Saturday I attended a meeting of the Heartland Authors Guild, which goes by the wonderful acronym HAG. We did a flash fiction workshop including an exercise based on sensory prompts. Prompts were given to us by chance – drawn from a deck of cards. Mine read as follows: the sound of a garden hose
What a great summertime prompt! The first thought that came to mind was how refreshing the spray of a garden hose can be on a hot summer day.
Then by free association, I remembered a potting disaster I had earlier in the week, when I took all my house plants out back because they needed to be transferred to bigger pots. It took a couple hours to finish, and afterwards I decided to leave the plants out to get some fresh air and sunshine.
At the end of the day, I went to check on them. Everyone looked bright, happy and green – except for one succulent that had been scorched and wilted by the Missouri sun. Horrified, I took her inside immediately and have been nursing her back to health ever since. She’ll survive, but the burn scars are permanent, so she’ll have to grow a new set of leaves and shed the old before she looks the same as before.
I thought there might be a story seed (pun intended) in the fate of my poor, scorched plant. But potted plants rarely make for exciting protagonists, so I decided to reach a little further.
That’s when I remembered the Undine, a fantastical creature that for unrelated reasons has been on my mind recently. And with these three elements – the sound of a garden hose, the image of my scorched and wilted plant, and the fairy-like Undine – I found my story. Here it is:
Parched she lays amidst the tall, crisp grass, sun hot overhead, sucking the last drops of water from her diaphanous form.
And the Sea – so far away! A memory, mirage, lost even in her dreams.
How did she land here? Through wind and storm to perish on now-brittle ground. Too far from home. Un-nurtured, un-drenched, un-protected from the death-kiss of a too-bright star.
Shadow interrupts the glare and through fading awareness she hears a high pitched gasp followed by the short burst of a child’s run; a dry squeak like the dolphins she once sang with; a choked whoosh-gurgle and the hiss of a distant whale surfacing from the deep.
It rains in the desert, the shower of cool water falling over her tiny form, filling pores and replenishing spirit, soaking deep into her heart.
She breathes, a sudden intake of wet air. Not the thick salty sea that once suffused her with life, but a bland, sweet mist that promises no more than temporary awareness. Still, it is enough to live another day.
Enough to get her one step closer to home.