i’ve been a little crabby lately. computer problems, jerks on ebay failing to pay me for auctions they won, anxiety over buying my first car & learning how to drive…i’ll probably write about these topics at a later date. in the meantime, let’s cleanse our palates with a flash fiction story i write this summer. for the uninitiated, flash fiction is just very short fiction. this story is a little over 700 words. feedback is welcome!
I stretched my legs in the passenger seat, nudging aside stuffed cow toys, cracked cassette tapes, and mangled copies of “Sassy” magazine. Elsa pulled her station wagon into the Dairy Queen parking lot and leaned out the window. She penciled on glittery gray eyeliner by the last rays of sunset reflected in the side mirror. She resembled a fast food mascot in her fuzzy cow-print overalls. Elsa’s fondness for cows, combined with her size, was sad or fortunate, depending on one’s perspective. Her cow-print wardrobe inspired much mooing in the halls, but Elsa chose to interpret it as acknowledgment of her favorite animal rather than a commentary on her weight.
“It’s weird that your mom won’t let you get a tattoo,” she said.
I turned down the radio, a modern rock station out of Detroit. “It’s not that weird. I’m only sixteen,” I said.
“My mom didn’t care.” Elsa’s mother had paid for her daughter’s tattoo as a seventeenth birthday gift three weeks earlier, an intricate Hungarian latticework design curving around Elsa’s left forearm in traditional brown.
“You’re class valedictorian. That buys you certain privileges. Not that my mom would care…In fact, when I asked her about getting one, she said you’re a bad influence,” I said.
Elsa’s head whipped around. “Me? A bad influence?”
“She says that you’re smart, we both are, but judgmental. That we get together and put other people down. That we have attitude problems that are going to cause us a lot of trouble in life.” I shrugged. “She says there’s more to being a good person than doing well in AP German classes.”
Elsa snorted. “It’s pretty judgmental of her to talk that way about a couple of teenage girls.”
“She also said that she’s not going to let me get a tattoo just so you and I can strut around school like we’re cooler than anyone else. That having a tattoo should be about more than impressing a bunch of teenagers.”
“I got my tattoo to celebrate my Hungarian heritage. I don’t care if some cheerleaders think I’m cool.”
“I know. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone either,” I lied. I knew Elsa was lying too. She was too conscious of the way she folded her arms on her desk, the length of her sleeves, her stagy gestures in the lunch line, to not be seeking out—and relishing—the attention her tattoo attracted.
“Everyone thinks mine is henna anyway,” Elsa said, stroking it. “Like I’d ever do that. It’s culturally appropriative.”
“Really? What culture?”
“Indian, I think? They do it for weddings. Anyway, I want a Blizzard. With peanut butter cups.”
A limo pulled up on our right and I remembered it was prom night. Elsa and I had made a pact back in October to skip it. Dating in high school was for vocational class kids, said Elsa. The limo doors were open and I saw three boys in tuxedoes, a different flower in each boutonniere. A pasty brunette swathed in navy satin leaned out the window and dumped a beverage on the ground. Her blonde friend, in a frothy pink chiffon mermaid dress, exited the limo and saw Elsa.
“Oh, hey!” said Mermaid Dress, “I like your henna tattoo.”
Elsa stopped and turned around. I backed toward the bumper of Elsa’s car. “It’s not a henna tattoo,” Elsa snapped.
“But it’s all brown and swirly. It’s gorgeous! Who did it?”
“It’s not a henna tattoo,” Elsa growled. She clenched her fists.
Mermaid Dress floated toward Elsa, oblivious to the danger signs. I sank on to the bumper. “It seems really detailed,” said Mermaid Dress. To my horror, she reached out to touch Elsa’s arm. “It’s amazing what they can do with henna–”
Elsa swung her arm around and popped Mermaid Dress in the nose. She toppled back on to her ass on the oily pavement. Blood dripped into her floaty chiffon lap, and she watched it pool in disbelief.
“Hey, what the hell?”
“Did that girl in the cow outfit just punch Flora?”
“Flora, oh my God, are you okay?”
The kids in the limo swarmed out and surrounded their friend. “My dress…” whimpered Flora.
“I said, it’s not a fucking henna tattoo. And you don’t touch without permission.” Elsa turned and stomped inside the Dairy Queen. I followed.