September 17, 2013 by Ray Yanek
A long time ago I used to participate in this thing called Flash Fiction Friday. The group would give a story prompt and then you wrote a story based on that prompt. I miss writing those stories.
A few weeks ago, I ran across a blog called My Write Side hosted by a lady named Sam. She was doing this thing called a Master’s Class wherein she gave a prompt and people wrote a story based on that prompt. This prompt came from Tara, who keeps a blog I love called Thin Spiral Notebook. The prompt was this:
Despite the fact I wrote a blog once entitle “Another Reason Why I hate Neil Gaiman” (click the title to read the blog) I am a fan and starting a story based on a line from his new book intrigued me. Of course I procrastinated but I didn’t want to miss my chance to get involved, so I put this story together. Let me know what you think!
i really wish I would have taken more time to revise…
The Diamonds Under the Ripples
It was only a duck pond at the back of the farm. A duck pond with reeds and high grass around the edges, moss and lily pads on the beige surface, and of course the occasional duck.
Sometimes though, little Mary Stepsen didn’t like the ducks. She didn’t like how they looked at her with those beady black eyes, kind of like the one duck floating in the sun light looked back at her right now.
She flicked her finger at the air in front of the duck, pretending that air was the back of Tommy Johansson’s ear when he turned meanie on the bus.
“Scoot,” she said, and the duck launched into the air, propelled by an unseen force and tumbled like an end-over-end football across the bean fields that dried in the autumn sun.
She giggled as she watched a lone feather careen back to the water.
And then she stopped giggling. Uncle Billy said she never did realize her own strength, and that she needed to be very, very careful when she used her power.
Shame began to warm her cheeks, but then it died away. The truth was that, anymore, she really couldn’t remember exactly what Uncle Billy used to say.
Even though her bad memory saved her a good shaming, she didn’t like how the picture of Uncle Billy in her mind grew fuzzier and fuzzier every day.
It made her feel like he was disappearing from her mind too, just like he had from real life, which was why she was here. She was here to fix that.
Mary shivered and tried to rub the goose bumps from her arms, but they wouldn’t go away. It took her a moment to realize that she shivered because of the breeze that rippled the water of the duck pond.
So little Mary Stepsen closed her eyes. She spread her arms to the duck pond and to the golden rays of light that lay upon the water. In her mind she could see how the sun beams peeled off the surface of the water, like a Fruit Roll-up would peel away from the wax paper it came on. She saw the light hover and shimmer in the breeze.
Then, little Mary Stepsen beckoned. She beckoned and the rays of warmth listened. They came to her, spread out across her body and sought those places that were cold and shivery.
It kind of tickled actually, and she did a jerky little dance at the sensation.
And, of course, she giggled.
She could do those kinds of things—push things away like she did with the duck and pull things to her like she did with the sun beams. Uncle Billy told her that that was the main reason her Daddy stopped drinking beer when she was a baby. When she was a little tyke, Uncle Billy told her, she liked shiny things and Daddy could never get more than a sip off his beer before the can would fly through his hand and bee-line through the house and into her crib.
As for pushing things away, Uncle Billy told her she was now too much of a lady to hear what she did with diapers when Daddy was too slow to come in and get rid of them. Let’s just say, he would tell her after tussling her hair, it had a lot to do with splats! And plops! With scrubbing and soap bubbles and bushel-baskets full of cuss words from Daddy.
Or at least Little Mary Stepsen was pretty sure that’s what Uncle Billy use to say. Just like she thought Uncle Billy used to call her power to push and pull things a gift.
But she really couldn’t remember so clearly.
If he did say that, then her power must have been a gift. Uncle Billy never, ever, told her any fibs.
Then that fact meant that Uncle Billy never said that. A gift, she thought, would have been able to push away the clump inside of Uncle Billy’s lung. She would have been able to push away that dark thing that came and took him far away while she was sleeping.
Those things she didn’t want to remember. She balled her fists at her sides, scrunched her face up, and pushed those thoughts and memories away. She focused on the new beams of sunlight spreading across the water and flashing off the diamonds that Uncle Billy once told her hid just underneath the surface.
It was those diamonds that she was there to get, that she so desperately needed.
The breeze gusted again, tossing her hair and bringing the scent of the harvest. Water lapped against the bank and the soybeans rustled.
“You ever see a diamond?” Uncle Billy asked her once as they sat down on the grass on a day that she thought might have been a lot like that day.
“I seen pictures,” she said.
Uncle Billy nodded. She thought he might have lain back on his elbows to look up at the streaks of white clouds in the blue. “You see, diamonds have all these sides to them. They’re called facets. Some people call them ‘faces’.”
She might have nodded.
“And diamonds are very shiny—“
“Like the top of Daddy’s beer cans?”
Uncle Billy probably laughed. “Yes, ma’am. Maybe even shinier.”
“Then I bet I’d like ‘em.”
“Yes,” he said. “You probably would.”
She almost remembered smiling at the thought of it.
“In fact, these diamonds are so shiny,” he continued. “The surfaces are so smooth that they can catch pictures of things, kind of like a mirror does. But a diamond can hold on to all of those pictures on all of the different facets it has.”
He pointed to the water and explained to her how all those shiny things she saw reflecting there were shiny little diamonds under the ripples.
“That’s why I like to come down here,” he said. “Even though it’s just an old duck pond at the back of the farm, it’s one of my favorite places in the world.”
“Because you like shiny things too?”
“No,” he said. “Well, actually yeah. I do kinda like shiny things.”
“I knew me and you were a lot alike!”
“I think so too, kid. I think so too.”
She didn’t want to say anything. And for a moment, he didn’t either.
“But there’s another reason also,” he said again. “I like coming down here because when I was your age, I used to come down here with my Daddy. We’d come down and lay in the grass and look up at the clouds and listen to the breeze move the water just like we’re doing now. Sometimes, I miss my Daddy something terrible, Mary.”
She thought she remembered seeing something on his face that gave her the idea she should stay quiet.
“And when I come down here now, I know all those diamonds under the water caught pictures of me and my Daddy. Those diamonds flashing under those ripples help me to remember him.”
She felt a little tear in her eye. Not back in that memory though, but right then by the duck pond at the back of the farm.
She had started coming down to that duck pond again right after Uncle Billy went away. She would stand, or sit, or lay there for hours looking at those diamonds shine under the ripples and waiting for them to show her all those pictures of her and uncle.
But they never did, and she started to hate those stupid diamonds.
Actually though, she was the one being stupid. It wasn’t until that morning that it occurred to her that maybe Uncle Billy had the same gift that she did, that maybe Uncle Billy would pull those diamonds up from under the ripples when she wasn’t looking.
She wiped the tear away from her eye. That had to be it. Uncle Billy had her gift, too. That was how he saw the memories in the diamonds.
That had to be it.
Uncle Billy wouldn’t have told her no fibs.
No way would he have done that.
Then, at that duck pond at the back of the farm, Little Mary Stepsen closed her eyes and spread her arms to the waters and to the diamonds shining underneath the ripples.
And little Mary Stepsen beckoned to those diamonds.