Flash Fiction: The House with the Blue Roof

The man of the moon lived at the end of a quiet street in a small cottage that had a curious thatched roof the colour of the sky on a clear spring day. A low fence overgrown with brambles enclosed a small front garden and larger backyard. Although the front garden of the cottage was immaculate, the back garden held a chicken coop with five hens, a large tabby cat (who enjoyed the taste of scrambled eggs more than a mouth full of feathers), a tangle of birch trees, shrubs, and a jumble of buckets and containers. These seemed to have little use, but the man of the moon refused to part with them, even though the neighbours complained and gave him stern, sidelong stares.

In the centre of the garden stood an oak tree that was much older than the cottage, the neighbourhood and even the whole of the long-lived town. It’s boughs stretched upward and outward to touch the birch leaves and form a shaded garden of dappled sunlight. The man of the moon looked after the oak tree day after day, even talking and singing to it during the bleak midwinter when everything seem to lose its colour. Then, on the nights when the moon had waxed fully and the silver light of the moonbeams struck the oak and birch trees, the man of the moon would be outside and clattering about with his containers and buckets well past midnight to the chagrin of his neighbours. Placing the containers just so to fill them with the dripping dew of the moonbeams could take the whole afternoon. Balanced on his rickety, silver-splashed ladder, the man of the moon would hang pails on some of the middle branches of the oak tree, adding more silver-splashed pails, buckets, and even glass jars beneath the trees in the garden where the dew would drip from the heavy summer leaves. By the time the sun finally set, the whole garden would be set aglow as the moonbeams gathered among the trees and the moonlight-filled, silver dew drip from the leaves into the waiting containers. As one container filled, he ran to empty it into the large water tanks that he kept in the corner of the garden, rushing back again, splashing through the silver dew to replace the receptacle before emptying the next filled container into one of the water tanks. So it would go on the whole night. Rushing from one jar to the next, from one bucket to a dangling pail that he deftly hooked and unhooked from the height of the old groaning ladder.

By morning his clothes and boots were as silver-splashed as the garden, but he would quickly close the water tanks before the sun rose and go scrub his face and hands while the jumble of containers settled noisily in their heap next to the water tanks.

By the time the first people up the street left their homes for the day, the garden with its oak and birch trees would look like any other; the moonlight dew faded to nothing but water that dripped-dripped onto the leaf-strewn ground below. The boots by the back door were no longer silver-splashed, but muddy, and even the tabby would have washed the last remnants of silver from its coat. She, of course, would be sitting by the front gate with such a look of malice and disdain for the people of the street that none would dare to come and bother her owner while he was trying to eat breakfast without falling asleep at the table.

It would be with new moon that the man of the moon’s next task would begin. This night, after all, was the best night to see where he painted the stars that would swirl, shine, and shimmer for the next month. The rig that he built to pump the moonlight dew from the water tanks to the roof was almost silent and he turned it on after everyone had headed inside for the day and he was left alone outside. Standing on the blue thatch, he took a large paintbrush from a bucket at his feet and ran his hand over the bristles to make sure that they weren’t clumped together. He dipped the brush into the container of silver at his feet and, with broad strokes of his arm, painted the light swirls of the Milky Way, stippling the stars of the sky and paint the constellations in place with a fine brush. By midnight the swirling night sky was alive with silver light again and he looked at his work with a smile. He headed back inside after taking down the light dew’s rig and climbed into bed dreaming of dancing silver swirls.

The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, Wikimedia Commons

This is the first story that I’ve written that will make up part of the collection titled Where the Stars Used to Sing.

Cover for Where the Stars Used to Sing (2020)
Go Ahead and Publish

On Having the Guts to Publish

Last week I read a very interesting blog post by Ronel Janse van Vuuren (who blogs over at Ronel the Mythmaker) about rejection, the choice to self-publish, and the endurance you need when it comes to getting your work published.

Rejection and Success

I do not think that there is any writer on earth who will tell you that it is easy to get your work rejected or that it is easy to forget about bad reviews of or comments about your work. Of course there are those rejections that may give you clarity on ways to better your writing (which almost makes the rejection worthwhile), but for the most part you simply get a “no” when your stories are rejected. Perhaps that is also why it is so difficult to talk about rejections – you start to doubt that you can even write one sentence, nevermind write a whole story or a whole book.

I also do not always say on the blog when I submit stories for publishing – one reason also being that you sometimes wait a month or more to hear whether it has been accepted or not and I think I may bore my readers – but in not telling anyone when I submit it takes some of the pressure away. It is only in the last few months that I have felt comfortable enough to say what it is I’m working on at any specific moment. And, while I am sure I can give a lot of reasons, the main reason is fear. Fear of being seen as a failure or being seen as a fake. “After all,” fear says, “you can’t possibly think that you will ever amount to being a real writer, do you?”

And yet, here I am, plugging away at the keyboard every day, jotting down ideas which come into my head, and still sending out the odd short story for publication. But fear keeps on gnawing, it never really seems to go away – even for those who are already successful.

Don’t Listen To Fear

Not listening to that fear is perhaps the most difficult part of putting your writing out there. It’s the lies fear tells us that keep so many people not just from writing, but also from creating other art or showing their art to the world.

But, still, when you go to look on Goodreads, you will inevitably find that your favourite author has received various one and two star reviews, while you can’t understand for a moment why anyone would think that their literature isn’t the best the world has ever seen or ever will see.

Feedback

When you get negative feedback it is often difficult to remember that the artwork you’ve created or the story which you have written just isn’t to someone’s taste and not that it is the worst thing that anyone has ever created in the history of man. Constructive feedback, of course, is a whole other thing altogether. You can work with constructive feedback! (The problem is getting constructive feedback and not just a “I hate this” kind of feedback.)

Still, when you know the kind of hateful feedback you may get when people read your work and don’t like it, makes you think twice about posting it on the internet, self-publishing it, or even publishing it through traditional means. So you may ask how do I then publish a blog or ebook and put myself out there?

The Power of Others

Well, the short answer is “other people”. When I see friends and people I look up to share their work with the world, it makes me want to share mine as well and helps to give me the guts to publish when I see how they are handling and enjoying it. I also want to share my stories and make a difference with them. And to do that you need to throw caution to the wind (up to a point) and just go for it. You never know how your work will perhaps inspire others to also share their work.

And, even if you do fail, try and learn something from it so can do better next time.

Hersenskim is meant not only as a place where I can pen my thoughts and post my stories, but I also want it to be the place where I show my journey as a writer. And, to that end and inspired by Ronel, I will do more to make you, my dear readers (and you are very dear to me), join me on this journey with its many ups and downs, the rejections and the successes!

writing, typewriter, notebooks