Until a tiny thing trips you up (Flash Fiction)


London Eye pm 1

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a mother in possession of a young child must be in want of a crystal ball.

She wasn’t afraid of anything: Smoldering fire; hail storms of passion; blood-sucking leeches, reeking of desire.  Bring it on.  Her hobnailed boots were made for stomping, and she could dance, by god.  She could move.  She could run long and fast and still have breath enough to laugh in the face of all that friction.  Drive a truck with her old life across country toward her future?  Piece of cake.

She, and the man she knew would never try to change her, made a new life in a place where people lived on fried dough and clams.  A baby arrived one winter morning weighing less than the four-layer fudge cake she was planning for her birthday later; a clear-eyed boy careening headlong into the world so furiously that he took her breath away.

But time is a forward moving thing that cares for no one.  It will not pause for one second, no matter how nicely you ask.  She learned this on a ferris wheel as her child laughed between her husband and herself. The wheel lurched forward and backward, filling and emptying, still moving ever upward, and then slowly around and down, where she asked to be let out.  She walked away and watched as the wheel rolled upwards carrying her heart.

She pictured the wheel collapsing, sending the cars flying through the air, saw her husband and her child (who still believed she could make monsters disappear) hurtling downward while she had chosen to save herself.  She could do nothing to stop the inevitable.  Hobnail boots were useless.

She knew that all she had was now.



Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Flash Fiction.  296 painstakingly sculpted words.  The limit was 300.  As is usually the case, I chose the photograph first and let it tell me the story.  Apologies to Jane Austin for the bastardized version of her opening sentence in Pride and Prejudice.

34 thoughts on “Until a tiny thing trips you up (Flash Fiction)

  1. Whew! A whirlwind of a short story that took my breath away.

      Purpose:  There is nothing more conducive to long-term happiness than knowing that your actions are making the world a better place.


  2. Wow! Yes, I see what you mean about writing about the same theme for the flash fiction challenge. This is powerful, held me from word one to word 296. I look forward to reading more! Sherri.


  3. My mother used to say to me, “my crystal ball is broken. You’re gonna have to talk to me instead.”

    I love Ferris wheels. I love how you can see for miles and miles. Garrison Keillor wrote, “you can see death up here.”

    Which just gave me an idea… I’m going to borrow your picture. 😉 you’ll see why in a few.

    Beautiful! Xo


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  7. Mary, I read this when it was posted and told myself (rationally) I’d come back in the morning… well… it’s the small things that always trip you up. Honestly, it is. Love the photo, that character of yours seems very determined and she’s young, by the sound of it. We were all invincible once, now we know better. Nice piece.


  8. Wow! I admire your talent, both with camera and with word! Thank you! Now I have to go read (and look at) more of your work.


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  10. Wild words, this is art. From the photograph to the story you created out of it, simply brilliant. I think going short is the hardest thing in the world- you should see me trying to come up with something clever to say in a Hallmark card, I’m pathetic. Well, anyways, art is what I thought when I set to read this and art is what I thought when I was done reading it.


    • I should get better at replying to comments. The truth is, you (and others) are so kind in your remarks I am usually too gobsmacked, and at a loss as how to reply. Thank you hardly seems like enough. Still. Thank you. Truly.


  11. So beautiful! Everything. I truly admire your talent for telling a lifetime’s worth of story in so few words. I entered my first flash fiction challenge last week and was complaining about 750 words…no way I could have done it 296. I’m learning much from you! xo


  12. So that I don’t feel like a stalker, I had to let you know that I’m back here to read this piece…again. It’ll be one of my favorites for a very long time. And, since I don’t have a crystal ball for my kiddos either, I’m borrowing your message in this story for my own mama brain.
    Thank you, Mary xo


    • Oh my gosh, feel free to stalk me any time! (Well, my blog, anyway.) Seriously, you are too kind. Since you are stalking, though, I’ll tell you a secret about this piece — every single word is true (except for the hob nail boots — I just loved the sound of it).


      • A true story….sigh…I knew this felt very real in my own heart. Even the hob nail boots rung true. Thank you for the insight and a new writing practice I’m going to institute…writing in the moment and capturing memories via pen when the camera isn’t handy. Xo


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