Flash Fiction: From the Water’s Edge

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I recently learned that the online magazine The Flash Fiction Press is going on hiatus until the end of the summer. This magazine is the home of my first published piece, “From the Water’s Edge,” my first attempt at flash fiction. I thought I’d share that piece with you today.

“From the Water’s Edge” is a story about a moment of vulnerability, a shared experience between two strangers. It reminds me of writing in that these stories writers create are attempts to create connections, to resonate with a reader in a meaningful way. And as I reread this piece this morning, I thought of all the connections that I’ve created with authors, and how there are parts of my personality that resonate most noticeably with other writers. And that’s kind of what life and writing is all about. These sparks, these shared moments, and the understanding that in between these breaths we take there’s a space filled with these significant encounters.


I don’t know the woman sitting across the coffee shop, but I know her sadness. I have never spoken to her, but we discuss her life over sips of latte and stolen glances over paper mugs.

Her smile wraps around me and I feel the warmth of a thousand summer days, but I’m haunted by the faintest downturn at the edges of her lips.

I imagine the brilliance of her ocean blue eyes in her youth. Even now, they sparkle, but I want to weep because beyond their brilliance there’s loss.

My heart feels weighted as she flips the page of the book in front of her, and I see her weathered hands dab at the corners of her eyes.

I turn the page of my notebook, pretending not to notice.

When I look up again, she’s staring at me. She winks, and I’m washed away in a tidal wave.

I wonder if she’s heard my whispered sorrow as we’ve carried on our silent conversation.

I feel my face redden at the realization of my exposure. I think she somehow knows how I cry in the shower unheard. Tears over lost loved ones and lost dreams, wash away down the drain where no one will find them.

She knows. She knows me and I don’t even know her name, but somehow she knows me better than anyone.

She mouths, “It’ll be okay.”

Somehow, I believe her. Because, even though the remnants of her grief tug at the corners of her eyes and her mouth, her eyes still sparkle, and I believe.

26 Comments


  1. // Reply

    This is really lovely. As you say, a moment of connection, which is all we’re searching for every day. Connections with people in the street, at the station, behind the counter. It’s the little things that drag you under, sang Michael Stipe in Sweetness Follows, but likewise, it’s the little things that pull you up. Also, I have to say, I LOVED hearing you read the story, assuming that’s you Mandie. That’s such a great idea. I may have to steal it at some point! 🙂


    1. // Reply

      Thank you so much, Ben! And so true about little things pulling you under too. And I’m so glad you liked the audio. That’s me. I don’t yet have the means to hire that work out. 🙂 That’ll be fun to hear if you try it on your blog.
      I think one day I’d like to persuade some people to record a story with me and have different voices for different characters, like an old radio show.


      1. // Reply

        The audiobook of George Saunders’ novel Lincoln in the Bardo does exactly that and it’s amazing. 166 narrators, from Nick Offerman to Julianne Moore. Not saying you have to get A-listers obvs, but it’s an amazing experience 🙂


        1. // Reply

          Wow, 166, that sounds incredible. I imagine it’s not cost effective for every book to be narrated by such a large group of people, but that would be great. I’ve listened to several audio books where I’ve wished they had more than one narrator. At least one man and one woman. A lot of voice actors can change their voice to make the characters sound different, but I can’t say that any of them do the greatest job of creating the voice of someone of the opposite sex.


  2. // Reply

    Mandie,

    I loved this story and have always enjoyed observing others in public places such as airports–wondering what their story was and what struggles or joys they might be experiencing at that particular moment. Studying people helps us transcribe those emotions onto paper.

    One question. I’d love to add audio to some of my posts, but don’t know how. (You have a lovely voice BTW. It reminds me of another writer friend, Jan Morrill) Could you walk me through the process?


    1. // Reply

      I enjoy observing people as well. While engaging in a conversation can reveal a lot about a person, they’re revealing what they want to about themselves. Observation allows for noticing little cues that people don’t realize they’re providing. Perhaps you ask someone how their job is going, and they say all the right things about how great it is, but their eyes tell you things aren’t good.
      I actually have it on my list of post ideas to write about how I add audio to my stories, so it’s good to know there’s interest in this.
      Let me see if I can break it down briefly here. I use Audacity, which is a free audio editor and recorder. I like that it allows you to cut and paste audio into a track, so if you have a slip, you don’t necessarily have to start all over.
      You need a microphone of some sort, I use a pair of earbuds or headphones that have a built-in mic.
      After I’m satisfied with the recording, I export the audio, and save it as an MP3, which is a smaller audio file than WAV. WordPress has a size limit on audio files, I discovered, so this helps cut down on the size.
      I insert it into WordPress the same way I insert a photograph, through the “Add Media” button.
      Hopefully this will help get you started.


  3. // Reply

    Wow girl, That was beautiful!


  4. // Reply

    Ah, that sacred moment of connection! Great piece, Mandie! It was an enjoyable read.


      1. // Reply

        It was a delightful read! 🙂


  5. // Reply

    I really love this, because it tells more of what it does not tell about the narrator. Somehow I feel the connection as being that of a mirror almost (which suits the monologue)… it could actually work as a beginning to something longer as well…

    At the same time the situation of observing people in public places is something I do a lot…


    1. // Reply

      I like that you point out the connection as a mirror. The story has always drawn me to both characters. I can see myself on both sides of that silent conversation.


  6. // Reply

    Mandie, wonderful as always. Ben you have some very important observations. Hopefully as we get older we are less influenced by the general world as our mirror and improve our ability for self critique and evaluation. By writing and creating we hope to make those connections with our audience. Let’s hope we are able, in this modern world of anonymity, to be positive mirrors to those who look.


    1. // Reply

      Thank you, Christy, and I’m so happy to see you back and commenting. It’s so wonderful to have you join our conversation! 🙂
      Such a beautiful point you made about being positive mirrors for others to look into. There are so many hardships people are facing in their lives every day. There are people who are silently suffering, and we could unintentionally pull them under, or we can choose to be a spot of positivity that might be the very life raft they need.


  7. // Reply

    This was lovely, Mandie. I ride the train every day, so I often observe the people around me. There are many times I think, “I think that person is sad, or I can tell they are not having a good day.”

    This short story you wrote reminds me of those slice of life times. Those times where you’re just watching someone, and we can figure out what their thinking based on their expression. Excellent work! This was a thinker. =)


    1. // Reply

      Thank you, Aka.
      When you capture those moments when you can see something about the way a person is feeling, it’s like being let in on a secret, but you don’t know them well enough to comfort them. But I think there are times when you do know just what to say, or just the right look of understanding that lets them know they aren’t alone.
      I guess there’s hope in these moments in a world that is becoming so disconnected from each other as they plug into their electronic devices, these moments join us back into the human race.


  8. // Reply

    I really enjoyed this piece, Mandie…I spend a lot of time sat in coffee shops and I always seem to end up imagining back stories for the other customers.


    1. // Reply

      Thank you, Scarlett. It is interesting observing people. I wonder if creating backstory for people is limited to writers, or if most people tend to do that.


  9. // Reply

    A delightful piece, written with great sensitivity.
    I love hearing your voice.


    1. // Reply

      Thanks, C.E. Your comment pushed me to reread the intro for that piece. It really represents a lot of fears that I’ve faced. From trying out flash fiction to adding audio to my pieces. It’s neat to look back at these pieces that were terrifying to me when I posted them here, and realize how far I’ve come.
      Thanks for the visit and the comment! I hope you have a wonderful day!

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