“Ringer” was first printed in Bath Flash Fiction’s first anthology, To Carry Her Home, in March 2017. The story is currently print-only. Many thanks to the team at BFF, and to Robert Vaughan, who judged this story to the short list in a flash competition. I am so honored and grateful for that.
As with much of my best work, this began as an exercise with my weekly writing workshop of flash writers. The prompt?
Sarah Shun-Bynum provides a prompt for this topic based on setting in Naming The World, ed by Bret Anthony Johnston (p 268):
Describe a place you love by detailing its destruction. Or describe…a place your character loves. Nature could be the destructive force—fire, flood or the ravages of weather—but feel free to interpret the idea of destruction broadly. Consider the erosion of neglect and poverty, or the damage that comes with discovery, or the harm that’s done in the name of improvement.
An early draft of the story was basically Creative Non-Fiction. My shop-mates reacted favorably: “This moves along through a whole life of sorrow and strides of goodness,” “I really love the use of repetition, almost poetic here, with the ‘they said’ and the wallet keeps showing up as well. The horseshoe. Beautiful,” and “I loved the neutral sister crying from one eye, the alcoholic mother, the brother gone to Kankakee, and the last paragraph, the grief, the wood rotting away.”
So I knew it was a story worth compressing. It was originally workshopped at 540 words, and the version published in To Carry Her Home is 295 words.
The prompt word was powerful: destruction. The prompt came up the very same week that the horseshoe pits at my mother’s house, long dormant since my father’s death over 25 years ago, were finally dug up and reseeded. They were real horseshoe pits, measured to regulation and the source of many a Sunday afternoon’s entertainment. My dad was horseshoe champ at his college, a college which one of my sons currently attends.
I was never so happy as when my son texted me, excited to share that he was finally taking a course in soils. Oh, if only my dad lived to share that joy!
Here’s what I mean to say with this story: if only we knew, at the time we were living it, how deeply important we were to one somebody else. When people die, there is this opportunity to marvel. To marvel at how fragile they were and we are, and how it’s no surprise that goodwill can sustain such bruisings: these Aesop fables persist, these metamorphoses ever-looping. There are people near to all of us who are suffering, and they refuse to let on, and they refuse to let on because they love us. It’s a Christ-like suffering, one that puts its faith in love, and in mankind.
This anthology is well-worth purchasing.
The photo in the header is a photo I took. It’s a close-up of a lotus-flower bloom. — AW