To avoid spoilers, read Melissa’s story on Pithead Chapel: ‘Goodnight.’
If I ever want a reminder of what flash fiction can do, I read Melissa Goode’s latest story. ‘Goodnight,’ is another of her stories that is heart-rending, flawless, and most importantly, rings true. Writing about loss is difficult, especially in flash fiction, because the time given to earn the reader's sympathy is so short. But Melissa is capable, in only a few lines, of making the reader care for the narrator. The theme of relationships is apparent in many of Melissa’s stories and she has become one of my favourite flash fiction writers because of it.
What is remarkable about this story, is how the everyday moments in life are taken apart and shown in a fresh way through the senses. Touch: ‘I make it loud so that he throbs in the steering wheel, in my teeth.’ Taste: ‘Dinner is toast with butter and honey.’ Smell: ‘The kitchen smells of morning.’ Sound: ‘She mewls and mewls.’ (I’ve never heard this way of describing the sound of a cat. Brilliant — I can hear it.) Sight: ‘The clouds race and charge, white and back-lit.’ Each one of these descriptions makes the reader experience the world in a new, surprising way.
The narrator's pain is shown through her interaction with the world around her. Take for example: 'Our bed is artificially warm, from the electric blanket I bought to stop my feet seeking yours.' The use of 'our,' 'artificially,' and 'seeking,' all combine to express the raw sense of loss and the inability to replace what is missing. But the premise pertains to the everyday, taking things we know and understand, and adding to them the weight of deeper meaning and feeling.
There are so many lines I would love to highlight, but I’m going to settle for a couple more: ‘The herbal supplement slides across my tongue and down my throat, promising five hours of fucked sleep. It tastes of potpourri and midnight and relief and dread.’ The first line is brilliant, culminating in the jarring description of sleep. This is followed by the glorious description of the supplement’s taste; I have no idea how I know what midnight tastes like, but I know it’s true all the same.
The reading of romance novels towards the end of the story is done expertly, as too is her movement in bed and her wrestling with her partner’s absence. But of course, flash fiction especially, needs a killer last line. And Melissa uses one: ‘Rolling over, through the window above our bed, the clouds race and charge, white and back-lit—I tell myself you are not the moon.’ This final line is the combination of beauty and heartache; I feel its power every time I read it.
Another remarkable piece of flash fiction by Melissa Goode.
Note to self: Remember to use the five senses in original ways.
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