Read Mary's story, 'Ladybird,' on 'Spelk,' to avoid spoilers.
Some flash fiction pieces are all about mood. Mary’s story, ‘Ladybird,’ offers up a taste of a dreamy, hazy mood in the very first line: ‘Let’s say it’s one of those rarer than rare days when the sun beams white out of a buttery sky.’ The sun ‘beams,’ and the sky is ‘buttery.’ Wonderful. I’m there.
This warm tone is expanded in the next line with reference to a ‘beach where you sunbathe and burn.’ Not only does the story give us a clear sense of where we are, but the mood is filtered through nostalgia and the clever technique of repeating the phrase: ‘Let’s say.' For me, it’s as though, with each sentence, more of the painting is filled in.
I love that Mary chose the title she did, because this is the image that stays with me: ‘Let’s say you spot a ladybird with two perfectly round dots inching its way slowly up the window and watch as he traces a line down the window onto your toes and up your thighs.’ This is a powerful, delicate, and sensual image. It is one of those moments, in its rarity, that would stay with you for a long time. There is something positive and life affirming about pausing and focussing on this moment.
The scene shifts part way through to ‘the Union Bar.’ And if there is a sensation of light in the first part of the story, now there is a darker tone: ‘dark, beery,’ ‘snakebite and black,’ ‘purple stuff,’ finally culminating in the wonderful simile where both light and dark are brought together: ‘and the white sun streams through and the drinks glow crimson like a beautiful wound.’
So often when writing flash, I look for the big moment, or the pivotal and life changing event. But sometimes, as Mary shows, creating mood can be equally as effective.
'Ladybird,' is a delicate and quiet painting of a flash fiction.
Note to self: Take the time to be deliberate with tone and mood.