Flash Fiction Photo Project: I use old photographs found online to inspire flash fiction pieces. More often than not, a visual prompt helps get the mind going. I never know where it will it lead, and therein lies the beauty.
"Old Wedding Snaps"
By Justin P. Biel
He didn’t go to war to fight. It was for material. The gruesome, bloody kind. The kind that was learned the hard way with bullets, guts and bombs. It was the only way to become a real writer. The peachy keen existence of the plains was bland and blind to life. There was nothing to be learned with tumbleweeds except for how they roll, where they get stuck. Life was out there and Rodney owed it to himself to find it. She would understand. Veronica would be there when he got back. Where else could she go?
He awoke in cold sweats after he returned. There were things that couldn’t be forgotten, images that couldn’t be left behind. They refused burial. They dragged alongside him, woven into his clothes, ingested with his morning coffee, poisoning more each day. In the moment it had jarred him, but the instinct for survival overruled. Explosions there were gone in an instant, replaced by more explosions, and more, and then that odd and complete stillness. But back home, everything was different. Each memory sat uninterrupted, smug and concentrated. There was no sense of dilution, only vividness. The doctor’s didn’t know what to do. They gave him little white pills, small, round and numbing. Days became dreamy and all the same.
In the shit he put words down. Not anymore. The purpose evaded him. Instead he drank, took the little white pills and stared out the window of the farmhouse. He did this for hours on end. He watched the tumbleweeds mostly. They made their way across the dust fields slowly, contemplatively, in no hurry. They’d hit the barbed wire fence and clump together with nowhere to go. Rodney would watch them build and build, feeling pressure mount in his chest. Even with all that space there was nowhere to go. They were trapped.
Veronica would never understand. How could she? But she stood by, rock solid. Even when it had all come to a stop – intimacy, joy, even sharing a slight, sensual touch was too much. When he started sleeping in the guest bedroom it had only been two years together, a platonic eternity lay ahead. She had understood, had given him space. He hadn’t asked, just expected like everything else. You don’t understand. You never will. And Veronica had agreed. She stayed resolute like a good wife, lying for him when people asked how he was doing. Great, focused on writing. She’d return home to find him exactly where she’d left him; stuck, stagnant, frozen in time. He would only stare out and yell profanities at the tumbleweeds. That was a good day and no one could understand.