Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

Yeah Write #98: Lights ( #amwriting #flashfiction )


“Hah, look at this,” Uly said, holding his new phone up for Zoey to see while she fiddled with straws, fireproof sticks, and tape.

“Come on, put that away.” Zoey blew hair out of her eyes. She threw a wadded waste of tape but it stuck to her shirt until she dragged her sleeve on the damp grass. “We’re losing the light.”

“Just look. It’s a Karakuri automaton replica. I know this guy he was in one of my classes four years ago.  Genius. Think it’ll go viral?”

Zoey pushed the phone away from her face. “Just help would you? You always do this.”

“In a minute.” Uly’s thumbs flew across his screen. “I promise.”

The sun began to dip behind the horizon, and the bodies streamed in from the parking lot. Their ground space dwindled.  Uly’s face glowed blue and he chuckled to himself. A minute stretched to ten. Zoey gathered the bits and pieces of the make-shift lantern and disappeared into the crowd to the pond’s edge where she set up shop on the rock wall.

Her shaking fingers dropped the bottle of nail polish remover. The cap popped off and the noxious liquid seeped into her canvas shoes. She stomped on the offending bottle once, twice, three times,  and wrenched her ankle.

An older couple walking past with their sturdy, tri-colored piece back-tracked. The old man picked up the thin, plastic bag. His wife smiled and clucked her tongue delighted.

“Oh, we used to make ours just like this. Remember?” She tilted her head. “May I help? Your sticks aren’t stable enough for the weight.”

Zoey nodded. “I should’ve paid more attention. My granddad showed me a few times. My brother usually does most of it.”

The woman’s hands make short work of the configuration and her husband offered his approval and disapproval from over her shoulder. “Watch the holder, it’s bent. Yes.”  His voice tremored as much as his hands and Zoey thought their lantern would shatter from all the shaking.

“Don’t pester.” The woman swatted him away with a laugh. “He does that on purpose you know.”

Zoey tied her hair up and used her phone to shine a light in the growing dark. “Thanks,” she said when the woman offered up the repaired lantern and a little bottle of fuel.

“No problem. You had it nearly.”

“My brother’s away. It’s the first year we…” Zoey shrugged. “I promised I’d film it for him.”

The couple linked arms. “Good luck then. It’s a good night for it,” the husband said, letting is wife lead him into the throng. They waved and resumed their chat to each there with their heads almost touching.

Launching had already started by the time Zoey got the fire lit and the bag inflated.  She shot a video until it was a dot high above and sent it with a text:

Zoey: Miss you little brother ❤

Shawn: Sorry, I couldn’t be there 😦
Shawn: Why does it look like a giant condom?

Zoey laughed and tried to think of a witty comeback.

“Hey, you got it up? Ready to go?” Uly walked up behind her and aimed to kiss. She sidestepped and he got a mouthful of hair.

“Jerk, this was important. I’ll Uber home.” Before Uly could protest his indignation, she turned her back and let the crowd close in around her. She’d grown tired of the regret of things left undone. “You’re a shitty boyfriend. Don’t call me.”

Zoey: Broke-up with Uly.

The screen offered no assurances for two minutes.

Paige: Should I act sad or happy?

She hugged the phone to her chest. Hundreds of hot flames turned the night orange and Zoey stayed until the last one faded to a twinkle.  Uly didn’t come find her and she pushed away the pang of disappointment.

Zoey: Happy.


6 comments on “Yeah Write #98: Lights ( #amwriting #flashfiction )

  1. MichelleH
    February 15, 2018

    Zoey is such a great character. I love that she’s continuing a tradition without her brother, but still sharing it with him. There was something really great about the juxtaposition of the tradition of a homemade lantern and the new technology of filming it and texting her brother. There was a lot going on here, so the flow of the story seemed interrupted sometimes. I wonder what happens if this becomes a longer piece or focuses just on the making of the lantern and missing the brother or the terrible boyfriend and releasing the lantern.


  2. Amy Bee
    February 15, 2018

    I really like how each character so obviously and solidly had their own motivations/pov/actions etc. even if not expressly stated. It gives your short story (and counters the short amount of time you have) strength.


  3. innatejames
    February 15, 2018

    I liked the contrasts you drew between Uly and Zoey and the older couple. Her missing her brother was also well drawn out. But, who’s Paige?


  4. Laura
    February 15, 2018

    I liked Zoe a lot and empathized with her struggle to carry on a tradition, as well as the frustration of trying to build a thing. I liked that the old couple stopped to help, but I was curious about the meaning of the lantern event – clearly it’s been going on for a long time. I agree with Michelle’s comment that it felt a little torn between being about the missing brother or breaking up with Uly (who was the worrrsst and definitely deserved to be dumped). I liked the ending, though, and how the lanterns ultimately anchor her state of mind.


  5. Christine
    February 15, 2018

    Great contemporary voice, which is hard to do when you had include a word like “automaton,” in my opinion. I really enjoyed how you showcased Zoe’s connection with her brother through her own actions – showing, not telling.


  6. asha
    February 15, 2018

    Contrasting Zoey and Uly with the older couple was really clever. And you did a great job of showing us how close Zoey and Shawn are. Introducing Paige right at the end threw me a little. Was she Zoey’s best friend?


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