On the first Friday of every month, the Australian Writers Centre reveals a new set of story prompts. Writers have 55 hours to submit their best 500-word (or fewer) story.
Your story must include, word for word, ALL of the following SIX descriptions (describing whatever you want):
This entry was longlisted, in the top 2% of almost 1400 entries.
Cold and greasy sausage rolls are piled high on the shiny, silver tray. It seems symbolic somehow, but my grief-addled brain struggles to connect the dots. There’s a weird assortment of Jimmy’s favourite foods – nachos, cheese toasties, sliders. Most of the food remains untouched. No-one is hungry in this oppressive heat. The caterers really should go on a Maccas run to pick up sundaes for everyone. It would be the ultimate homage to Jimmy.
In my mind’s eye, I see a young Jimmy: wild hair, toothless grin with a hint of vegemite extending the smile, ink-stained fingers struggling with long, muddy shoelaces. And that laugh. A laugh that could launch a thousand – no, that’s not right. I can’t think clearly about anything. Words have always helped me make sense of life, but now nothing makes sense.
You grow up.
You grow old.
That’s what’s meant to happen. That’s life. And death.
You’re not meant to outlive your child. Everything is wrong. This is meant to be my funeral. Parents are meant to die first.
I can’t breathe. The sweet and pungent fragrance of too many well-intended bouquets is suffocating. I need air.
Outside, it’s quieter, but so, so hot. I find a shady spot on the garden bench and look at the dry grass. A scratched and weather-worn trowel looks like it is trying to bury its way to cooler soil.
Soil. Oh no. An image from earlier in the day flashes before me. I shake my head, trying to free my brain from the clutches of the memory.
“Looks like we both had the same idea.”
I turn around. It’s Asha. Beautiful, petite, olive Asha. Physically, the polar opposite of Jimmy, but emotionally, his soulmate. We share a sad smile, united in our love and grief.
“Mumumumum.” Peeking behind Asha’s legs is Isla. A mop of brown curls, and twinkly brown eyes with long eyelashes. She crawls, breaking land speed records across the courtyard, but overshoots the pavers, and topples into the garden.
There’s silence, a deep breath, and then a shrill, piercing scream.
“I’ll get her,” I say to Asha, and I lift my weary body from the garden bench.
“Gangan.” Isla sees me and lifts her arms. I scoop her up and brush the tears from her cheeks.
“You’re OK,” I say, as much to myself as to her.
Without warning, rain starts pelting down. I start to rush inside, but I catch a glimpse of Isla’s face. She is arching her back so her face feels the rain. She starts to giggle, and then laugh. That laugh. Jimmy’s laugh. Uninhibited joy. I put my head back too, tears mingling with the rain. Cooling, soothing, renewing rain.
Asha walks over to us, and the three of us face the sky, our clothes dripping wet. That laugh. I feel a seed of joy has been planted and is being thoroughly watered. We can bloom again.
Grateful to the Australian Writers Centre for sparking creativity each month with the Furious Fiction competition.