’t they? But then, it was once and it was upon a time. I heard it from our girl Jolly and she got it from her Mam, so I know it’s true, even though things like this don’t happen anymore. My Da says it’s ’cause all the magic’s leaked out of the world. He says daft things like that pretty much all the time now. But time was he could spin a dream. Never mind that now.”

The storyteller sat folded in on himself for a moment. Then he began again.

“Once upon a time, there stood a little house in the wood. The wood were always dark, the light dim no matter the season, and never did the slightest breeze filter through the thickets of trees. Great long drifts of gray moss trailed down from their branches, and the only sound were the raven’s croak. And, so right there, you’re thinking, why would anyone build in a wood like that?

“Well, even so, the house weren’t so bad. Built sturdy out of thick timbers, and the shingles were all in good kip. Someone took his craft serious, as my Da would say. One small arched door, a shuttered window, and smoke climbing out of its hole in the roof. Good enough house for just about anybody, I’d warrant.

“I don’t have a thought on how long the house stood there in that gloomy pile of woods, but one day a traveler stopped by for a drink of water. That’s how our Jolly tells it, though I heard from my Da it were bread he wanted. Maybe it were both. So however it be, this traveler stopped at the little wooden house in the dark wood. And he called out, ‘Hallo, the house!’ None answered. Unless you count the raven who replied with a gargled laugh as he perched on the ridgeline, his claws dug into those fine shingles.

“I’d guess you’d a’ been a bit unnerved, but the traveler stood firm and mustered up another call to the house. Of a sudden, a little fellow no taller than a boy of ten appeared in the doorway, standing there all bandy legged and arms akimbo, dressed in a leather jerkin and breeches and wearing a scrim of grey beard along his jaw.

‘Away with yer. We want no visitors.’

‘Kind sir, I ask only a drink of water, and I shall be on my way.’

“The little fellow scowled. ‘No water here.’

“Now, there were a well just beside the house, plain as day and easy to spot, even in the gloom. Just stands to reason it had good water, else no one could live there at all.

“The traveler said, ‘I’ve not had a drop for miles. Just a sip is all I ask.’

‘Nay. Move on away. We’ve no water.’

“The traveler, it seems, were not dismayed. Or maybe he were just terrible thirsty. The wood were unkind and stingy, with barely a muddy trickle running through it, and that far from the path.

‘Once more shall I ask—’

“The little fellow jumped and waved his arms. ‘You’ve no right to be in this wood. Begone. There’s no water here.’

‘Thrice have I asked and thrice have you denied me.’

“The traveler stepped toward the little man and with each step he seemed to grow larger. A green flame flickered and flowed from his fingertips, and it brightened to a greenish gold as he raised his hand. Surely so much light had not been seen in the dooryard for many a year. The little fellow quailed before the light. And who would not?

“The light embraced the small man; in a moment he was gone. The raven shouted and took wing. The traveler turned back toward the well he’d claimed, his hands dripping green-gold fire, and everywhere the droplets touched earth, bellwort and belladonna sprang up. He sighed as he raised the bucket, and his antlered head bowed over the ladle.”

The storyteller leaned back and braced his elbows on the table behind him. His audience shifted about in their seats.

“I know you might been expecting something more. Maybe you thought that dark place would shine all green and growing and be healed. But that’s not how it happened. No happily ever after with princesses and such. Though I suppose that woodland god, whoever he be, were fair pleased.”

The storyteller stood and sketched a bow before turning around to the bar. “I’ll take a short one, Tom, if you would.”

Nodding, the barman pulled out the whisky jug. “Whoever he be, indeed, Jack.” He quirked a grin at the storyteller. “But let be and let alone, I always say.” He pushed a glass toward Jack. “You might get an actual copper now and again if you allowed for a princess or two.”

“Oh, aye.” Jack tossed back his drink and walked out into the sunlight.

#

Jack whistled tunelessly as he hopped across the stream and headed toward the great mass of brooding dark trees. A flicker of motion at the edge of the wood caught his eye, and he paused his striding.

She stepped out of the shadow into the sunlight, a crown of fox flowers and banewort on her brow; and her hair, the blue-black of the raven’s wing, cascaded down her shoulders. Her dress was the pale ash of Spring’s rowan buds, and it flowed and shifted as she glided toward him.

“Take me to him, Storyteller.”

Jack bowed deeply. “Your wish, Princess, is my command.”

Together they turned back to the wood and soon enough it swallowed them both.

 

END

 

Week 4 Flash Fiction Story

Feast of the Summer King

by Kathy Lyon

 

“I do not wish to speak ill of the recently departed,” Gwynn said. He delicately extracted a morsel with his chopsticks.

His companion for the feast rotated his head toward Gwynn, his milky third eyelids sliding shut, his expression bland.  “Of course not,” Gwal murmured.

“However, it must be admitted that the Oak King failed to measure up. We all said so at the time. And that paltry token of resistance!” Gwynn’s tufted ears flicked toward Gwal. Sleet rattled against the windows of the feast hall; outside, bare trees creaked and rubbed their limbs together.

Gwal was silent, intent on spearing a hearty chunk with his beak. Succeeding, he flipped the bleeding meat into the air and swallowed it whole on its descent.

Gwynn’s ears flicked back and flattened. Black expanded and suffused his eyes as he turned away. “I suppose one cannot expect all that much of his sort—the Oak King, the Summer Crown. Always so hedonistic, so greedy for life. Do you not agree, my friend?”

“He gave all he could. What more might we ask?”

“You speak with wisdom, Friend Gwal. The wheel turns, time prowls. Let us toast our new ruler. Long live the King!” He settled back and began to daintily clean his polydactyl paws.

“To the Holly King!” Gwal flung his wings wide, startling his slumbering green neighbor, who leaped up and shouted, “To the Holly King! The Winter Crown!” The call echoed around the hall, rousing the other guests from their well-fed stupor. They shouted and mumbled amongst themselves for a time.

Gwal looked out at the hall, noting the particolored breeches and puff-sleeved shirts of the buskers as they lounged against the far wall. He thought to call for a juggler but remained silent. The remains of the feast spread out before him. A few long bones gleamed in the torchlight, picked clean, while some ivory shards showed where the more industrious guests had split the bones to get at the marrow. A golden crown had fallen among a mass of golden hair.

A soft hoot that might have been a sigh escaped his beak, and he turned again to Gwynn, who sat erect with his tail curled around his paws. “We have honored the departed and he has honored us. Truly, the Summer King has served us well.”

 

END

 

Update July 14

Week 4 story ready to post. Woot! Half of week three's critiques finished. Yay!

 

Week 3 Flash Fiction Story

Dear Amy

by Kathy Lyon

 

Amy Vivian Coney JSD, MDiv
Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

Year 25 of Our Lord’s Ecumenica                


Dear Amy,

I hope you don’t mind me calling you Amy. But after all these years of following your show and your adventures in the news feeds, I feel like I know you. Maybe that’s stupid. Or rude. I mean, of course I don’t know you. You’re up there in the Capitol with the Honorable Men, guiding all of our fates, helping all of us down here follow God’s path.

And, wow, do we need help down here. Sometimes it’s just really hard to be righteous, you know? Like yesterday, when one of the Voiceless came into the bodega where I work. I know I’m supposed to wait for them to beg forgiveness for their sins before I sell them something, but she just looked so sad, standing there staring at the candy bars and all. So I didn’t wait for her to get out her chalk and tablet and write the signs. I just told her, “You go ahead and pick the one you want, honey.” She still hesitated, so I said, “Hey, this one’s on me.” I know that was wrong. She sinned. She used her wicked voice to nag her man, as though she deserved something. Like she could demand something. She’d still have her tongue if she hadn’t disrespected her man that way. But she just looked so sad, you know?

But that’s not why I’m writing to you. I’m writing because we all really miss you. You used to be on all the channels every day. And every week, right before the Sabbath, my girlfriends and me would get together to watch your show at our district streaming station. I mean, talk about inspirational. After a long hard week, your words just lifted us up. You always seemed so passionate and sure, and you talked right at all us Good Women. I can’t tell you how much it meant to us to see you there on the screen.

But then we lost our media privileges. So no more streaming station. I don’t like to gossip, but I’m pretty sure it was that fool Lacey who tried to sneak into a foreign site and ruined it for the rest of us. That was mean. I shouldn’t speak ill of the Disappeared. Forgive me.

Anyway, I was really sad. It was like there was a hole in my week. But after a while, I thought maybe I could ask some of the demi-monde ladies if they could stream your show for us on their personal device. Some of them get special access through their clients. I’m not sure how much you know about them, sitting up there in the Capitol the way you do. They do God’s work, I know. But sometimes they look kind of worn down and   I’m just thankful I wasn’t called on to serve. (Well, if you’d seen me, you’d know why that was.)

Anyway, it made me real nervous to even walk up to one, but I just had to see you again. And it’s like you always say, “The path to righteousness leads through thorns.” So I prayed on it and God showed me that my best bet was the one who always got picked up in a limo right near the bodega.

She made kind of a face when I asked about your show. I guess you could call it a sneer. But then she searched for your content anyway.

“It’s gone,” she said. I must have looked kind of blank. “It’s gone. There’s nothing there,” she said and snapped her tablet shut.

I knew that couldn’t be right. So I asked around some more. But the answer was always the same. No more Amy. No show. Nothing about you in the news feeds.

My friends and me, we talked about it after church for weeks. I think we started to scare each other a little bit. We couldn’t even really say why. It just seemed so strange, like practically impossible, that you weren’t there for us anymore. I guess I was sort of elected to write this letter because I can read and write better than the others. (I’m allowed because it’s for my job in the shop. I just want to make that clear.)

So, Dear Amy, we miss you very much. We know you are a Good Woman, exalted above us and chosen to give us special guidance.

We’re feeling a little lost without you in our lives. But maybe that last pregnancy was too hard on you? Twelve babies in fourteen years seems like a lot to us down here. But what do we know?

We know you’re no weak sinner like us. But maybe you’re feeling too sad to make your shows after they took your youngest girl to be married to some foreign man? She was eleven years old, right? (I wasn’t allowed the honor of Motherhood, but my friend Sissy said it’s hard to let your baby girls go knowing you’ll never see them again.)

We know you couldn’t have sinned. But maybe that last show didn’t go over so good with some Honorable Men? I mean, we know that it had to be divine inspiration to get on camera with your head bare. We were a little shocked even so. And at first you looked right in the camera, just like you were looking at us, just like you always did. But then you started talking about the Big Lie. And you sagged down a bit and looked away. That seemed wrong. Like you were ashamed. But to tell the truth, we couldn’t make heads or tails out of your talk about the Big Lie, except to say that we know you would never lie to us. 

So, Dear Amy, we are worried about you. Where did you go? Are you okay? Please write back and let us know.

Sincerely,

 

Mary Milton on behalf of the Good Women of
The Congregation of the Sacred Rib, District 9
New York, NY

END

 

Update 6 July

Week 3 story uploaded. One critique to finish.

Update 5 July

First draft week 3 story done. Yay!

 

Week 2 Flash Fiction Story

Morpho Azul

by Kathy Lyon

 

Eva stared straight ahead, lips tightening, as the little Cessna skimmed the top of a jungle-draped mountain and suddenly dropped. A horrid swooping lurch in her belly. That had to have been a thousand feet, straight down. A half-asleep snort emerged from Henry’s seat; she surreptitiously tightened her seat belt.

The plane jolted and bounced as it hit the runway. Eva closed her eyes. Breathe in. Out. White sand beach. Poolside cocktails. A rough landing is no big deal. It’s a tiny airport. It’s a tiny island. Almost there.

#

Henry was right. She was a terrible traveler. Of course they hadn’t crashed. There was nothing actually wrong with the hotel staff. Or with the hotel for that matter, although it still seemed a little empty. Everything was fine. She and Henry had fallen into a nice rhythm, poolside for her and a photo safari for him, with sunset dinner together each night to round things out. And that day at the black sand beach had been spectacular. The driver had seemed a little off. Never mind.

“Evie, what do you think about coming with me today? I found a great spot. A clearing, not all that deep in the forest, and they say the butterflies should return there any day now.” Henry tucked a long lens into his camera bag.

“Is this an all-day thing?” She started to mentally catalog the gear they’d need. Sunscreen, hat, insect repellant, boots, bottled water, rain jacket, snake bite kit . . .

“Nah. Just a few hours. Promise.”

Shorter list then. “Yeah. Okay, let’s go. Just don’t forget the bug spray. And the bottled water. Will these boots work?”

“Jesus, Evie. Just tell me if you don’t want to go. I just thought that for once . . . It’s just for a few hours.”

“Hey. We’re going.” She put her hand on his arm and smiled up at him. “So tell me about these butterflies.”

#

A few hours? They’d already walked single file for hours, and this perfect butterfly place was nowhere in sight. Actually, nothing was in sight except the densely packed trees that crowded the muddy trail and arched over it, hiding the sky. Their leaves, so dark green they looked black, dripped moisture and didn’t entirely hide the thorns emerging from gray-green boles. She flinched as a vine trailed her bare arm.

“Hear that barking? That’s a troop of Howler Monkeys. Amazing, right?”

Yes, amazing. Creepy, but amazing. The forest heaved with sound: it creaked; it groaned; it whistled. The endless deafening hum of insects pressed down on her.

Henry was, of course, completely unfazed. He’d stopped to shoot an army-ant mound, its summit spiking up through the green; a cluster of spikey blood-orange flowers peeking out of the canopy; a snake lounging not far from the path. “Careful. That one’s poisonous,” he said.

Not long after they’d picked their way past the snake, the trees thinned and they stepped out under the open sky.

“Oh, Henry. This is extraordinary. I had no idea they would be so . . .” He answered her delight with a grin and reached for his camera.

Color flickered, shimmered, and fluttered all around them: cornflower blue edged with coral, milky jade dusted with lavender, felted gray dotted with moonstone eyes. Suddenly the whole clearing lifted and swirled around them. She laughed and spun around to follow the flight’s path. He let his camera dangle from the strap and stood with his arms outstretched. She watched as they alighted on his arms and then his head.

A delicate touch on the back of her hand and she looked down. How remarkable. His wings—lapis blue, shot through with fine obsidian veins that bled into scalloped black edges—covered her whole hand. She held her breath. He was joined by his fellows as they landed on her shoulders and arms. He lifted, spun, and hung suspended in front of her. Smooth black-pearl eyes stared back at her as his antennae flicked back and forth.

The forest was still. When had that happened? She turned her head but could barely make out Henry’s form beneath the swarm. Was he kneeling? And then a sting, really barely a pinprick, on the back of her hand where the first butterfly had landed again. And then another on her shoulder, her neck, her lip. How—?

She was so tired; she would just rest for a minute.

END

Update 30 June

Second flash fiction story uploaded. Yay

Week 1 Flash Fiction Story

Spheksophobia

by Kathy Lyon

 

I know I complain to you every summer. It’s torture to pass by happy cafés, wanting a civilized coffee but unable to stop, knowing they will be swarming in their banded yellow-black jackets, whining, climbing over the food and circling the drinks. I still try. Every summer. I do.

“Come on, just look at this day,” you’ll say. “Sun’s out at last. Let’s take a table, order a double scoop.”

“Okay,” I’ll say. “Okay, sure.” And I won’t let the first or even the second chase me away. But then one lands on my arm, and another crawls over the little rounded hill of caramel resting in my dish, and another drones toward my face. No one else is bothered, not even you. I jump up, I back away. They won’t leave. Why should they? It’s their feast now. And then I’ll be two meters away. Scattered heads will turn and stare. I’ll signal my surrender, so you’ll get the check. I know you won’t mind, not really, and I’ll say I’m sorry. You’ll be kind and shrug it off.

My legs will feel stiff and awkward as we walk away, my feigned nonchalance ceding to shame.

#

Today at the park, I gave in to summer. We sat shaded, cooled by a green breeze. I ordered a salt-caramel gelato. Madness. Foolishness. You had an espresso. Sensible. Restrained. You told a joke. I laughed. I told one too but mangled the punch line. We laughed. We talked, schemed, laid our plans, watched passersby, argued over some absurd film. And I forgot.

Until that lull in our giddy chatter fell, I forgot. Then I remembered. I looked around; looked at the dishes and detritus on the other tables; at the others sitting, slouching all around us; at the trash can mounded to overflowing with sugary remains. You stared down, intent on your phone. No one else seemed bothered. Not even you.

“Where are all the wasps?” I asked.

 

END

Update 23 June.

First flash fiction story uploaded. Yay!

Publications List

My Badges

View All Event Badges

$200.00

achieved

$500.00

goal

of your goal reached

0

days

0

hours

0

mins

0

secs

My Supporters