Today, please join me in congratulating Naomi Ruth from Writing: A Soul's Way of Breathing, my FIRST PLACE WINNER! Here is her flash fic entry:
“Hurry!” I hissed. Rose gagged on a plant she had somehow almost swallowed (that girl is talented) and stumbled over to me. We both ducked under the sign that we wouldn’t read because then we could honestly say we hadn’t read the sign. It was a tactic my younger brother had taught me. I probably shouldn’t listen to my brother, since he falls off of roofs and swallows handfuls of gummy bears whole just for fun. But my brother wasn’t what I was thinking about. I was thinking about the old abandoned building I was sneaking into.
Rose and I stop inside and stare. We had both dreamed about this day. It was a building we had written stories about, had wondered about, had done research on. There is a feeling of awe we both feel, standing there with broken glass under our feet, bits of boards stacked up nearby.
Carefully, cautiously, we walk forward, through each room. We wonder about the stories each room contains. We run our fingers along the cracked green paint and step around the peeling grey tile.
In one room there is an ugly grey desk and an old record player. There’s a sign for the missing pool table. Rose wonders aloud, “Why was the pool table taken, but not this,” and places a finger on the record player. I shake my head. “Why did they take all of the curtains except that last one?” I point to the single fluttering yellow curtain. It is a strange thing. I never know who decides what is taken, what is left behind. We go upstairs and stare at the abandoned library. Books are scattered over the floor like a thousand lost souls. I turn away and don’t know whether I’m going to cry or throw up. It is just… wrong.
Rose tilts her head and whispers, “I’m far away from home…” The others who come here have spray painted words along the halls because they don’t understand the hollowed nature of abandoned buildings. They just feel the hollowness, I guess. But that one sentence is different, holds sadness in every stroke. It’s home here in this broken place.
At one of the other staircases Rose squats down and flips through the pages of an old Bible. There are pages missing, notes and cross-references scrawled in fading grey pencil. Rose reads the notes out loud as I sit on the bottom step and drag my toe through the debris of papers and disemboweled books. I imagine that each paper is a part of someone’s life; a part that they lost and can never get back.
“Why was this left here?” Rose asks, her voice breaking, but I shake my head. I don’t know why. I don’t know why anything was abandoned here with this building. “Come on,” I whisper. “It’s time to go.”
Before we leave, though, we stop in one last room downstairs. There’s an altar to the left. Bits of marble and plaster have crumbled and fallen. Blue tiles with golden scrollwork have sighed and given up. They lie on the ground, an unfinished mosaic. I imagine rows of boys kneeling on the ground, praying, and singing and filling the room with the music of being alive. I imagine the priest up at the front holding his hands up toward the sky-painted squares of ceiling. I wonder what words were spoken. Stepping carefully Rose and I walk over to the room behind the altar. Everywhere I see words and thoughts pressed against the walls, in between the cracks of missing mortar.
“I wish the walls could talk,” Rose whispers and I wonder if we’re thinking the same thing. We do that sometimes. As if we were twins in another reality, and this reality messed that up, putting us in different families, in different times. But here, in this broken down building, age and family and differences don’t matter. There are just the echoes of a dying place that used to be a home.
We leave, making sure we’re alone first, that no one is waiting outside as they walk their dogs or make out in the square of green grass. No on is there and we run to the side, push through the broken metal wall that separates the world from this broken place. They say it’s not safe. Of course not. Broken things are never safe.
We walked back to the car then, occasionally glancing back at the building that we will always love. We’ve seen its heart, we’ve seen its soul, and now it’s time to go home.
What I love most about Naomi's piece is the atmosphere. I love that she did not feel like she needed to have a big twist, which I seem to always need to throw in to my own flash fic. She chose instead to celebrate a quiet moment that touched her MC, and it completely worked - I can definitely relate to the solemn magic of an abandoned place and what once was there, how the spirit of the place lingers. In the classroom, even in first grade, we teach the genre of Small Moment writing, where you take one tiny moment that you experienced and flesh it out. This piece, to me, is a completely wonderful Small Moment.
Naomi, email me your address for your weeeeeeennnnnerrrryyyy goodness!
Thank you to all who entered! Today's blogfest day - post your entries on your blog!