Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Flash Fiction: A Wily Decision

 A wife takes a cue from a dog and initiates a big change.

(Image by author, Susan Foster).

This piece of flash fiction was written using word prompts. See below for more details.

A Wily Decision

The tenth of every month was the day Mr. and Mrs.Wily picked up their allotment of wine from the vineyard. They had been members of the wine club there for over ten years, and although they sometimes opened a bottle on special occasions, they had built up an impressive collection of wine in what Mr. Wily called the “wine cellar” in the basement. Really, it was just wooden shelves lining the walls, but she knew Mr. Wily liked the way it made him feel when he referred to it that way. Like they were rich, or something.

Their drive home followed an ice-covered brook. Mr. Wily rolled down the car window, letting in the chilly late afternoon air as he puffed on his cigar. Mrs. Wily felt irritated; she had told him many times the cigar smoke gave her a headache. Why couldn’t he wait to smoke it in the backyard?

Last month, when they picked up their wine, these fields were full of wheat and glistened with an ochre hue, as far as she could see. Now they were just full of stubs and brown dirt. “Not pretty at all,” she mused, in a distracted sort of way. Her main thoughts were focusing on the upcoming task of making dinner. It was Saturday, their day to eat salmon. And broccoli, a baked potato, and pudding, of course, for dessert.

The promenade just blocks from their house was lined with trees. A watchful dog sat on a porch, sniffing the air. As the car drew close, Mrs. Wily saw it leap down the steps to chase a squirrel, who was searching for nuts along the roadside. At first, the squirrel didn’t see the dog approach, and its laggard attempt to get away was almost its demise. Fortunately, it had the wisdom to know the dog couldn’t climb a tree. As soon as the squirrel reached a tree trunk, it climbed high in the branches, quick as a lightning strike.

Mrs. Wily heard the dog bark as it circled around and around the tree. She was reminded of a nursery rhyme circle game she used to teach nursery school children to play.

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
the mulbery bush, the mulberry bush,
here we go round the mulberry bush
on a cold and frosty morning.

The song was meant to teach morning routines to the wee ones, she remembered. Instead of “Here we go round the mulberry bush, the next verse would change to, “this is the way we wash our face.” Then “comb our hair, brush our teeth, put on our clothes” would be inserted in the remaining verses, ending with a final verse of Here we go round the mulberry bush.

The little ones had already learned to play the Ring Around the Rosey game, which ended with, “We all fall down.” Inevitably, while dancing in a circle to the mulberry song, some of the children would forget during which song they were supposed to fall and would drag the others down, all of them landing in a heap. Some cried, and others giggled.

“My life has been going in circles,” Mrs. Wily thought. “Just like the nursery rhyme, Mr. Wily and I have followed the same boring routine every day and every week for years. If things don’t change soon, this marriage is ready to fall down and I’ll be the one crying. I need to be more like that dog, and chase after what I want.”

“Maybe that song is the key to finally being heard,” she thought. “Lord knows, just talking and complaining hasn’t gotten me anywhere. It’s time I become as wily as my last name. I’ll borrow verses from the song and modify them.”

Thinking quickly, she began singing with her pretty soprano voice, raising it loud enough to be sure her husband heard her.

This is the way you make your wife sick, 
make your wife sick,
make your wife sick,
this is the way you make your wife sick,
ignore her and smoke in the car.

Mr. Wily glanced at her, raised his eyebrows, and snuffed out the cigar in the ashtray.

“Oh my heavens, Mr. Wily listened to me!” Then, she thought, “No! Not 'Mr. Wily.' My name is Angie and his name is Bill. No more of this silly Mr. and Mrs. Wily stuff! How did we ever end up calling each other that, anyway?” 

She kept making up verses and singing them.

This is the way we die of boredom,
die of boredom, die of boredom, 
this is the way we die of boredom,
Never doing anything new…
Isn’t it time for new hobbies, 
new hobbies, new hobbies,
isn’t it time for new hobbies
and to start using our first names?

Bill pulled into the driveway and yanked on the emergency brake. 

“Angie,” he murmured, “I never knew you felt like this. I thought I was the only one unhappy with our life.” 

He smiled ruefully and in his off-key baritone and not at all rhythmically, he sang:

Let’s stop going round the mulberry bush, 
the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush,
It’s time we listened and show love to each other,
and we need to make our lives a lot better.

They both smiled and Angie let out a small giggle. They exited the car and she held open the front door while Bill carried in the carton of wine, like always. Except for this time, he bent down and kissed her cheek as he passed her. 

She suggested he leave a bottle of chardonnay in the kitchen, so they could open it to drink with dinner.


Word Prompt Fiction

This story was written in response to the Words for Wednesday Challenge on 3/31/21. The prompts were provided by Hilary Melton-Butcher but posted on the website Elephant’s Child. I encourage you to go to the comments there and read the other stories writers have posted.

I used this entire list of word prompts to create this story:

Watchful, Laggard, Pudding, Mulberry, Bark,
and/or

Promenade, Vineyard, Allotment, Wisdom, Tenth, 
and/or
Life, Borrow, Wily, Ochre, Brook


Where would these words have taken your imagination?

Please keep social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, and stay healthy!

8 comments :

  1. I am so glad that there is hope for their marriage - and their lives. Another great use of Hilary's prompts.

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  2. Hi Susan - thanks EC sent me this over ... it's a delightful story - with a happy ending ... wonderful to read. Thank you for joining us ... and please continue on writing your stories. All the best - Hilary

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  3. While I really like your story and the way you used the prompts; your way of telling a story and describing people and their environments with just a few deft strokes of your word-brush, your blog set up is not quite my cup of tea, and I'm afraid I won't return. I don't do Pinterest and all that jazz.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear you don't like it here, Charlotte, but thank you for the writing complement. I'm thinking I should take a look the user-friendlyness of my blog and see what put you off. Thanks for your honest feedback.

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  4. I always suspected that music was the way to someone’s soul! Well done! (Is her name Angie? Or Jean?)

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    Replies
    1. Ugh. Well, I didn't think she seemed like a Jean, so I switched her name to Angie. Clearly didn't remember to follow through with those corrections. Sometimes I am a terrible self-editor. Thanks for your careful reading and editing feedback, Diane!

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