Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Flash Fiction Attempt #3: The Old Man

Photo Credit: Morguefile
Today's post is a response to the GBE2 prompt: Picture Prompt!

"I need to talk," said Lissandre, settling into a seat.

The old man shifted on his cafe chair, set down his newspaper, and looked at her, his merry eyes driving beams into her heart. He took a sip of his coffee.

She coughed.

"I need to know what to do," she began.

She heard stammering in her voice; the echoing back of a simpering female courting the wisdom of a patriarch. Momentarily, she was repelled by the whole scene. And yet...

"No one can ever tell you what to do," replied the old man, and his eyes twinkled.

He took another sip of coffee and, for a moment, beads of coffee pearled upon his mustache and his beard before he wiped them off.

"Here I am," Lissandre pronounced. She extended her arms wide to include the world beyond the tables outside Starbucks. "I feel stuck. In my marriage. Do I stay with Leo? Do I leave?"

She looked at the old man. He was watching her. His eyes twinkled merry; not unsympathetic, but still somehow amused.

"Leaving," she continued, "seems exhausting. Dividing up the house, the debt, the kids." On that last word, she stopped with a faint shudder. "But is it wrong to stay simply because it is too hard to leave?"

Behind the old man, a small phantom of wind grabbed a pile of fall leaves and lifted them up, lofting them skyward, like one-dimensional colored birds. The autumn played on the awnings of shops, made of them an instrument, grabbed flags and lashed the sky with them. A single red leaf landed on Lissandre's hand.

"There is no more joy to be found on the pavement than on a tree," the old man told Lissandre. "The trick," he continued, "is to remain whole."

With his booted foot, he gestured an inch to a leaf like a skeleton sewn of lace, a doily of a leaf, its architecture revealed. He crushed it into dust under the weight of a heavy heel.

Lissandre rose from the table, her heart alive in her chest. She was alert, full of adrenaline and, at the same time, calm. Her limbs knew what to do.

"Thank you," she told the old man. "Thank you so much."

He nodded, took a sip of coffee and lifted the newspaper again from the table. He began to read.

As Lisandre walked away from the table, Leo exited Starbucks, his long coat whipping behind him and two hot drinks clutched in his hands.

"That line must have been half a mile," he lamented. "But here is your skinny vanilla macchiato."
He handed her the drink. "I thought I saw you talking, but I couldn't see who you were talking to."
He looked around.

"I was talking to that old man," Lissandre told him. "The one who sits outside Starbucks every day. He's such a nice man. I feel I've known him all my life."

Leo looked around.

"Well, there's nobody there now, Lissa."

And nobody was. So she she simply gave Leo the red leaf.


  1. Some kind of magical man, huh? Love the odd twist at the end.


    1. Thanks. I honestly had no idea how it would end until I got there.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks. It's bizarrely supernatural for me. I rather enjoyed writing it.

  3. Very nice. Your details always get me. I can see the coffee on his beard and the leaves floating in the wind.

    1. Thanks, Jewels. It's funny because I'm the kind of person, in life, who forgets what color everyone's eyes are. I am NOT a visual person. But I love putting visual details in my writing.

  4. I too was captivated by the details .. well done again Tara!

    P.S. Papa is Preacher would like to cordially invite you to our very first Link Up party beginning tomorrow (Thursday) at 9:30 a.m. going 'till Tuesday. Please see this post for more info: http://papaisapreacher.blogspot.ca/2012/10/tidbit-thursday.html
    We'd really be honored to see you there!

    1. Thanks, Larissa, and thanks for the link-up invite, too. It's a good way to light a fire under my bum.

  5. Interesting twist. Well done!

    1. Thanks, KAT. One thing I really find I enjoy about short fiction is that I don't know what will happen myself, and often don't really understand what it all means. This was exactly like that for me.

  6. So I'm really thick...she is staying? I'll go read again. Maybe I'm just tired. The red leaf...fog brain? Yeah, that's it.

    I love your writing. always.
    I read again...he was NOT there and she stayed. No more joy to be on the pavement than on the tree. got it! :-)

    1. You know, I felt like I was watching it myself and I think it's really a question. The implication is that the old man wasn't there and that she will stay, but it might really be something else. He could have walked away. If he wasn't there, who was he? Why was she talking to him like that? And the leaf, I think, means wholeness. I suppose she could have given it to him and walked away. I don't think so, but it's possible. It felt like a mystery to me. Maybe that's lousy writing, but it was fun to do. :)

  7. Loved the story. Loved it! I've been that girl. I stayed and took a stand. I didn't think I could do it, but did it anyway and it worked. Life is perhaps not so much about WHERE you choose to live, as about HOW you choose to live it.

    1. Thanks, Cara. I think that is utterly and completely true.

  8. Great story...makes me wonder if the old man was real or a ghost.


  9. Well done! I didn't anticipate the conclusion and I love the imagery.


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Faith in Ambiguity by Tara Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License