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The Birds Begin to Sing: Flash Fiction

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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The gazebo in the town park is the location for the wedding ceremony. The reception will be in the pavilion near the lake in the same park. It is a magical setting for such an occasion. Birds sing, seemingly in harmony. Swans arch their long, delicate necks, raise their wings, only slightly, to catch the soft breeze and sail in the golden sunlight. I expect at any moment to hear angels singing.

Sharon, my rose, and I had met in high school when she and her family moved to town. For me, there was no question from the first moment that we were destined to be together. I loved her with the passion of a sailor for the sea, of a mountain man for the lofty peaks. I wrote poems and read them to her over the phone while her head lay on the pillow and her eyes fluttered, fighting off sleep for just one more line. Often, I would finish reciting to find that she had succumbed. I could hear her gentle breathing and knew that she slept in the depths of my love.

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Deer roam freely in the park, nibbling at the finely cut grass. Their beauty and grace remind me of Sharon when she practiced ballet. She was music, light, and shadow in human form. Grace was her constant companion, causing others to stop and view the young goddess who had come down from the mountain to bless them with her smile and her charm.

And I was with her. Arm in arm we strolled through this very park during the summer festival. We were queen and king at the prom. When a fire destroyed three homes on Main Street, Sharon and I held a bake sale in front of the town grocery store to raise money for the families. We were together, we were one.

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Then came the war. We were passionate and patriotic. The strikes against our country could not go unanswered. I enlisted in the Marines. We faced the enemy and struck hard, time after time. We were fearless in the midst of battle, but at night, in the quiet of the desert, we were afraid. I feared I would never see my rose again.

Death surrounded me. My fellows lost arms, legs, and nearly their minds. Somehow, I survived. But I was changed, at least for a while. We all were. I treasured any communication I could get from Sharon. We reaffirmed our love over and over again. I longed for her. My heart ached in battle and in slumber. I fought with renewed vigor so that I would be a whole man when I came back to her.

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My time with the military was up. I could reenlist or go home. I told Sharon I could not leave the other men behind to face the enemy without me. I chose to stay and fight another day. On the morning I was to sign the reenlistment papers, my heart broke. Just in time, I chose the little town with two churches, one school, and a park with a gazebo. I chose Sharon, my rose, my guiding star.

I came home unannounced. I walked from my parents' house to her house on the other side of our town. It wasn’t far. I had marched across a desert in the full sun. I could stroll across this town, especially knowing that my love was on the other side.

Her house was in the middle of the block. I turned the corner and fought the urge to run. I could already feel her in my arms, our lips touching. And finally, I did run. I ran until I stood at the gate to her yard. But I did not open the gate. The fireworks in my mind burned out and settled into darkness. My smile faded. Clarity of thought for the future became a fog thick enough to stop any ship from leaving port.

Her slender arms embraced the man at her front door. They kissed. I took a step back, confused, angry. I took another step backward. The tires of a car screeched, and I dove out of its path. Sharon and her lover came running to the gate. Our eyes met. Her’s were wide with surprise and shock. Mine were narrow with jealousy and rage. We spoke not a word.

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I was already stressed by my time overseas. Sharon’s surprise put me over the edge for a while. I spent some time away, getting the help I would need to go on with my life, but many times I considered ending my life at the present. What was there to live for if not for Sharon?

The birds sing, the swans sail in the sunlight. The deer graze on finely cut grass. The guests arrive. I wait in the background until the minister takes his place at center stage. Musicians play stringed instruments, and a little girl drops white flowers along the path leading to the steps of the gazebo.

The music stops and the minister checks his watch. He nods to the musicians who begin another piece. The guests stir and whisper back and forth. The music ends again. We all wait in silence. The birds aren’t singing.

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Her voice from behind startles me. She wears blue jeans and a flowered blouse. My love, she says. Though I could not find you, I knew you would come. This ceremony is not for the other and me. I ended that the evening I saw you on the street. This solemn ceremony is for you and me.

My heart—my heart beats like I've run a hundred miles. My mind races ahead, questioning, doubting. I look back at the gazebo. It is our minister, my family and hers. In my depression, I had missed it.

My Sharon, my rose, has blossomed forth, has risen from despair, has chosen me. The darkness of my mind gives way to the sunshine, and the birds begin to sing.

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© 2018 Chris Mills

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 08, 2018:

Lawrence, Thanks for reading. I'm glad I could keep you guessing.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on July 08, 2018:

Chris

I found myself reading and trying to work out how the story was going to go, I didn't succeed, and enjoyed the fact you kept me guessing.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 12, 2018:

Shauna, thank you for describing the emotional up and down with a final up. That is what I was striving for. I'm glad it worked, at least for you.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 12, 2018:

Wow, Chris! A happy ending with a punch!

I was disappointed when our Marine decided to enlist for another tour - and relieved when he chose his rose instead. Then, I was hurt and angry when his rose showed her thorns, so to speak. But all turned out well.

This story took me on a roller coaster of emotions, Chris. Well done!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 11, 2018:

I believe without a doubt that there are and always have been those who desire war. There is no other means to the ends they strive for. There are also those who would never choose war. But in my imperfect mind, sometimes war is forced upon us. At those times we must respond aggressively and definitively. Weak responses prolong suffering. War is a last resort. My country has not followed this line of thinking since 9-11. We've invaded when we should have waited. We continued the invasion when we should have pulled out. We stayed until we could not leave because of the chaos we caused. At what point do we become the bad guys, the ones to be stopped? I don't know. I'm looking for a better way.

manatita44 from london on June 10, 2018:

I know this, you know this, Bill and a few others. But as hard as it is to stomach, some want war. You can call it a desire rather than a need.

I speak of the animal in man, whoever or wherever he is. Again, war is generally raging within, to a greater or lesser extent. This depends on the level of evolution ... the propensity of the soul.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 10, 2018:

John, it's good to see you. I started this one out intending to have a heartbreaker, but the twist at the end presented itself and I took it. The nature of their relationship really lent itself to a happy ending. Thanks for visiting.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on June 10, 2018:

What a wonderful and touching story, Chris. I was expecting a heartbreak of an ending, but you pleasantly surprised me (If it was Frank writing it would be different lol). I loved every word.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 10, 2018:

Thank you, Sean. I take your words seriously and value them. I appreciate it whenever you visit my hubs.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on June 10, 2018:

There is always a second chance for those who Love. Always! No limits, no boundaries, no time, no space! I know it, first hand.

This is a masterpiece, dear brother! A diamond! I am a great fan of your talent, your gift! Thank you for this piece of your heart.

I wish you the best. You deserve it.

Sean

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 10, 2018:

Natalie, thank you for reading and for your kind comments.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on June 10, 2018:

This is so very beautiful. Your use of language is just lovely. The birds sing, the swans sail in the sunlight. The deer graze on finely cut grass. - Gorgeous.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 10, 2018:

Dora, I'm pleased that you found it to be a satisfying read. Have a great day.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 10, 2018:

Welcome, Paula. I'm glad this story was as emotional as I had hoped. It was headed for a heartbreak ending, but I didn't think that matched the rest of their relationship. Thanks for visiting.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 10, 2018:

I could read and re-read this all day. Not only the plot, but the diction itself is so alluring. "I could hear her gentle breathing and knew that she slept in the depths of my love." My kind of romance!

Suzie from Carson City on June 10, 2018:

Chris....Just the sort of story that moves me to tears. This is lovely & a bit of a heart-breaker for a while. Thank you for the sweet ending. It's a perfect tale for a Hallmark Movie!

You are a master of Flash fiction. Keep sharing with us.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 10, 2018:

Eric, I love to get lost in a story like that. But it is so sad when it ends. All stories end, I guess...except soap operas. They seem to go on forever.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 10, 2018:

I might steal your title idea. War fulfilling our needs? If so, It gets buried beneath the horrors of war. Thank you for visiting. Have a wonderful day.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 10, 2018:

The Master steals my here space again. I just get lost. In your great works I always wonder if I am a part of it.

Thank you again

manatita44 from london on June 10, 2018:

"My Sharon is my All." Would make a great title. War and Love. Both can be traumatic beasts, destroying the worst or best in us. Yet they can also fulfill our needs. A cool touching story and after all, who won't like to hear the birds sing? Peace!

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