Short Stories

Flash Fiction Friday: Juniper plays nice

Thank you to Eda who provided the great first line of this short story.  Don’t forget to leave a sentence for the next short story in the comment section of this post (if you’re confused, read this post first).

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best kids mittens

Juniper knew it was time to go home but she couldn’t find her left mitten. She knew it was her left mitten because her mother had embroidered a big fat L right on the top just in case all the other kids in school didn’t already know that she was a little, well, different. Words didn’t come naturally to her. She was good, however, at smiling and nodding, which her teachers always mistook as a sign of comprehension. Her report cards would read, “sweet, shy girl. Very polite. Could use some more socialization.”

She found the mitten in the back of the classroom. A piece of paper was stuck to it with pink chewing gum. Juniper pulled the paper off, watching the moist gum stretch until it reached its breaking point. Written in cursive, which was the day’s lesson, “L is for losers.” Juniper stared at the words, trying to understand the loops and swirls, but then crumpled the paper into a tight ball. She knew it couldn’t be a nice message.

It was already too late to catch the bus, she would need to walk the mile and a half back home. Her cheeks turned red the instant she walked outside. It was long after Halloween, but Thanksgiving seemed like an eternity away. The leaves had all fallen already, and the empty branches stood up against the gray sky like creepy witch fingers. She stared at the trees, amazed that they could be the same ones that looked so playful and green in the summertime.

“Hey, Juniper, are you talking to the trees again?” a voice called out.

Juniper turned to her right to find Astrid playing in her front yard. She was one of the cool kids who lived right across the school. Astrid wore her golden hair in a perfect french braid every day, which made Juniper all too aware of her own tangled, black hair.

Juniper ignored her classmate and walked on.

“Hey!” Astrid called out again. “I’m talking to you, loser.”

Juniper turned around in time for the blow-up ball, which Astrid had thrown, to hit her square in the nose. Her face burned, and something hot seeped from her nose. She touched her mitten to her face, and saw blood.

Astrid gave her a cute smile and a shrug. “Sorry,” she sang out.

At first the cracking sound was soft, but it grew to a thunderous roar as a large branch of the maple tree in Astrid’s yard crashed to the ground, crushing Astrid underneath its weight. Juniper was already walking away. She hadn’t’t looked back when she heard the branch falling, but she did say, “sorry,” under her breath. After all, she was a very polite little girl.

Putting the pieces together: a tip for writers

I was working on a complicated short story and I couldn’t figure out how to sequence the events. I sat at my computer copying and pasting, scrolling up and down the word document, searching for what should go where. Finally I just printed it out, cut up the different segments and laid them all out on the floor. I tried out many different sequences until I found the best one. I also cut up some blank strips of paper and put them  in between sections that needed a transition.

2013-06-27 10.19.35It was so helpful to edit my story in this unconventional manner. I spend so much time on the computer, sometimes I forget that writing can happen off the screen. I highly recommend trying this out, but first, here are two tips:

1. Wait a little while before putting it in order. I tried putting it in order right after printing it and I ended up putting it back in the exact same order. I tried it again the next day, and came up with a much better, fresher order.

2. If you have pets, tape it up as soon as you’re done . 

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Even if this short story goes nowhere, Marla will always love my writing.

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