AW Flash Fiction– “Flood” — 1/24/10

Flash Fiction = 90 minutes from reveal of the theme word (“flood”) until the story must be posted at AW.   This one rang in at 52 minutes but I admit that I don’t spend a lot of time editing so bear with the occasional punctuation and grammar gaffes.  I’ve cleaned it up from the AW version to make the story clearer.  From the comments I got, I could tell I was too cryptic in the original version.

This one’s a little sad.  Sorry.  😦


“Hey Simon, it’s me, Elena. I thought I’d come talk to you about something.”

I looked up. The New Mexican sun beat down on me as I stood at the edge of the Rio Grande in the bosque. Around me, cottonwoods shed fluffy wisps of foliage that floated to the ground like summer snow. I wiped my brow with the hem of my shirt, adding more dingy streaks to the ones I’d created walking to this spot.

“I have some news. I’m getting married. I know I swore I’d never marry anyone but you so please don’t be angry with me. It’s just that…well, you know it’s been impossible between us for some time now and I feel like maybe I need to move on.”

A cloud passed over the sun offering a momentary respite from its rays. I looked at the slow trickle of water that oozed its way through inches of deep mud that was the Rio Grande this time of year. It wasn’t always like this. When the spring rains fell, the river collected all the water that rushed from the mountains and down the mesa.

“Hey, you remember the story about the adobe whales?” I smiled then chuckled. “We hired some guy from Boston, name’s James. James, I said, you need to go down to the Rio Grande and join the adobe whale watch. It’s an annual tradition. Of course he looked at me like I was crazy so I explained to him the concept of these tiny, tiny fish that migrate down the Rio Grande each summer, headed for the Gulf. I told him that as the water becomes scarcer and scarcer, the fish accumulate layer upon layer of mud that slowly bakes on them like adobe until they are ten times their normal size by the time they reach the Gulf…if they reach it.”

“Anyway, James looked at me with this shocked looked on his face and told me he’d never heard of such a thing. Imagine that, never heard of adobe whales. But he bought it, hook, line and sinker. We even got him to drive out here to check it out. He said that when he asked where the adobe whale watch was, some woman told him he’d been had. After she bust a gut, according to James.” I couldn’t help but giggle.

The shade of a cottonwood beckoned me to seek refuge under its limbs. I kicked off my shoes and dug my toes into the cool dirt there.

“We lost another one in April. She was just a baby, maybe eight years old at most. She shouldn’t have been playing in the arroyo, she had no business being in there. People have no idea how fast the rainwater can flood the arroyo when it comes sweeping down from the Sandias. None whatsoever. But we didn’t either, did we?  Not until it was too late.”

I threw a rock into the Rio Grande. It made a loud “plop”. I threw another and another then threw in a cottonwood twig. The twig floated on a rivulet and I watched it as long as I could until it disappeared into the distance.

“Tom’s a good man. I know you’d have liked him, Simon.”

I stood and brushed the dirt off the seat of my shorts and walked to the water’s edge. A tiny fish lay on the ground at my feet, its gills moving but finding no water to sustain it. A light layer of mud coated its dorsal and tail fins. It didn’t belong on the shore; it would die if it didn’t return to the water soon. I picked it up and threw it into the muddy water of the Rio Grande and watched it revive then slowly swim downstream.

“Goodbye, Simon. I miss you,” I said, then wiped my eyes with my shirt, this time leaving a streak of mascara. I placed my lone lily on the bank, next to the plastic flower arrangement and cross his family had placed there long ago, then walked out of the bosque.