Sumbitted for Friday Flash Fiction
Grab the book closest to you right now. Open to pg. 56. Choose the 5th sentence. Prompt: RANDOM FIRST SENTENCE – Following the rules of the game listed above, find your first sentence. I chose my sentence from A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
This is dedicated to Randal Graves, whose style inspired this story.
One of the problems, ironically, was that there were too many observations, which when brought together often proved contradictory and impossible to resolve. We had spent a better part of the weekend trying to put two and two together and kept coming up with seven. We still do not understand what happened to John and Ludwig.
Mary had been in the garden sitting at the white wrought iron tables. She claims she was daydreaming or woolgathering; she couldn't settle on what. What is it called when you stare at the flowers and let your subconscious rumble around freely, rethinking past events and formulating alternative outcomes? Either way, she was seated and staring at flowers, wearing a floral dress and rosy cologne, immersed in gardenry, as it were. She said that her reverie, if that's what it was, was shattered by a loud zing. She said she blinked and looked out over the vast yard to see John and Ludwig disappear in a puff of smoke. She was sure some of the Independence Day fireworks had been set off accidentally or on purpose and blew them to smithereens.
Pierre was in the balcony above Mary, wooing Martha. Well, he didn't say he was wooing. Specifically, he was looking into her face and noticing the flecks of steel silver in her lovely blue eyes. He remembers telling her that her softness was betrayed by her inner strength and he had yet to see such a marvelous combination in any woman anywhere, even in Paris. She bent her neck and leaned toward him, finally crossing the bridge from skepticism to trust, recognizing the goodness and artistry housed in his soul, when the sky went dark. Startled, Pierre looked up to where the sun had once been, baffled by its absence. He was then blinded by a heavenly beam that shot from the darkness into the middle of the yard by the well where John said he was taking Ludwig to show him some arrowheads he had found. Pierre assumed it was heavenly intervention and felt blessed to be in the presence of an angel striking down sinners who lived in defiance of God's Law. Martha just marveled at the sound of Pierre's voice and the wisdom it communicated.
Old Man Jenkins was in the west garden closest to the well. He was on his hands and knees, clawing through the loose earth and sifting out the detritus. He was behind on his planting and was working tirelessly to catch up so that Mrs. Melody would have her impatiens in time for the flower show she put on for Founder's Day. As he readied the bed, he was planning the planting, working and reworking the layout over and over again. He was no fan of blueprints or graph paper. A garden must be organic, that is, it must be born from the heart of the gardener, he claimed. Otherwise, what was the point? How do you adjust for the unforeseen that Mother Nature inevitably puts in your path. No, he would not put anything on paper. It was a testament to his skill that Mrs. Melody didn't object to his methods.
He was rethinking the purple to pink ratio when he felt a breeze, which refreshed him at first. But then it became the absolutely frigid wind of February on the cliffs. His nose began to run and he stopped digging to reach for his handkerchief. He looked up to see John and Ludwig standing stock still, forty feet away from him. They glistened in a beam of light as Old Man Jenkins realized that the breeze was blowing down on him instead of across him, as it had for the prior seventy-some years he'd been noticing. When he looked up he was knocked down flat. When he came back to, Jack and Ludwig were nowhere to be seen and the field was burnt around where they were standing.
So there you have it. We are no farther along then when we started. Mary and Old Man Jenkins both saw smoke or something burnt but didn't notice the darkness. Pierre saw darkness and a beam of light, the Hand of God maybe; Mary heard a zing. And Martha was too besotted to notice anything other than the fireworks going off in her head, lit by Pierre. When you put everything together, we know less than we did when we start with the idea that John and Ludwig are missing.
The rest of us saw nothing, as we were embroiled in a debate about and whether women should vote or not. They shouldn't, we determined and the women stormed out in a huff.
For the moment, this case remains unsolved. We shall carry on with our leisurely summer and loll in the heat of August. Perhaps then, in the high heat of summer, we will be off on a stroll or having a picnic and some fact or other may drift through our minds and give us a thread that leads us to the truth or something like it. Until then we can only list what we know and astound ourselves by the multitude of things that we do not know.