Involving One

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This group of flash fiction stories have ‘one’ thing in common. They are stories that mainly feature one person. Something happens to this one person and because of that a change occurs. In the first story, all it takes is a look for the protagonist to become defensive.

Change Unwanted

The librarian scans my book – a ‘Meals for One’ cookbook and I see her give me the look of sympathy. Next, she will point out the library programs. She’ll tell me that not only will I learn about genealogy or knitting, I will have an opportunity to meet people! I won’t argue, but I believe shallow socializing is highly over-rated.
Just once, I’d like someone to ask me about my secret for enjoying my own company. I know I’m different but I’m still okay.
If there were a book with that title, I’d buy it for the library.

Author notes – A prediction, based perhaps on past events and a secret wish reveals much about the character. The quite generic book title in the first sentence orients the reader to the story problem; the italics imply an ongoing conflict for the protagonist.

The Apple Stand

The bag of a dozen apples only contains ten. I know I should take them back and complain. I’ve been shortchanged. Another part of me scoffs; for two apples? Who are you, the apple morality squad?
It wouldn’t be hard to do. I can turn around and walk back to their fruit stand right now. Or. I never buy from them again. Let my boycott tell them my dissatisfaction.
I bet they took one look and knew I could be fooled. Like always.
No. That’s crazy thinking.
I’ll just say that I’m short two apples. Simple.

Author notes – In this story the internal dilemma is that of a disgruntled customer. The dialogue, which I point out in the story, is between self and ‘another part of me,’ and as such requires no quotation marks. While the ending- a one-word sentence – implies a resolution but there is some ambiguity as well. The title serves as a clue to the setting and a hint to the story’s meaning.

Secret Revealed

“Congratulations, you have won a consultation.” The heavily accented voice says they’re calling from The Astrology Center of Montreal, Quebec.
“Where?”
“The Astrology Center. I will transfer you for your personalized session.”
“Thank you but I am not interested.”
I hung up as I do with these types of calls, but the incident lingered in my mind. How unusual, how bizarre. Perhaps I have just turned down a mystic message, a prediction. Then I see the phone display; the call originated in Oregon. They weren’t at all honest; just another scammer that I just know would ask for money or information.
But I wanted it to be real. That’s a newly discovered secret.

Author notes – This is one of those ‘from life’ stories. I did get this phone call, but had to put on my writer’s cap to give it story logic. ‘Heavily accented voice’ heightened the sense of strange event, as did the locations I chose, just in case the Astrological Center wasn’t odd enough. I took extra pains to not repeat words although the ideas were very similar – consultation or personalized session. Same idea behind the use of prediction, message, and secret. The occasional repeat of a word is not noticeable in longer fiction but in flash fiction, unintentional repetition shows a lack of polish.

Liz Betz is a retired rancher who loves to write fiction. Her pastime seems to help her days go by, her brain to stay active and sometimes keeps her out of trouble. An overactive imagination is a wonderful thing to harness, but left alone…Her publication credits are many and varied as she explores the fictional world of mostly somewhat older but not necessarily mature characters.

Some of the Excuses

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Through the years I have become well read on the topic of procrastination and have seen the benefits of my studies. This specific area of knowledge pops up in these three flash fictions.

No Weeds Pulled

On Monday she realizes it is her turn to weed in the community garden. Really this is much effort with little reward, she struggles to remember why she volunteered. Tuesday she’s told by another gardener that she must pick her weeds and dispose of them, not leave them lying on the ground. She’s been singled out for this abuse. On Wednesday she longs for a partner from the community, not that mean fellow but someone to work along beside her. They could visit. Thursday, she views the many rows and sighs. It’s too much and she’s so tired. By Friday she’s not sure she knows which are weeds, she really doesn’t know how to proceed. Saturday’s thinking centers on her fear of failure, if she’s the one that has destroyed the garden, she’ll die. Now it’s Sunday. She’d weed and do a good job of it too, but really, she is afraid of success and the position becoming permanent.

Author notes; it’s painfully obvious that the gardener in my story No Weeds Pulled, is procrastinating. The story structure form use of the days of the week provides a platform for her thinking errors but also portrays the sneaky way that procrastination works.

Smoothly

She reads about the smooth transition between mental activity and physical activity. Reading is more cerebral than action based, but in her defense, she is figuring things out. A procrastinator needs to have a plan of action. She’s working on that.
The phone rings and the caller wonders what she is doing. She can’t answer, because to say she was planning would lead to questions she might not be able to answer, so instead, she says she was reading a book.
“Good. You have time to help me clean out my garage. I’ve put it off long enough.”
She says yes, after all, this request came smoothly and she wasn’t really doing anything.
Oh. That’s so true.

Author notes; when she says ‘all cerebral and no action.’ the story’s point is made. The starting sentence orients the reader to a specific idea about procrastination and the rest of the story expands on this.
Then there is the right plan, and the right help and nothing should stop you now but there are always…

Complications

It’s best that I not criticize or complain but my so-called friend complicated things. The idea was to make my business run smoother and help me get things done efficiently. That’s where I needed help. This friend shows me a routine for accounting; he sets up a spread sheet, creates a billing system. Then because he believes that nothing should be a single-use item, he shows me some option concerning online marketing. Afterwards he shows me several games I could ‘chill’ with.
Incredible. I’ve become more efficient, all right. I work my way through the game, I can’t stop. I’m at level eleven!

Author notes; this flash story form is one I use often – best laid plans gone astray. The objective of the protagonist is plainly stated at the story start and the results are similarly ‘named’ for the sake of clarity. The protagonist has discovered that getting sidetracked is procrastinating at full speed.

Liz Betz

Liz Betz is a retired rancher who loves to write fiction. Her pastime seems to help her days go by, her brain to stay active and sometimes keeps her out of trouble. An overactive imagination is a wonderful thing to harness, but left alone…Her publication credits are many and varied as she explores the fictional world of mostly somewhat older but not necessarily mature characters.

Story Talk

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By Liz Betz

It is inspirational to me when I learn of a story’s background. What was the story seed? How were the challenges met? These three flash fiction stories include my author notes which allow a peek into my process, inspiration and decisions.

Learning

They say, when you stop learning you start dying. I’ve declined the golf lessons my wife wants me to take but I’m still not dead.
Miriam says I am. She says; Oscar you’re dead. You do nothing but sit in front of the television.
It’s the finals! I want to watch them.
She says I’m driving her out of her mind.
I’ve worked hard, given us a good living. We’ve been able to retire. I’ve earned the right to relax and unlike her, I’m not interested in lessons or classes.
Maybe she can learn something there, if she wants.

*Author Notes – The subject of retirement is one that my peer group tosses around often, and communication between spouses is a rich source for story conflict. The story opens with quote from the infamous ‘they’ and runs with it to the slightly twisted end. This story gives a flavor of the little bickers that can arise between long-married. Technical note; while there seems to be dialogue, I did not use quotations. The story is a narration from Oscar, a sort of gossipy rendition of his situation.

Property Lines

The police deliver an ultimatum. Either mediation or being charged with theft. They give me a ride, detour past the police station, to show me they mean business.
The mediator has a workbook filled with discussion suggestions. Inside there should be the proverb about how it’s better to beg forgiveness than to seek permission. Maybe it offers some assistance about brothers who have the wrong impression; because my brother is on a mission to scare me straight. I borrowed his truck; he knows perfectly well I wasn’t stealing it.
I’m not heading toward a life of crime and deception. Not me.

*Author’s notes – This story is of brothers who have different standards and values. It seems the ‘borrowing’ brother is disrespectful of the ‘owning’ brother who is losing patience but still trying to help. However, nobody can rescue someone who doesn’t see the need; the story offers the reader a glimpse of the denial involved. The entire story is expressed with phrasing that reflects the problem brother’s world view. The use of mediation and then mediator is a transitional method I used to overcome the change of location within the story.

Ouch

The end of our friendship comes by text. I read it twice. Your flaws are too many. You are too much work.
What about her? You… before I reply, I put the phone down. I make tea instead of pouring a drink. My countless flaws? I’m weak. If only I had been more courageous. I’m evasive; I could have said what she wanted to hear. She’s texted the truth. Her case is solid.
The bitter reality? I’m on her side. (But she’s not on mine.) I’d be at her side. (She doesn’t want that.) Respond to the message? There’s no rebuttal.

Author’s Notes – One of the unfortunate facts of these times is that people do end relationships via text. This character might not be extremely self-aware but when things are pointed out, they are willing to consider the evidence. All but the first paragraph is meant to be a dialogue between self and self. The method I chose to convey this is via parenthesis, but italics would have been equally effective.

Liz Betz

Liz Betz is a retired rancher who loves to write fiction. Her pastime seems to help her days go by, her brain to stay active and sometimes keeps her out of trouble. An overactive imagination is a wonderful thing to harness, but left alone…Her publication credits are many and varied as she explores the fictional world of mostly somewhat older but not necessarily mature characters.

The Power of YOUR Why

This question is debated by each of us every day! Why am I here on this earth?  I know this past year I have asked myself this very question many times.

Why did I start my company?

Why don’t I close the doors?

Am I serving in the way that God desires me to?

After many days in reflection, I dug deeper into my WHY, purpose for my life journey and my mission.

It was a year of reflection for the world as between world Lockdown and Global Pandemic, the world stopped and what this made each of us stop too. Our story and lives were disrupted, there was so much loss as well as many gains, for me I am going to share with you an event that changed my life and helped me march on yet scary. The topic of Death and dying, how can anything positive come from losing someone you love?

My friend’s mom at 84 had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The months passed, she was being moved into a hospice. She was of sound mind but as the days went on, she had requested that her family discuss the option of MAID, medically assisted induced death. After much discussion with the medical team and family, her request had been granted. She kept asking to pass with her dignity and her words were: I AM READY to go home to my Lord.

This was a difficult decision for my friend and her family. That fateful day in September, 2020 arrived, we arrived at the hospice, her mom was asking if it was time yet. Hearing her say those words, made my heart swell and my eyes tear up. BREATHE I kept saying to myself. The doctor arrived to explain the procedure. The tension in the room was so heavy, one could cut it with a knife. Each family member knew that this was their mom’s last wish, yet it was so hard to know within 30 minutes, a woman who loved, influenced and impacted so many with her stories and was loved so much would be with her maker. The doctor presented the consent form to their mom to sign. While signing the document, she uttered her final words, I am ready. I think I felt a shiver go down my spine., The family surrounded their beloved mom, said their goodbyes while holding each other’s hands.  The injections were made while their mom’s wish was fulfilled, she fell into a peaceful sleep.

In that moment, the family was hugging each other, the room was so quiet except for the tears that fell.

I watched their mom and all I could think was the gift she had upon her passing:

  • She had surrendered to knowing her time was complete on Earth
  • She knew she was loved and she celebrated knowing that all her kids were good soulful people.
  • She had impacted and influenced this world.

I left the hospice that day thinking to myself her last words. I AM READY.

In that moment, those words meant to me:

  • I had work to do but why should I?
  • How do I pivot a company to be risk proof?
  • What was my goal for my life?
  • What influence and impact did I want to be known for?
  • What was my legacy?
  • How could I dig a bit deeper to create the life I desire?
  • What was my personal why for how I want my life to be and that for my kids?
  • How did I make people feel in my company?
  • What difference did I want to make?
  • How would I do this?

You see my company was on the breaking point due to the effects of Covid with many decisions to make. The day that I watched my friend’s mom pass, it was like my life flashed before my eyes.

The realization that everything I had created in my publishing company and helping people’s lives transform by helping them embrace their own stories so they could share and inspire others to know that they aren’t alone was not for nothing. This emulated a new beginning.

Hence with the power of understanding your why, it will fuel you when things get tough and remind you of what your mission is. It is your anchor. Your why is how you share your vulnerability, it is a piece of your story. When you connect with story, the conversation is real and it helps people feel certain ways which makes you relatable and trustworthy.

In this time of reflection and uncertainty, the only thing within our control is how we each show up in our own life. The questions that I pondered were just these then I dug a bit deeper, prayed and journaled.

  • How do you define your why?
  • What have you overcome to be where you are?
  • What is your legacy? Your teachings?
  • What do your want your great grandkids to remember about you?
  • How did the items you overcame make you feel?
  • What are you ready to change?

I learned that I was meant for more which has to come from within with a belief that each of us brings our own unique brilliance to the world. I have redirected my company as I know without a doubt this is what I was put on earth to do. My why is to help change the world one story at a time helping those to do the same so that each of us can live the life of beauty and belief which is our birthright and God wants this for each of us.
What is your why?

Heather Andrews

I support entrepreneurs who want to write a best-selling book so they can leverage their influence and impact.

Cover Photo: Suju-foto (Pixabay)

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