This piece was written for the 6 February Flash!Friday competition. It received an honourable mention and was called “horrendously sad” by Tamara Shoemaker.
The photo and “a fleeting moment” was the prompt.
There should have been rain. A proper Highveld storm with black clouds, thunder, and the tick-tick of hail on roofs before the ice sting your skin as it falls and bounces on the black tar. The tears of the heavens should have beaten my angry pain on houses and cars and umbrellas.
Perhaps it should have been autumn. Yellow and red leaves. The smell of fresh compost in the back garden. The rough bark of the apricot tree beneath my hands and knees as we scaled the branches.
Perhaps it should have been spring. Cicadas and bees. Flowers and the smell of cut grass. Climbing into the neighbour’s garden to pick mulberry leaves for our pet silkworms in their empty cereal boxes. Giggling as we tore leaves from the low branches. Deep purple mulberry stains on fingers, mouths, and bare feet. You always wore blue ribbons in your hair.
But there was no rain. No leaves. No cicadas.
Only burning summer sun. The undertaker’s driveway. A face at the security gate.
I handed the woman the bundle. The wrinkled, shaking hand didn’t feel like mine. A moment ago we’d been kids traipsing through gardens. Together.
“Blue ribbons,” I said. “For her hair.”
For a moment I smelled mulberries.