My friend, Suzanne Burke (Soooz) has been running a flash fiction challenge on her blog for several weeks now. Although I always check out the prompts, I’ve never made the time to participate. This time, as soon as I saw the prompt, I hopped over to Word on my Mac and started writing. No idea where I was headed, or what would come of my meandering, but I ended up with something to post. Below is the photo prompt, and my take on it.
Joel said it would be fun, so we picked our way up a free-standing rope ladder, then hiked across a flimsy bridge to the house in the trees. Once inside, I dropped my backpack, bent double, and sucked in lungfuls of air. After the climb, my legs felt like water. “Tell me again why I agreed to this?”
My boyfriend grinned. “Because you can’t resist a challenge.”
I’d resisted ziplining when he wanted to send me careening over a gorge large enough to house the Goodyear Blimp. I’d put my foot down when he’d suggested crawling into a shark cage for a photo op with great whites, and I’d drawn the line at cave-diving in Mexico. So why had I agreed to spend five days in a treehouse tucked in the middle of nowhere?
Okay, so maybe said treehouse came complete with a rollout bed, mini fridge, camp stove, and side deck, but I wasn’t the nature type. My idea of roughing it involved an ocean front hotel with a swim up bar and jacuzzi.
I stole a glance at my cell phone. “No bars.”
Joel rummaged a bottle of water from the refrigerator. “You weren’t supposed to bring that. No cell service, internet, radio, or TV.” He took a swig from the bottle then dragged the back of one hand across his mouth. “Five days of nothing but solitude and nature. You’re going to love it.”
“I think I’m going to hate it.”
A yellow bird with green stripes splayed over its wings woke me just after five in the morning. Joel rolled over with a sleepy grin, undisturbed by the chirp-tweetle-chirp that had me grumpily searching out coffee. I carried a mug onto the deck overlooking a massive blue lake and watched the sun rise.
Joel got up in time for brunch.
The same yellow bird pulled me from sleep before I was ready. Morning had barely settled, the lake overlaid with a fine silver mist. Pretty stuff. Quiet, too. No bleat of car horns or squeal of tires. I’d grown up in the city, but the solitude was comforting.
Joel slept too long, and woke with a backache.
I named the bird Claude. For all I knew, he could have been Claudia, but the little guy (or gal) seemed okay with the moniker. I got up before he could wake me, humming a tune while I made coffee. Joel pulled a pillow over his head and grumbled I was being too loud. By the time he finally crawled from bed, I was busy drawing trees in a sketchbook I’d found in the cupboard.
Claude chirped his approval.
Joel is a jerk. If he’s not sleeping, he’s pacing. And if he’s not pacing, he’s moaning how bored he is, cut off from everything. Most of the time I ignore him, especially now that Claude makes a habit of visiting morning and night. He perches on the deck railing and we discuss our day.
For the first time since we’ve arrived, Joel got up early. He shoved everything he’d brought into his backpack then hunkered by the door, waiting for the hour when he could scurry down the rope ladder, back to civilization—to a maze of car horns, business meetings, bus fumes, and ringing cell phones. Just the thought makes me sick. I haven’t worked up the nerve to tell him I’m not going.
It’s far more peaceful since Joel left. Blissful. He said I was crazy for staying. Said I’d run out of food and water, but he doesn’t understand what I’ve found with Claude. I wish Joel well in his fast-forward world. Deep down, I know this is where I was always meant to be.
It just took a wakeup call and a treehouse challenge to make me realize it.
Joel took a final look around. He was sure after two weeks Angie would be ready to abandon the treehouse, but she’d disappeared. Most of the provisions that had been stocked in the refrigerator were still there, her backpack with clothes set out by the bed.
He walked outside to the deck, disturbed by the heavy silence. A small yellow bird with green stripes perched on the railing, studying him with keen eyes. As he watched, a second bird joined the first, huddling by its side. Two souls snugged together like one.
I hope you enjoyed my little short story. There is still another day to play. If you’d like to participate. Check out the link and instructions over at Soooz’s place. Poetry, haikus, microfics are all welcome–any creative endeavor using the prompt. Pretty cool, huh?
And, because, this is a weekly challenge, be sure to follow Soooz’s blog while you’re there. You won’t want to miss the next prompt. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to play again. 🙂