Flash Fiction: Whips on Fire by Ursula Wong

Albert saw dark clouds on the horizon and knew he was in for trouble. He waved his arms into the air.  “Get goin’,” he yelled. He watched the cows as they lumbered through the gate and into the pasture, many walking head to tail along a narrow path that meandered around rocks and juniper bushes, toward the woods, as if they were drawn to the shelter of the trees. Albert closed the gate and studied the dark bubbles popping in the sky, clattering with thunder and crackling with lightning. He turned as the clouds came close and the wind grew bold. The wind picked up sticks, dead leaves, and small stones, tossing them into the air and coming closer to Albert as he hurried home.

Albert dodged and ducked as a pail, a rake, and a hose stretched out like a snake, flew at him. Then a kitty-cat came by, flying on the wind, its legs outstretched and its claws extended, its pointy teeth showing through its open mouth. Albert blindly ran, suddenly afraid, dumbfounded, horror-struck by the roaring wind, the junk in the air, and the kitty-cat that could fly. He got to the barn just as the wind shattered the old chicken coop. The wind paused for an instant, deciding which way to turn, which building to eat, which life to engulf, blowing and wondering, sputtering, swallowing chickens then spitting them out.

Safe inside, Albert tried to catch his breath. He called out, “Sam, here boy.” Albert listened for a bark and the scratch of paws on the wooden floor but all he heard was the rattling of boards and the roar of the wind. Albert stuck his head out the barn door and felt his face contort in the breeze, like clay molded by a child’s fingers. He looked across the road, past the yard, to the farmhouse gray from lack of paint. There on the front porch, was Sam, his face pointed toward the barn.

“Stay!” yelled Albert. But Sam didn’t listen. He limped down the steps on arthritic legs, and then stopped as if frozen. He crouched low, under the turmoil in the sky, and inched forward.

The wind must have been amused for it made the buildings shiver and tossed shingles, siding, a pitchfork, and a wheelbarrow into the air. Then the rain came, and the wind blew at the rain, playing with it, making it rain from the ground up.

“Come on, boy,” said Albert. Sam wasn’t moving any more except for his fur, which danced wildly in the wind.

Albert’s hand touched the knee where Sam had rested his chin every day since Pru had died of a cancer that had fed on her like maggots. She told Albert to take care of her dog.  Then Albert climbed into their bed and clung to her as if his warmth and energy could cure her. Sam followed Albert outside after Pru’s body went cold. They sat under the crescent of the moon, on steps painted red because Pru had wanted it that way, Sam resting his chin on Albert’s knee.

“Stupid fool,” muttered Albert as he stepped into the storm, ignoring the good sense that told him to stay inside, to save himself, that Sam was just a dog. In an instant, he was soaked through. He squinted into the wind as he crawled with his head down, barely able to see, barely able to breathe. He moved toward Sam in the rain and the wind, under a barrel, a gate, and a small tree flying overhead. He reached out his hand to Sam’s pelt, and felt a wave of relief. He covered Sam’s body with his own and they lay together as the wind swept under them, buoying them upward over the swirling dirt, Albert’s arms around Sam, the rain falling up from the ground, as they floated into the dark sky ablaze with lightning that looked like whips on fire.

***

Ursula Wong is a retired Computer Engineer who lives in Massachusetts with her husband and daughter.  She has a passionate interest in stories and in the craft of story telling.

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R Thomas Brown

R. Thomas Brown is the Flash Fiction Editor at Spinetingler and writes the Short Thoughts on Short Fiction series. His writing appears around the web and links can be found at his website. "Hill Country" will be coming out in 2012 from Snubnose Press. When not writing or reading, he is a clueless husband and father of three inspiring and exhausting children.

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3 comments

  1. A very vivid and moving story. Our family dog named Sam passed away this last year and this made me think of him throughout. Very well written.

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