Welcome to the Spot Writers, bringing you your weekly dose of flash fiction. The prompt for this month: Check out these 10 fancy nature words. Choose one of the words, and make it either the title or theme of your post, and build your story around that.
Today’s story comes from Val Muller, author of The Girl Who Flew Away. The word she chose is “psithurism,” which is the sound of rustling leaves, a sound that contends only with the ocean in terms of her favorite things to hear. The tale is inspired by a moment of inspiration that came while she was comforting her toddler, who was ailing from a double ear infection.
Reaching through the Years
By Val Muller
It was cool for June. I stretched out on the futon, the toddler lying on my arm. My fingers already started tingling, the weight of her growing body cutting off my circulation. The wind blew through the open window, but I wasn’t cold. Her feverish body warmed me.
Sure, I felt sorry for her. A double ear infection and four erupting molars. But still, every time she moved, she wailed. The breath from her mouth felt hot against my neck, and her screams pierced my eardrum. Why wouldn’t she just sleep?
The world was covered in a gossamer film, the haze of fatigue. When was the last time I slept through the night? I mean, really truly slept? When was the last time a piercing wail didn’t startle me through the baby monitor, or the giggling coo of a baby wide awake at 4:30 in the morning, ready to play?
A fussy foot kicked me in the liver. Or maybe the spleen. Whichever one hurt more.
Why wouldn’t she just sleep?
Fatigue hung on me like a weight. My limbs felt heavy and old. I looked down at my legs stretching a mile before me, bare toes pointing toward the open window at the edge of the futon. The sun had set, but its glow still touched the sky. Weren’t little kids supposed to go to bed early? This one never slept.
The twilight glow shone through the window, accenting the shape of my knees, the muscles of my thighs. So big compared to her tiny body. Those legs would take so much energy to move, and just thinking about getting up from the futon seemed an impossible task under the weight of exhaustion.
My arms felt like bricks now, and I couldn’t imagine how to get through the next few minutes, or weeks, or months. My muscles ached from carrying her around all day: the ear infections had left her reverting to her baby days of needing her skin to be next to mine, of needing her heartbeat to hear my own.
When was the last time I was alone in a room?
My spirit shrunk under oppressive thoughts: the weight of unwashed dishes, of trash needing to be taken to the curb. When was the last time I showered?
The sun sank lower, and the twilight darkened a bit. A breeze from the window kissed the drapes, tickling my toes. A whooshing sound rode the wind, almost like the lapping of ocean waves against the shore. I had to check out the window to make sure the mountains had not been replaced with a sea.
No, psithurism. Wind rustling through the trees. It had always been one of my favorite sounds. There was something magical about the summertime, about how lush and lively the leaves were, and how they seemed to be calling to each other each time the wind blew.
The cool breeze felt warmer, and I looked down again at my legs. They looked smoother, younger, more powerful. Why had I thought a moment ago that they felt so old and tired? I felt like an athlete again, like I did in high school. I wanted to spring up and run a mile.
I turned to the child next to me. Her eyes were nearly closed now, and her breathing was becoming steadier. The wails each time she moved were replaced by soft whimpers.
Her body against me felt like a feather, and I remembered the weightlessness of youth, the weightlessness of possibility and protection, of knowing my parents were right there to save me from anything and everything. I cradled her a bit tighter as she fell to a steady sleep.
In an instant, I had a vision of myself—a much older self, less fit, and lonelier. A self whose limbs actually ached and whose aged fatigue was actually oppressive. And for an instant, I was decades older and looking into the room, borrowing the eyes of my younger self, looking at myself on the futon with my toddler daughter. For an instant I admired my youth and treasured the way she needed me for everything.
What was happening? I could feel myself reaching through the decades, grasping this moment. Savoring it. A supernova of possibilities exploded through my brain lasting only a second. How could I be myself in the present and yet feel myself in the future all at once? Was this moment a wish being granted? Maybe I was an old woman, eighty or ninety perhaps, or maybe I had just blown out the candle for my 100th birthday party, making the silent wish to relive a moment of young motherhood once more, to feel the soft touch of baby skin clinging to my arm for comfort. Maybe this moment was one of the most peaceful in my life and would stand in my memory for years to come. Maybe it was my dying memory, and the universe was allowing me one last chance to peek through my younger eyes before passing into the ether.
The breeze kicked at the curtains again, and the odd sensation was gone. I looked over at my daughter. The pain seemed gone from her face, and her chest rose and fell evenly now. The fatigue was gone from me, but so too was the insane adrenaline. I no longer wanted to run a mile. I no longer wanted to escape to my bed.
I held my daughter tight and fell into a gentle sleep as the trees whispered their secrets in the twilight air.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Dorothy Colinco. http://www.dorothycolinco.com
CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/