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The Leaf - A Flash Fiction Story

John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.

the-leaf-a-short-story

Ann's Challenge

In Ann Carr's (annart) excellent article: Take a Word.... LET: Etymology, Definition, 'let' .. she issued the following challenge:

So this is your Challenge!

Choose the most boring object or subject you can think of and write an engaging, entertaining, fascinating hub about it. You can make your own choice or write about one of the following:

  • watching paint dry
  • a blank floorboard
  • monotonous music
  • airport runway
  • lying ill in bed with bandages on your eyes and no music
  • a wilted leaf in a pocket

We were also free to choose our own boring subject but I thought Ann's selection was good so I would choose one of them. I did actually consider writing about "watching paint dry" but finally decided on "a wilted leaf in a pocket." I hope you enjoy my flash fiction story "The Leaf."

The Leaf

I removed my flannel jacket from the coat rack next to the door, and threading my arms into the sleeves, pulled it on before braving the cold early morning winter air.

A light fall of frost had dusted the landscape over night, and I trudged along the path that led to the lake. Having misplaced my gloves, or really just forgotten them, I placed my cold hands into my jacket pockets to warm them and as I did my right hand came in contact with something dry and crinkled. Taking it in my fingers I withdrew my hand and saw a brown and wilted leaf.

Dry mulberry leaf

Dry mulberry leaf

For just a moment I tried to remember how a leaf had found its way into my pocket, or why I would have deliberately put it there? It had been months since I last wore this jacket.

Suddenly, the memory returned, and as it did a tear formed in my eye. I wiped it away as I recalled the previous Spring, and earlier. This had been the very first leaf that appeared on the mulberry tree I had planted the year before.

You had always loved mulberries. The dark fruit that stained your mouth, tongue, and hands purple everytime you feasted on them. I remember pretending to struggle to escape as you tried to kiss me with your purple lips.

It was for that very reason that I chose that particular tree to plant over the place I sprinkled your ashes.

Mulberry fruit on the tree

Mulberry fruit on the tree

I took a detour through the woods, and walked to the small, private clearing where I had planted your tree. It was our favourite place, where we had gone to be alone together as teenagers, and even later as adults, after I had bought the property and we made our home here.

I sat down on the frosty ground next to the large granite rock bearing the simple metal plaque that said "Janie - R.I.P. 6 June 2015." The now leafless skeleton of the mulberry tree stood starkly next to it.

I crumpled the dry leaf on the ground at the base of the tree as I said a silent prayer, and told you how much I miss you. Come Spring, when the tree showed signs of life again (almost like you being resurrected), I would return and take another leaf.

Mulberry tree with new full growth

Mulberry tree with new full growth

What is Flash Fiction?

Flash Fiction is a general term given to very short short stories. The rules for flash fiction are open to interpretation, some saying these stories should be kept under 300 words in total, and others who believe anything under 1000 words meets the criteria. There are a number of other terms for very short fiction including: short short stories, micro-fiction, twiterature, dribble, drabble, and sudden fiction.

Flash fiction differs from other short written works in that it generally features a traditional story arc -- an evocative scene that doesn't have a beginning, middle or end wouldn't qualify, which is why it's a tough medium to tackle.

David Gaffney in an article in the Guardian lists six main points to remember when writing flash fiction:

  1. Start in the middle
  2. Don't use too many characters
  3. Make sure the ending isn't the end
  4. Sweat your title
  5. Make your last line ring like a bell
  6. Write long, then short

For a detailed explanation of these points check out the following link.

© 2016 John Hansen

Comments

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on June 19, 2020:

Hi Robert, thanks for reading and commenting. I am glad the overview of ‘flash fiction’ was helpful.

Robert Sacchi on June 19, 2020:

A good story. Thank you for the overview of what constitutes flash fiction.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on April 07, 2018:

Thank you for the kind comment Li-Jen. Glad you enjoyed and found the flash fiction definition helpful.

Li-Jen Hew on April 07, 2018:

Dear John, what a beautiful flash fiction but sad as well. It was touching, how he recalled back the old memories. You also have a definition of flash fiction, that's useful. Thanks for sharing! :)

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 09, 2017:

Thank you, Jill. It was an interesting challenge to take part in. Most of my flash fiction stories have been the result of challenges.

Jill Spencer from United States on December 09, 2017:

This is lovely story-- more like a meditation. It made me walk in another's shoes for a bit. I am glad you accepted the challenge.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 30, 2017:

Thank you, GalaxyRat. I am glad you enjoyed this short fiction story.

GalaxyRat on May 30, 2017:

Awesome, John. I love it, and it's pretty good. :)

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 01, 2016:

Thank you for the kind comment MizB. No, I thought the leaf was the least boring subject and found this story almost wrote itself. Glad the mulberry tree sparked some old memories for you, even if the fruit didn't agree with you.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 01, 2016:

It's a beautiful but heartbreaking story, John. We all have our reasons for saving leaves, so I don't find a leaf a boring subject. Your reminder of mulberry trees hit home. We had one but every time I tried to eat the fruit, it came right back up. The birds really loved it, though.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 22, 2016:

Thanks Lawrence. Yes, you should really give it a try.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on November 22, 2016:

Loved it. Maybe I should look at that challenge again

Lawrence

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 12, 2016:

Thank you for reading, Nadine. Mm..got to love mulberries. Cheers.

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on November 12, 2016:

Very well done John - Jodah. Loved to be reminded of mulberries, the dark fruit that stain's our mouth, tongue, and hands purple every time we feast on them.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 11, 2016:

To tell you the truth, Shauna, it was exactly like that. Thank you for your lovely comment.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 11, 2016:

Well, you certainly managed to take a boring subject and turn it into a poignant love story, John. I get the feeling this story wrote itself. You merely planted your fingers on the keys.

Nice job!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 07, 2016:

Wow, Dianna. I am glad this story evoked the sadness I was trying to convey. Tears are actually a compliment here. Thank you for reading, and how can you not like Doris Day?

Dianna Mendez on November 07, 2016:

Wow, I had tears in my eyes with the finish to your story, especially since I played Doris Day's song while I read. Excellent writing!

Sakina Nasir from Kuwait on November 04, 2016:

You are welcome! ☺

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 04, 2016:

Thank you for the lovely comment, Sakina. The more you write the better you get. Just keep at it. God bless you too.

Sakina Nasir from Kuwait on November 04, 2016:

Wonderfully written and expressed. I admire writers. I wish I could write like this too, someday.

You are an inspiration. God bless you! ☺

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 03, 2016:

Thank you Nell. that comment will do me fine. Cheers.

Nell Rose from England on November 03, 2016:

Wonderfully done! simple as that!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on November 02, 2016:

Thank you, Rasma. I appreciate your kind comment.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on November 02, 2016:

Loved this. Most creative.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 31, 2016:

Thank you Mike. As son as I saw the prompt of the leaf in pocket I started getting ideas. I appreciate that the finished story had the desired outcome. Hope you had a great a Halloween.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on October 31, 2016:

Hello John - You certainly went the extra mile with this piece. The reader was drawn in carefully and coolly and the trap was set to snap the emotions.

nicomp really from Ohio, USA on October 29, 2016:

Thank you, Jodah. I am a left-brained engineer so I have no idea how you poets do what you do.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 28, 2016:

I am a poetry fanatic, nicomp, so the addition,of some verse in the comments is always welcome...and this brought a smile. Well done, and thanks for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 28, 2016:

Shyron, thank you for those kind words and the verse. Funny, even when I don't write a poetry hub it gets the addition of some fine poetry from you in the comments. I think Ann liked it.

nicomp really from Ohio, USA on October 28, 2016:

There once was a leaf from Australia.

For a tree it provided regalia.

It fell to the ground,

The sheep hooves did pound.

And now it is mulch for azaleas

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on October 28, 2016:

John, this is a work of art

From a leaf it got it's start

The reminder of a broken heart

As the tears would sting and smart

No leaves on the barren tree

Nor sign of life that he could see

Re-opened his wounded heart

Beneath the Mulberry tree

*

John, this is sure to make Ann proud.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 28, 2016:

What a lovely comment, Dana. I am so happy that you enjoyed this story and could feel the pain of lost love. There certainly is lots,of amazing talent on HubPages. Have a great weekend.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 28, 2016:

Hi nicomp. Yes, doing laundry would have been a good subject to choose for the challenge, but oh well, the leaf sufficed. Thank you for reading and glad you enjoyed.

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on October 28, 2016:

Oh, this was simply beautiful and sad. I loved the ending of crumbling the leaf and then coming to get a new one when new life is born in the Spring. I loved the words you chose to bring the story to life they were very descriptive and I was able to feel the pain of lost love. You and Ruby, who are the only ones I have read so far, did an amazing job with this challenge. There are many creative talents on HP and I am so proud to be apart of this amazing community. God bless.

nicomp really from Ohio, USA on October 28, 2016:

Laundry is certainly more boring than the humble leaf but you have better photos. An enjoyable composition, as always.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 28, 2016:

MsDora, glad you found this instructional and a good example of flash fiction. I think I bore easily so have to continually challenge myself to learn and try different forms of writing. Apart from poetry, I think I enjoy flash fiction the most.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 28, 2016:

Good instruction and demonstration of flash fiction. I always admire your expertise on so many genres of writing.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 27, 2016:

Thank you,

@ nawfel09

@moizkhan197

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 27, 2016:

Thank you,

@ nawfel09

@moizkhan197

Moiz Khan from Dallas, TX on October 27, 2016:

Nice man

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 27, 2016:

Michael, thank you for such a wonderful comment. I am glad you enjoyed this story, and videos, and that you learned a little about flash fiction writing also. Have a great weekend.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 27, 2016:

Thank you, John. I appreciate your support and generous comment. Glad you enjoyed.

Michael-Milec on October 27, 2016:

Thanks for a treat John. Even an emotional mood surrounding a wilted leaf add to the curiosity of atonement to someone (me) who has been diverging from 'fiction' any kind due to issuficient understanding ' A Flesh Fiction Story' (language barrier). You've expain it in details as is expected of a prominent writer, meaning you my friend. Both videos enhanced this your completely beautiful story.

John Ward from Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. on October 27, 2016:

Well done, I enjoyed your short piece "The Leaf". You have great control of words and presentation. I appreciate your work immensely.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 27, 2016:

I Emese, thank you for the lovely encouraging comment. It was interesting how it reminded you about the writing prompt from your college years, and how Bill and I used the same prompt and both wrote love stories. When he read mine he was amazed at the coincidence and said he hadn't yet published his but it was similar. I hope you take up the challenge too.

Emese Fromm from The Desert on October 27, 2016:

Great flash fiction story, John. Beautifully written love story.

I know it's a hard genre to tackle, and you did a great job with it as well as with the inspiration of a single dried leaf. I just read Bill's story, as well. Made me smile that both of you used the same prompt, a dried leaf in a pocket, and ended up with a love story.

Your stories reminded me of a friend from my college years, and a writing prompt. While on a walk through a neighborhood, we challenged each other to come up with a story looking at a leaf in a tree. I don't remember the stories, but I still remember the leaf prompt, the image of it as it was swaying in the wind. It was green, and still in the tree.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 27, 2016:

Hello, Ruby. So glad I could please your muse. It is strange how certain moods can spread among writers isn't it? Bill Holland's response is also of a lost love based on the leaf.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 27, 2016:

Thanks for the generous comment, Venkat. Yes, check Ann's hub. I know you like to partake in these challenges also, and I look forward to reading what you come up with.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on October 27, 2016:

I loved your story John. Funny how an old dried leaf in a pocket can inspire a story. I'm in that sad mode so this piece made my muse happy.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on October 27, 2016:

Very beautiful and interesting story. I liked the lost love theme. I also missed Ann's hub. Now, I will go and look at it.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 27, 2016:

Thank you Larry. Pacing is one of the most difficult things to get right. Glad I got it right.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on October 27, 2016:

Wonderful pacing!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 27, 2016:

Thank you Clive.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on October 27, 2016:

great short jodah.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 27, 2016:

Thanks for reading this Your Cousins, and the wonderful comment. Yes, amazing what a simple prompt like a leaf can lead to.

Your Cousins from Atlanta, GA on October 27, 2016:

Wow! This story created wonderful imagery in my mind--all springing from a crinkled leaf.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

Thank you for such a kind comment. Much appreciated.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

Thank you Eric. Glad you can relate and it brought back memories.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on October 26, 2016:

Oh...check 5. sentence on Gaffney's list.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on October 26, 2016:

I love your response to Ann's challenge, John! Poignant with metaphors of love and loss. You brought a lot of life to that dried up leaf.

Now, I must read Ann's hub for I seem to have missed it somehow!

Well done.

Blessings

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 26, 2016:

Can it be cliche' to say, I have been there and done that? Especially the Mulberry tree and lost love. I just do not know the answers.

But I love your story to make me think back again with more age and dare I say courage. You write so damned well.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

Thank you, Missy. Glad you enjoyed this, and I hope everything is going well for you.

Missy Smith from Florida on October 26, 2016:

Perfect story to read in the season of Autumn. Wonderful! :)

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

Hello, Blossom. Thanks for reading "The Leaf." Yes it is short, but I am glad that worked in this instance.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on October 26, 2016:

Loved this story, it tells a lot, but briefly, which helps to make it seem more urgent.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

I am pleased that you liked this Ann. I did consider using a couple of your other suggested prompts but my muse or whatever keep drawing me back to the wilted leaf in pocket. I didn't expect to complete it so soon either, but once I started writing the words just flowed. This is the first short story I have written for awhile so thank you for the challenge. I look forward to reading the rest of the responses.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

I really appreciate you reading this Glenis. Thank you so much.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

Thank you, Flourish. I like those two words together :)

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

Manatita, thank you for such an encouraging comment. As soon as I thought about a dry crumpled leaf muse led the way. Glad you liked it.

Ann Carr from SW England on October 26, 2016:

You're the first to publish a response to my challenge, John and it's a beauty! So gentle, so sad. It always amazes me how objects (and music, places) can recall events, people and emotions.

I like 'threading my arms into the sleeves' amongst other phrases. This is well-written and poignant. I like the ending too; it portrays a continuation of devotion.

I'll add the link to my hub.

Ann

Glen Rix from UK on October 26, 2016:

Beautiful!

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 26, 2016:

Simply marvelous, my friend.

manatita44 from london on October 26, 2016:

Well John, this was done very well indeed! In fact an excellent piece and offering to Ann's challenge.

I like the way that you connected the leaf with romantic memories and the ending too. A brilliant piece! Succinct and SWEET.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

Marlene, I appreciate you reading and commenting on this story. Yes, there are even more terms associated with short stories, most relate to the different amount of words or lines allowed. Twiterature is my favourite term.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

Thank you for reading this btrbell. I am glad you enjoyed the tale. You should try your hand at flash fiction. I don't do it often but it is fun.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on October 26, 2016:

This is a wonderfully packed story. And, thank you for the additional information about what is considered a short story. I was intrigued by all the terms associated with short stories, especially twiterature. It's my first time ever hearing that term.

Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on October 26, 2016:

Great story! Sweet and poignant. Thank you for the additional explanation of flash fiction. U akways find these stories enganging and intriguing. I havent tried one yet ...

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

Linda, Ann's challenge is quite recent. In fact I think I am the first who has taken it up, so check it out. Thank you for the wonderful comment. I am glad you enjoyed the story.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 26, 2016:

John, I had missed Ann's challenge (I've fallen a bit behind in my reading). This is a beautiful story; I can feel the empty longing and sadness. Well done sir.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 26, 2016:

Wow, really Bill! I was seriously considering watching paint dry, but the wilted leaf sounded like a prompt for a lost love story. Yes, great minds must think alike. You certainly were right on the spot in reading this one of mine so fast. Glad you enjoyed it.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 26, 2016:

Amazingly, I have Ann's challenge sitting here waiting for me to post it tomorrow, and it, took, is about a wilted leaf and a lost love. LOL Great minds think alike, me thinks. :) Loved the story, John!

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