Today’s piece of flash fiction is the story that I got published in a literary magazine.
My favorite part of this piece is the story behind it. In one of my creative writing classes in college, we were each given an index card with a word or phrase. This word or phrase, we were told, was to be the title of of the next piece of flash fiction that the person sitting to our left was going to write.
But before handing them their title, we got to write their first line.
I forget what title I had for the person sitting to my left, but I wrote an ambiguous first line, so that she could take the story in whatever direction she wanted.
The guy to my right, however, had a very specific setting and plot in mind for my story.
“I hate you,” I told him after reading my index card.
Title: Sign on the Dotted Line
First Line: "Pa! Come quick, the Comanche done gone lit the barn on fire!"
He explained that he envisioned a story about the conflict that arose between Native Americans and the early American settlers as they tried to make them sign their land away.
That wasn’t quite my style, though.
* * *
Sign on the Dotted Line by Youngman Brown
“Pa! Come quick, the Comanche done gone lit the barn on fire!”
Grandpa was having another episode. Everyone in the church turned to face us. Mom’s face glowed red as dad unsuccessfully attempted to calm Grandpa. Chrissy began crying — her seven-year-old eyes hadn’t yet witnessed Grandpa this way. I just laughed.
This latest surge of schizophrenia was due to the fact that he had recently watched some terrible movie called The Searchers, in which John Wayne’s attempts to be close to a secret love are ruined by a Comanche raid. The Indians are coming to scalp him, he fears.
Yes, it was bad. But nothing compared to a post-Saving Private Ryan fit, which involved him throwing cans of soup at a shopping cart that, to him, resembled a German tank. Or, after The Matrix, pouring cups of water on a running vacuum so that it wouldn’t steal his brain. Don’t even ask about Jurassic Park.
After the incident in God’s house, mom and dad decided to take him to Allentown’s New-Age Assisted Living, or ANAAL. Yes, ANAAL. I disagreed with their decision. For one, they could have at least picked one without an uncomfortable acronym. Secondly, it’s just not right to just dump (no pun intended) a sick family member off somewhere.
So what if Grandpa had fantasies about what he saw on television? Just pop in some feel-good classics. It’s A Wonderful Life, or Field of Dreams would suffice.
Instead, mom and dad just signed on a dotted line and we didn’t have to worry about Grandpa anymore.