FFfAW: Bittersweet


This week’s photo prompt is provided by Jodi McKinney. Thank you Jodi!

‘What about this one, Gamma?’ Solly held out a glossy red berry.

Tan looked up from her own basket of fruit. ‘Bittersweet. Eat a handful of those and you’ll be running to the privy for a night and a day.’

Solly let the baubles fall, crushing them with the toe of her boot.

The sun was high, heat building under Tan’s arms, gathering in the channel of her spine. She closed her eyes for a moment, focused on the breeze, how it carried the scent of the distant shore, the quarrel of gulls.

The lights went out twenty years ago today. How had anyone survived those early days? How had she? The loss of all they’d known, all the comforts they’d taken for granted …

‘This is a funny one, Gamma – all spiky.’

She opened her eyes to find another berry under her nose, Solly’s eyes sparkling like fireworks.

After all they’d suffered, here was her silver lining.

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Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

Bittersweet is a member of the nightshade family with glossy red berries that can cause sickness or even death.

25 thoughts on “FFfAW: Bittersweet

  1. A feast of words to draw forth the picture. And bittersweet; I love that flower, so fragile. For some reason its shape makes me think of a Turkish sultan in ages past. But, alas for its berries. And I like that the lights went out. So assured we are of our sun, yet history should warn us, while out star might always shine, sometimes those rays fail to get through.

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    1. I’d never come across the flower before, though I know the family of course. And lovely, as you say. In the summer there’s a clump of nightshade that grows by a railway bridge near us. I often pass it and wonder if people know what those little lilac flowers belong to. And yes, one day those lights will go out. Everything ends. But not quite yet hopefully! Thanks for reading

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  2. I have a special fondness for stories about everyday people living everyday lives after the great apocalypse (rather than the larger-than-life heroes who try to avert it). The sensory details on this one — especially all the smells — really bring it to life. Whatever that last berry is sounds interesting: what spiky one do you mean?

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    1. Yes, me too. It’s always the ordinary people muddling along who are the most interesting. Same with history – tell me about the milk maids and the tanners, not the kings and queens! I thought perhaps a gooseberry for the spiky fruit. escaped from a garden before the apocalypse and growing wild now man has stopped interfering with nature. Thank you for reading Joy

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      1. I keep looking for the chance to write a scene or story in an old tannery. In our part of Bristol, it was all tanneries and coal mines and bottle works and cigarette factories in the Victorian era, side streets of slums and dark, narrow terraces. The tanneries must have stank as they used urine to treat the skins, the run-off pouring into the local river. I’ve seen a Victorian photograph of an old slum street near me where there are children breaking wooden crates in the yards, perhaps for firewood. The street’s ironically called Little Paradise and still exists

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      2. Sounds like a great setting for a story to me — and I can picture you describing it in wonderfully evocative detail. Yes, I’ve read that tanneries stunk to high heavens, and were placed far away from the parts of town where the higher status people would be, for that reason. But I imagine that if you work at a tannery, you get used to it after a while.

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      3. Well, the whole of south Bristol was full of these places, with the North of the city – the other side of the river Avon – being where the rich people lived. It’s still that way to an extent, though the lines have blurred a little. Same in London, some of the poorer boroughs are south of the Thames. It’s almost as if the well off need a physical barrier to keep the poor away! I would imagine you might lose your sense of smell after few years working in a tannery, inhaling all that stench – and you’d be glad of it too!

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      4. It reminds me of visiting the city in Pennsylvania where the big Hershey’s factory was. My friends claimed that growing up, they didn’t even notice the smell — which is INSANE and permeates the entire city — but whenever they went back, it took days before they could tune it out again. That was decades ago though, I have no idea if it’s still the same.

        And yes, the town I grew up on had an “other side of the tracks” too. I think most do…

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      5. After school, I went to a college that was sandwiched between a sweet factory (it was famous for making round hard sweets called mint imperials) and a crematorium, so depending on which way the wind blew … I dropped out before I got used to any of it 🙂

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  3. ‘A feast of words’ indeed: I was particularly taken by “heat building under Tan’s arms, gathering in the channel of her spine”. Always vividly powerful, your evocation, Lynn.

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    1. Ah, thank you Chris. I can never write a happy story, though, can I? Even a nanna picking berries with her grandchild has to have a post apocalyptic edge! Eh, well, no point fighting my nature. 🙂 Thank you for reading

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