Last Year’s Flash Fiction – Storm

A greyscale digital illustration of a coffee mug with a cactus wearing sunglasses on it, next to an open box labeled "Tio Javi's Tisanes: Tempest in a Teacup."

Storytelling Collective does a yearly challenge for flash fic, with prompts and a nice community format. After completing 2022’s run, I picked my ten favourites and collected them in a nice little volume you can pick up at Itch.io. As I’m (finally) editing the collection of my Flash Fiction February faves for 2023 I figured that I should share one or two from last year’s bunch.

Storm

“I’m home!” Luz kicked off her shoes, arms akimbo to balance, a gallon of milk in a string bag in one hand and a dangerously worn cloth carrier bag in the other. Stepping up out of the entry she shuffled into her house slippers and as she walked to the kitchen. Her wife watched her with a raised eyebrow from the pass-through.

“You could have set those down.”

Luz kissed them on the temple as she thumped the bags onto the counter. “And you could have come taken them.”

“Fair.” Birch tilted their head in acknowledgement and returned to chopping shallots.

Luz put away the milk, then pulled each item out of the cloth bag with the flourish of a magician. “They had those weird cookies you like.” Birch grunted approval. “Ground goat.” Pointing with their chin at the sink, Birch stopped Luz from adding the meat to the icebox. “You’re right, I do want that now. Hmm. What else.” Luz dug into the bag, her hands emerging with fistfuls of carrots and scapes. “Soup tomorrow!” More rummaging, then, “a bag of tiny potatoes.” She stood on her tiptoes to put them away in the hanging baskets above the counter.

Feeling her eyes on their back, Birch sighed, smiling. “And it looks as though there is one more in the bag.”

“Why yes.” Luz leaned in a way that she felt was rakish, elbow on the counter. She fished in the collapsed bag with one hand and pulled out a tiny cardboard box covered in a pretty design and closed with a wax seal. “This week’s indulgence.”

Birch scraped the shallots from the cutting board into the hot pan, then took one of the carrots.

“Thief!”

“You do not need that many carrots for soup.” They gave it a thorough brush under water, then brought it back to the cutting board. They could still feel Luz looking at them as they chopped. “So, what is it?”

“Tea!”

“Tea?” The carrots joined the shallots in the pan, in a pool of fat.

Luz huffed and put away the bags. “Very exciting tea. From Javier’s shop.”

“Luz, did you buy drugs?” Birch turned to look at their wife. “Or, whatever it is he calls them.”

“Enhancements. And no this is not one of those. He does other things too.”

“Like the candles that put on a shadow play, but smelled like pepper so much we couldn’t stop sneezing.” Luz opened her mouth but Birch continued. “Or the bath bomb for sleep that dyed you green.”

“It did help with my insomnia.”

“So, you bought a food from him.”

Luz stuck her chin out. “A drink, technically.”

“What does it do?”

“It’s a surprise.” And Luz remained close-mouthed on the subject through the rest of dinner preparation, managing to steer the conversation well enough that Birch had nearly forgotten the tea by the time their bowls were empty.

As they were putting away the leftovers, Birch heard Luz turn the kettle on. They were surprised to see the tea wasn’t in bags, nor was it loose leaf. Little almond-shaped bricks sat at the bottom of their mugs. There was a tiny depression in the centre of each.

“They’re supposed to look like boats.” Luz sounded disappointed.

“They look a little like boats.” Birch squinted down at them. “Not good boats, but boat-like.”

The boats didn’t hold their shape well under boiling water and were quickly obscured by a swirl of deep indigo leaching out. Luz grabbed Birch’s arm in excitement.

“Okay!!” She was peering into her mug.

Eyebrows raised, Birch joined her, looking into their own.

The indigo was joined by a teal, then an unsettling off-white. The colours kept swirling, separate from each other but gaining momentum. Birch realized that Luz had only filled the mugs halfway, a precaution that made sense as the colours began to move fast enough to spin the water, creating a tiny whirlpool.

“It’s very pretty.” Birch was being honest, although they were also wondering about how safe it was to drink colours that saturated.

Luz was pouting. “It’s not impressive though.” The movement was already dying out, the colours finally blending to a sickly berry-purple.

“It actually kind of is.”

“But it wasn’t a tempest.” Luz held up the box, where a very fanciful illustration of a waterspout spun up out of a teacup. “I mean I know it isn’t going to match the picture but—”

“But you’d hoped it would.” Birch kissed their pouting wife, and picked up their mug, feeling brave. They took a cautious sip to test the temperature, then a larger drink.

“Oh, this is really delicious.”

Luz grabbed up her cup. “What does it taste like?”

“The sea?” Birch licked their lips, trying to pin it down. “Salt and ozone and—deepness?”

Luz was staring at them, a grin twitching at her lips.

“What?”

Luz grabbed a spoon and held it up to Birch. “He still hasn’t figured out colours.”

Birch stuck out their tongue and looked in the poor mirror of the spoon’s back. Their tongue was, vividly and inexplicably, orange.


Also published on Medium.