The following is my 297 word response to the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo’s TUFF Contest prompt “long drive home” posted on September 19th. This is where this prompt led. I didn’t have a long drive home story in mind so just went with trippy, playing with images. To see the TUFF winners go to Carrot Ranch. Join in the weekly rodeo contests all this month.
Not all who wander are lost. But he is. Definitely lost and wandering and wondering where he is and how he got here. He blinks, tries to clear his head, tries to gather a complete memory, tries to make a story take shape. His story. Clear and vivid memories, fleeting and disconnected, flit through his mind like a slide show of still snapshots. Pictures on panes of broken ice shatter across this swollen river.
He grabs at an ice fragment as it drifts by, looks into it, sees a child in the brittle mirror. Gasping at the reflection of his young self he drops the ice. It splinters, the pieces sparkling bright and sharp before sinking into the murky swirling river.
How did he end up in this spinning canoe? Shouldn’t he have a paddle?
The canoe lodges against some boulders just before a falls. Plates of jagged ice whirl rapidly past. The river of ice plays a familiar sound track, the music bringing a string of memories. He sees a leave-taking etched in ice. A self-assured young man floats by. Another bit of ice is a sculpture of a cityscape. The cityscape is ice closing in, crushing, before spinning and spilling over the falls.
He catches another fragment of ice. Why is his father’s face staring back at him? He looks again. The ice held in his hands holds his own face, old and cracked. His father’s face eddies just under the water’s surface.
The ice has rushed downstream. A paddle floats in the current right to the canoe bumping against the rocks. He is relieved yet apprehensive to pluck the paddle from the river.
He has wandered. He is lost. He knows it’s a long way home. He doesn’t know which way he should go.