Poppies ( Excerpt From “Nice” – Flash Fiction? )



It seemed forever.  It was forever.  Through the cornfields and the gas stations and the Stuckey signs, and, as the sky darkened, the occasional smell of skunk.

He felt very sad beneath the darkening sky, certain that love was not for him.

It wasn’t the pimples.

(A doctor pulls a string from a woman’s ear, the string tighter and tighter until the doctor has to strain, until  plop–a large bouquet of roses tumbles out.

“I say,” the doctor says, “where did those come from?”

“How should I know?” the woman says.  “Show me the card.”)

What he felt was that he would never be that woman.

How could he think such things?  Stupid riddles, women, flowers.  It made him furious.  It wasn’t what he meant.  It had nothing to do with any of it.

This is what he doubted–that anyone–a girl–would just take him, put his head upon her lap–he pictured an ad for a Swedish movie:  the man pretending to rest, his hair stroked back, his head cradled, loved, it seemed, just for laying there like a log.

The turquoise upholstery scraped the backs of his arms like fish scales; maybe he was allergic to something, his chest a too-tight balloon.

He looked at Les who looked out the window.  The forever flat wings of the turnpike.

In France, there were poppies along the roadsides.  He’d seen pictures of them, a kid in his class who’d gone to France and posed, one in her hair–

Les would be like that, he thought.  No matter what happened, she’d put this big red poppy in her hair, smile for the camera.

No, it was really his mother who’d be like that, his mother with Les, gathering poppies for her hair, sticking one behind Les’ ear, fixing it, repeatedly.

He imagined himself pitching out of the car, bopping around between tires with his hands up over his face as they stood there, practicing their poses.

He smiled.


I was inspired by the wonderful (and completely different) poem Sleepsong Of the Poppies by Hedgewitch/Joy Anne Jones, and the beautiful picture she posted by Vandy Massey, to think of poppies.  This brought up this short excerpt from the novel I’ve been working on called Nice.   This is an excerpt from right smack in the middle (I’m sorry never to start in the beginning! )  It is told from the voice of a teenage boy, at this point on a car trip with his family, and disturbed about certain thoughts about his sister.  The story takes place in the summer of 1968.   (I am hoping this qualifies as “flash fiction.”)

The picture above was actually made by my mother, Phyllis M. Gustafson, on my iPad.  She is 90 years old.

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8 Comments on “Poppies ( Excerpt From “Nice” – Flash Fiction? )”

  1. This is lovely–there is a beauty of tone here in the prose–

  2. hedgewitch Says:

    First, that is a very neat pic your mom drew, Karin. Second, thanks for the mention, and always glad if anything I write starts something up in someone else’s brain. This is an interesting excerpt in that it shows both an unusual personality in the narrator, and also has such a really startling, surreal analogy from the author(the string!) I always am a bit surprised when you say you are not a poet, because whether the writing above comes in a novel, or in prose, it is definitely seen through a poet’s lens.

  3. lynndiane Says:

    Pulling poppies from her ear was interesting and entertaining image…and tell your mother i think her digital art is VERY “Nice”!

  4. claudia Says:

    you use very poetic language in your novel k. and rather cool and surprising images as well… and what cool artwork by your mom as well… 90… wow

  5. “He smiled”. I love that kind of endings. Unexpected. And beautiful. 🙂

    Greetings from London.

  6. grapeling Says:

    love Mom’s pic, and your short piece, too, K ~

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