Flash fiction is a difficult form to pull off, and many times stories in that form can feel more like scenes rather than turning points or moments of recognition. And speaking of difficult forms, stories written from the perspective of second person can seem stagey, or worse, presumptuous. But good writers are always able to defy the rules that you thought had to be followed.
In “Some Thing Blue,” Tayari Jones writes a flash fiction story in second person that is unbelievably moving and full. I’m convinced that were it written in any other form, it wouldn’t have the same power of capturing this moment and making it fully resonate. How she accomplishes this in just eight short paragraphs is something of a miracle. -Kathy
Kathy Pories is Senior Editor at Algonquin and Editor of our annual New Stories from the South series.
In Scottsboro, Alabama, there is a warehouse store that sells everything that people leave behind on airplanes. This is where your mother has found your wedding dress.
You are apprehensive. What ever happened to “something old, something new?” What you have so far is something mortgaged—this would be your childhood home. (Storybook weddings are far more costly than anyone imagined.) There is also something pawned—your engagement ring, one and one third carats, clear as drinking water. (Your fiancé Marcus, being both book-smart and streetwise, haggled with the pawn broker for almost an hour.) And now, there is this lovely gown—something ditched. Because let’s face it. No one just loses a dress like this. (The designer is famous and photogenic; her picture is printed in gossip magazines.)
But how can you complain? Marcus is a good guy. He is a podiatrist. More importantly, your mother is happy and she is alive. Only two years ago, she lay bald and dying, weeping because she would never be a grandmother, never wear the mother-of-the-bride dress she bought six years ago on sale at Filene’s.
At the time, she really was dying, not yet in hospice care, but fading, so you didn’t tell her that lately you’d been dating women and that you loved one in particular, an artist who designed elaborate jewelry from bottle glass. Who would have benefited from such a confession?
Instead, you sat beside your dying mother and promised to name any son of yours Benjamin, for her father and you’d call any daughter, Iris, in her memory. And while you were promising, you promised God you’d be a better daughter were you given just another chance.
And just like that, she recovered. So appealing was your offer that God actually took you up on it. Call it a miracle. Call it a contract.
So now you stand in the makeshift dressing room of the warehouse-store laced into this gown which was abandoned by a woman whose obligations were far less urgent than your own. The bodice is old-fashioned, rigid with whale bone but lush with beadwork. The organza sleeves are light and thin as bible paper.
Your mother waits on the other side of the curtain, eager and restless as a child, her face shining with joy and with health. You love her. You love her. She is your mother. How dare you, even for one moment, regret trading your own life for hers?
Tayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling, winners of the Hurston/Wright and Lillian C. Smith awards. Her stories and essays have appeared in McSweeney’s, the Believer, Callaloo, and the New York Times. She teaches in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University and is a red velvet cake enthusiast.