On the last Self-Publishing Round Table, John Ward, one of my co-hosts, made a comment about flash fiction, and specifically stories that often have a character contemplating the pretty leaves. So, I responded by writing a story entitled “The Pretty Leaf”.
I wanted to have “The Camera” out by now, but it’s going slower than I thought. I know what needs to happen, how it happens, and where everything goes. The words just don’t want to come out.
So, instead of putting out “The Camera” this week, I have “The Pretty Leaf” for you, thanks to John Ward.
The story is below, in its entirety.
I encourage you to let me know what you think of it. How it strikes you. I know that it struck me, personally. I hope it does for others as well.
Follow the “more” tag to read the story.
“The Pretty Leaf”
Ben pressed his nose up against the window, twin trails of fog curling out around his face as he gazed outside. The world, bathed in a blanket of white, stretched out beyond his view, the last few leaves of fall half buried in the powder.
He scrambled to grab a jacket, and throw on some boots, before slamming open the door.
“Sorry!” he yelled up the stairs, knowing his mother would be annoyed by the slamming door.
He dove into the snow, making a ball of it, and rolling it along the drive to make it bigger.
The door opened and he paused, mid roll, to look up. A stooped old woman stood on the step.
“Who are you?” he called.
“I’m Amanda,” she said. “I’m just here to watch over you. I brought you some gloves, and a hat.”
He lifted his hands, looking at the pale skin turning a slight blue. Maybe gloves would be a good idea after all.
He ran over to her, snatched the gloves and hat, and bid her a hasty “thank you” over his shoulder as he rushed back to his ever increasing snow ball.
Amanda followed behind, slowly navigating the tricky ice and snow.
“Are you building a snowman, dear?”
Ben looked up as he rolled the ball again.
“No, a fort. I want to have a snowball fight.”
“Well that sounds fun.”
He paused, looking around. “But I don’t have anyone to have a fight with.”
“I could throw a snow ball.”
“You?” he asked. “I’d be afraid to hurt you.”
“Oh, don’t let these old hands deceive you. I use to have a mean pitchers throw.”
He rolled the ball over again. “Did my parents send you to babysit me?”
“Not exactly. More to keep an eye on things.”
“They’re always gone, always traveling. They send over sitters. I never know who’s going to be here.”
“But you have the snow.”
He looked around, a wide grin on his face. “I love the first snow fall.”
“I know, dear,” she said, a wistful smile on her face. “You always did.”
He paused again, looking at her curiously. “Do I know you?”
“Maybe we met once before, in another life.”
“Maybe,” he said, and pushed the ball a few more paces.
They continued down the road, the ball getting bigger as they went. At the end of the drive he pushed the ball to the right, and started back up the drive. He did two more loops until the ball was half his height.
At the bottom of the drive, he pushed the ball off the cement, and into the white covered grass. Stepping off the curb, he stumbled, catching himself in the snow.
“Oh, careful, dear,” Amanda called down to him.
He brushed off his hands and knees. “Don’t worry, I can take it.”
“Oh I know. You’re a strong one, I can see that. But do be careful, for my sake, please.”
He smirked up at her, but when he turned back to the snow he was moving slower, and watching his steps.
She watched him for the next hour as he patted the sides of his make shift fort, then built an arsenal of snowballs. Shifting from foot to foot, never complaining about the cold, or distracting him with chatter.
He spotted a red and yellow leaf clinging to the edge of the curb. Picking it up, he twirling it in his fingers, then glanced up at her.
“Here,” he said, handing it to Amanda. “It’s pretty, you should have it.”
She accepted it with trembling fingers, holding it up to let the sunlight filter through it.
“It’s a beautiful leaf,” she said. She smiled, a tear rolling down her cheek.
He shrugged. “Ya, I guess so. I mean, it’s just a leaf.”
“Yes, of course,” she said. “It’s just a leaf.” But she clutched it to her front, afraid to lose it.
The sunlight faded, tinting the snow in a wash of pink as it fell below the horizon. Bens fingers lost purchase as the cold ate through the gloves, and his stomach started to growl up at him, demanding attention.
“Did mom and dad leave any hot coco?” he asked.
“Oh, I think we can find something. I even have a lasagna I can heat up for you.”
“Lasagna’s my favorite.”
She smiled sadly, but said nothing, following after him as he wandered back to the house.
Above the table, Ben noticed a pressed leaf in a frame.
“You like leaves,” he said.
“My husband gave that to me on our first date. It’s been there ever since.”
“You can put mine with it now.”
“Yes,” she said, the same sad smile touching her lips. “I will. I love the leaf you gave me.”
Once they were finished with their meal, Amanda had Ben get ready for bed, and tucked him into the queen sized bed. He looked out the window where his snow fort sat on the edge of the drive. A mass of snowballs waiting for him to come out tomorrow.
“It was a good day,” he said.
She sat on the edge of the bed and brushed the wisps of hair back from his face. “Yes, dear, it really was. You looked like you were very happy.”
He looked up at her. Age and worry had taken their toll on her frail body, but she was kind and beautiful. And for a moment memories and thoughts swam to the surface, the world coming into utter clarity. And all of them revolved around Amanda, his wife of fifty years.