A flash fiction story I had written a while ago and just remembered as I was grading my students' short stories. Sure this piece still calls for serious improvement, but I think it's worth sharing anyway...
How much time does it take to get from point A to point B? She was in disbelief. It just didn’t feel like point B. This is not what she had imagined. There were supposed to be fireworks, popping champagne bottles, people-filled rooms and festivities. But there were no voices speaking. The fading light bulb lit up an empty living room. Each day, the walk into the kitchen, the setting of keys on the table, made the yellowing walls come over her. Daily experiences were drab like the tablecloths that folded onto her lap as she had her lone celebratory dinner.
Finally the world had caught up. The Chinese take-out sat opened and yet to be served on the one, empty plate, placed at the single candle-lit table. Always the one too busy for opening movie nights, birthday parties, or dinners with the girls. The wine. Nobody else chilled their dry red wine. She did. Remembering where she placed it, she grabbed it feeling almost accompanied by it. Stabbing the top of its mouth, each rough and slow unscrew became a step closer to herself. It’s alright, she doesn’t need recognition. It has always been about the work, or rather, the purpose of the work. It was never about who noticed. It was more about it getting done. Getting it done meant the work would speak for itself.
After popping the cork, the cool smoky air rose from the bottle as it angled over the glass. A nice slow gulp with eyes closed. Exhale. Eyes open. Suddenly that meal became the festive occasion it was meant to be. She heaped her plate with vegetable fried rice, sechzuan eggplant, and spicy bean curd, and dug in.
The work should speak to her kin. If they only cared to listen. But perhaps the work just speaks a different language. It was a book. Not everyone speaks “book.” Her chewing slowed. The glass of wine was half-empty. Most of her closest loved ones didn’t speak it. How did it come to this? Who was she? What was point A? This eggplant sure tastes good. How long has she been here?
Another gulp of the chilled red wine. The glass rested between her slender fingers. She would see her mom picking it up and reading her name on the cover, proud and filled with joy. But what good is it if she won’t crack the book open, or try the first few lines and then let it sit, like a trophy, next to pictures of loved ones both alive and in the spirit world? Her brother would ask her for the title, call it “interesting,” and congratulate her, moving on to the next mundane topic. He wouldn’t even ask her for a copy, one she had already signed for him. “Con Amor, Juana.” Then there were the childhood friends. They called her “the scholar.” But she’d like to see herself as more like them than they allowed her to. In fact, the “scholars” that would read and recognize her work would consider it authentic, or in “non-book talk,” ghetto.
The grip around the long cool bottle tipped its mouth over the wine glass. The window. She leaned at the edge of its pane. The sun moved quickly towards the horizon. On the sidewalk was her past sprawled out before her eyes. Pedestrians would intrude onto children’s hopscotch and scooter chasing games. Dads would slam domino pieces over crate balanced wood boards, while moms would huddle into groups and share the latest, occasionally screaming at children that moved too close to traffic. She looked back at her half eaten dinner spread on the single chaired table. Where had point B gone?