Tuesday, June 19, 2012

That Crooked Tree.


Chuck Wendig is easily one of my favourite writers out there today. His (hilarious) advice on writing has helped me sharpen my craft in the last few months and it's true what they say about when you learn something the fun way, you'll always remember it (obviously, my childhood math teachers did not apply this in their methods). 'The Crooked Tree' is this week's topic for the Flash Fiction Challenge - something he poses on his site every now and then, jump-starting the lazy-ass minds of writers much like myself. I love a good challenge. Here's my take on 'The Crooked Tree'. Critiques welcome. Mean-spirited insults and spam mail are not.

The Crooked Tree
by Melissa Leong

I did not know where the crooked tree was but somehow I was finding my way. The purr of my 68’ Corona seemed to roar on the windy road, so quiet and so dark. I squinted, trying to make out the shadows and shapes on the side of the road. Just tall grass bending to the wind, as if they were weeping, praying perhaps. Or maybe they were pointing. Pointing to the crooked tree that waited for me.

I turned to look in the back seat. She was quiet. Probably dreaming by now. I didn’t want to wake her. “Almost there, princess. Almost there,” I promised, giving her a quick glance. She hardly stirred. I almost smiled. From the moment I met her, I knew we had something special. She was so shy, couldn’t even look me in the eye. But after a while, she was an open book, gave me everything I wanted. Needed. Without a fuss, without a whiny complaint. Not like the other spiteful creatures before her. They were such big teases, always promising but disappointing. But this one. This one was special.

I first saw her in the bookstore in a crowded shopping mall. I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone – the last relationship ended badly, leaving quite a mess on my kitchen floor for days actually. But there she was anyhow. Her dark brown hair fell around her shoulders and her lips tinged with bubblegum pink lipstick. A green scarf cascading around her neck. She thumbed through a travel guide. Turkey or Morocco, I couldn’t remember but it made me think of her walking barefoot in a busy sook. Her tiny hips swaying, swaying, swaying… That was when she looked up and saw me across the room. She quickly looked away and I pretended to flip through a magazine. I looked up and again, my eyes met her hazel gaze. This time, she smiled. And that was all it took.

I walked her home every day for a week after that. Made sure she got in safe and waited for her bedroom light to go off at precisely 11:42pm. Sometimes 11:45. We even had coffee at the same cafe after work, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. She would have her coffee (two sugars, no milk) and I would enjoy my Darjeeling tea. Sometimes she would go to a bar but I didn’t care much for all that booze and smoke so I waited for her at home till she came home. To me. One night, she came home uncharacteristically late. It was almost 2am. And I had been waiting all night for her! I was so angry. So cold. So tired. How could she leave me waiting? I would never have left her waiting. She was surprised to see me in her bedroom. She screamed but I covered her mouth and told her not to wake the neighbours. Mrs. Marvis who lived next door looked at least 75 but she wasn’t deaf. No, no, don’t wake the neighbours, I told her. She nodded, her eyes wide and I was pleasantly surprised at what a good girl she was. No fuss. No fight. I inhaled her scent. Vanilla. And stale cigarette smoke. That angered me. I imagined how she must’ve been drinking and partying and draping herself with unpleasant male company all night, while I…I waited. She screamed again and I snapped. As did her neck. And just like that, she was quiet.

We made love that night and decided it was a lovely night for a drive.  She lay quiet in the back seat while I looked for the crooked tree. I’ve been here so many times before. With so many of them. I always forget my way and yet I always remember. Once we arrived, I didn’t want to wake her so I carried her to the tree and laid her on its protruding roots, which rose like waves above the earth, amidst the rocks and grass. She didn’t need to be buried, this one. She was so special that I decided this crooked tree would be her deserving throne. I propped her up and laid her arms on each side.  I looked up at the towering tree, its branches swaying up and down as if nodding in approval. Yes, she’s the best one so far, isn’t she? The leaves rustled in agreement.

  -727 words.