Hello, lovelies. Time’s up on our second Flashes of Inspiration contest. A quiet one this time, with just two for you to read. A reminder – the challenge was to evoke wonder in just 400 words. The above image could be used in any way to help inspire, and the following words had to be used by the writers: Speckled, Fortune, Droplet. I shan’t ask you to vote this time around. It would seem odd, somehow. Just read and enjoy.
Rosa in Memoriam – by Louise Maskill
The canal path was pretty much deserted. I pulled frigid air into my lungs and expelled it again in time with my stride; I’d passed a dog-walker a mile or so back, but no-one else. February’s bitter cold had kept most people at home, but I blessed my good fortune; I was two miles into a ten-miler, but no long-distance loneliness here, this was exactly how I preferred to run.
I also didn’t like stopping mid-session, so it was doubly annoying to realise my shoelace was untied as I approached a wooden picnic table with an elderly man seated at it. Nothing for it – I had to stop or risk losing my shoe. I pulled up by the table, brushing a droplet of sweat from under my nose before propping my foot on the bench and bending to fix the lace.
Glancing up, I half-smiled at the man, prepared for platitudinous chat, but he wasn’t even looking at me. He was staring at a single pink rose resting on the table, its petals tilted upwards to catch the winter sun.
“Morning,” I said, chilled fingers fumbling at my shoe. He seemed to notice me then, lifting his eyes to my face, but he did not speak.
“Nice day,” I offered, because something needed to be said. And then, because he was sitting alone at a picnic table on a sub-zero winter morning, “Are you alright?”
He smiled and nodded absently, returning his gaze to the rose. “Oh yes,” he said. “I’m fine. I love it here.”
“Right. Ok.” Awkward, but the best I had. I finished with the lace and straightened, unsettled by his stillness and solitude. “Enjoy your … walk.”
He made a small noise without looking up. I took that as farewell; when I came past again on the homeward leg he was gone, but the rose remained.
A few days later I came back to the canal with the kids. We meandered along until we reached the same table – no elderly man, of course, but the rose was still there, its pale petals now speckled brown with frostburn. The kids sat down – short legs need frequent rests – and as I sat with them I noticed something I had missed before.
There was a small plaque screwed to the wooden slats of the table. Leaning close, I read the inscription.
19/06/1938 – 06/02/2015
He loved it here”
Lost – by Dion Winton-Polak
Love abounds. People say that it’s precious but look in any village, on any continent and one can find it. Nay, scarcity is what makes a thing precious. Mix that with beauty and you have something truly wondrous. Now, orchids are beautiful indeed, and some are nigh-on mythic. I held in these very hands a specimen of such value it might have purchased Perthshire. My Latin fails me, but her colloquial name is The Banquet – an amusing mis-translation. Her petals are a luminescent white, speckled with tiny, vivid scintillations of crimson– like the handkerchiefs of consumptives, d’ya ken?
I trekked the Amazon for months, trying to locate the Tanimuka – a tribe whose settlements were razed by the Rubber industry. A single petal of The Banquet had been discovered in the wreckage of one of their shrines by a workman, who thought it pretty and made some enquiries. This petal eventually came to an acquaintance of mine, who solicited my expertise. Needless to say, I proclaimed it worthless. A fortune shared is a fortune squandered, after all. And now, for my sins, I was stuck in the Amazon.
The Yauna tribe occasionally provided brides to the Tanimuka, and here she stood. It might have been fate. I never learned my guide’s name. We had no common language, but the interpreter who introduced us expressed my needs. She was of surpassing beauty, if one forgave her face-paint and outlandish jewellery. I was quite…struck as I toiled after her, I don’t mind telling you. I have never met a woman like her. She was serenity personified.
I spotted The Banquet at last, high on a cliff. The climb was dangerous, but worth the risk. In truth, the harder task was persuading my guide to wait. I lowered myself gingerly to the floor once again and turned, chilled to discover two fearsome warriors with their bows nocked. Tanimuka. A third was walking around my guide, eyeing her like a horse-trader. I did not like him so well. A droplet of sweat rolled tortuously down my nose. I looked from his face to hers, and attempted to show grace. What else could I do?
I presented The Banquet to the bride and groom, then gave them my deepest bow.
Letting her go was the deepest regret of my life, but…I survived to tell the tale.
That’s all for now. The next contest will appear on Thursday 31st January. I hope to get another blog post out between now and then. Have a great day!