Flash Fiction Friday: Maddening Musings


Sometimes things just work out, don't they? This month, the pieces I received for open prompt all deal with the inner workings of the mind — its wishes, doubts, fits and reflections. Enjoy.

By Paul Venderley

A blank page.

Many a writer has spent hours in front of such a monster, its thin, faded blue lines slicing across an empty canvas rather than serving as perches for words. That is not the nightmare that plagues me now, decades into my life.

I have distilled the halcyon days of my impetuous youth onto college-ruled collections of parchment. Drafted into the Korean War, I used that as impetus to travel the world, from Europe to Africa to Washington, D.C., documenting all I’d seen.

I've written to change things, addressing problems brought on by political folly, by societal fears, by monsters both perceived and real. Each piece, each article, each journal, each letter to the editor I have saved and stored in scores of filing cabinets and boxes throughout my home.

The words of an oral argument can fall on deaf ears. A debate can be rendered moot by the actions of the debater the very next day. No verbal discourse can match up to the solidity of a well-reasoned argument set to paper, sent to those who would view the fullness of the world in black and white.

I have devoted my life to creating this legacy of words.

Yet, I hold in my hand a blank page. Not a canvas for a new piece, but the parchment of an old treatise. Piled haphazardly around me are musty cardboard boxes filled with my work, dated and labeled with the precision of a library's archivist. Yet the contents of each container are as empty as the page I hold. I dig into the box before me and struggle to remember the words I had placed on the pages within.

I seek out a pen, calling to mind the title of an article based upon the indentations of the paper, trying to write out key points that I had once recorded there. The paper soaks up the ink before the words take hold, my message disappearing even as I write.

I try writing new words. Stories I told my boys as they grew up. A description of my wife when I had first met her. A random list of the items I have remaining in my home.

Nothing is retained.

Shakespeare once wrote that life is "a tale told by an idiot, filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.” But not mine! I am no stage-bound fool! My words showcased the consequences of our actions! My words held a mirror up to society! My words, I must find my words.

Somewhere within these mounds of paper must be some of my words that prove my efforts have meant something. I turn over boxes, pull open file cabinets, push aside reams of paper in search for something that bears proof of my thoughts. A half-completed application. A limerick hastily written on a cocktail napkin. Anything.

Blank. All blank.

My pages fall around me like large sheets of snow, not one of them different from the other.

Paul Venderley may have caught the urge to write from his father, taking to scribbling notes on pieces of paper that should have contained homework. His published works have been limited to newspaper contests. The remainder lie in wait on legal pads, in between his day job's meeting notes.


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