Final Flourish

Laos Buddha Park

Photo © Daniele Montagna, via Google Photosphere

When I saw the Mla bush on fire, I was elated. Last time, I was too young to remember. My Nda has seen it reborn six times. Every dry-day she told the stories, me imagining each one.

The season was wrong. But as Nda says, the Mla is life, and life does what it will.

We settled in for the evening to watch the cycle.

By the third night, when it still burned, the elders’ whispers turned fearful. We kept praying, keening louder.

Finally the flames died.

Nobody breathed, waiting. Then a bud poked through the ashes, unfurling rainbow leaves. By dusk it was taller than any other. Why?

Nda frowned. “It is the last.”

My heart stopped. Who will we be without the Mla? I kept quiet. To ask of fate invites it.

Instead I studied the bloom, engraving its story on my heart. That, at least, will survive.

Word count: 150. Written for this week’s What Pegman Saw challenge. Big thanks to Josh and Karen for hosting! This week, Pegman takes us to Vientiane, Laos. I found the image I used at Buddha Park. Click on the link above to see what imagines other writers found that inspired their stories — and of course, feel free to join in and write one yourself!

This is one where I cut it from 260 words to 150, cutting two whole characters and (necessarily) much of the description and plot. I’m not super happy with it, but I hope it still makes sense.

To all my American readers, I hope you have an extra day off work for Labor Day weekend and are enjoying yourself!


20 thoughts on “Final Flourish

  1. Would be interesting to hear what you cut from the plot. It’s hard of course to give us readers a world in 150 words. We are basically in twitter territory now. But this is still an interesting setup of a world on the verge of change, “It is the last.” So of course I wonder, what comes next? What is the price to be paid?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the great comment, Louis, In the original, there was more about what the elders discussed when the bush kept burning — what did it mean, should they try to do something? That they were constructing what the story would be for this particular burning and rebirth. Later it was the Eldest who foresaw that this was the last rebirth of the Mla bush. The narrator had her children with her, and at the end, she was urging them to pay close attention, memorize the bloom, worrying they were too young to remember (like she was, last time) and that they’d never have the chance to see it again.

      What happens next is a good question. Will they stay and keep going as before, but without it? Will some venture out to find another tribe whose Mla bush still lives, and try to join them? Or perhaps are all the Mla bushes dying, all across the land — and if so, why, and what does it mean?

      Liked by 1 person

      • You mentioned in another reply to another on this forum, “…and trying to make it NOT sound like the burning bush from the story of Moses in Exodus.” That was something I should have mentioned. I did wonder, should I be reading into your burning bush in the scene? In a sense, your burning bush is giving a message to the people.

        So that’s a tricky one. Using references from our shared culture can say so much, while saving you the writer on the word count limit, but what do you do when you don’t want that? You want your readers looking over here, not over there… Ha.

        I will say, while it occurred to me, I didn’t overly analyze that, so I think you succeeded. If you wanted us to go that route there was more you could have added that you didn’t. So well done.

        Liked by 1 person

      • No matter how different I try to make parts of Eneana from any one specific culture, of course there will always be overlaps because I’m basing my world-building on realistic human behaviors. I find that readers really seem to want to see similarities to the real world, even when I go to great lengths to emphasize the differences. If you have a bush that burns, of course it’s Moses’ bush (even if this one is really more of a phoenix bush and has no god talking out of it). The worst is when they point out how similar they think something is to a real-life religion or ritual, as though that makes it less real instead of more so (or as though they’re accusing me of cheating?).

        Which is a long way of saying that no, I am *never* using references from shared culture. Well, I guess I should never say never, ha ha… All of that being said, I’m glad to hear you think it succeeded!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Josh! You might notice that a lot of my shots are aimed upward and feature a lot of sky — because every angle of the ground level has some person or sign or telephone line that isn’t Eneana-compatible. This week’s was an especially hard one. I thought that finding the Buddha Park would be brilliant, but the statues are all so packed in side by side, with tourists everywhere. That said, it was fun to take the virtual tour!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A sweet story, ending in such sorrow. Where I live there are a great many big oak trees. I’ve always enjoyed them for their shade and their beauty.

    This year, dozens and dozens of them are dying. Who knows why? Maybe it was the harsh winter, the dry summer, or the oak blight that has taken one or two every year. This story made me think of them with a chill. Hope it’s not the last of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aha, another victim (or benefit?) of carving up the story to get the word count down. In the original version it was clearer (I hope) that there wasn’t anything wrong with the season itself, but that the bush didn’t usually go through its burn and rebirth cycle now, in the current season. Of course now that you mention it, I see all kinds of potential links to climate change… Thanks for the intriguing comment!


  3. Just read your comment about readers looking for real world comparisions when reading Eneana stories. It struck me as I read that there’s an environmental, ecological echo here for us – I wonder how many plants and animals are being seen for the last time, though we might not be aware of it. And of course, there is no suggestion in your story that your characters have done anything to bring about the end of the wonderful fiery plant.
    Fantastic world building and vivid descriptions as always, Joy

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t mean to imply an environmental theme, but I can see it. I was thinking more generally, that we tend to build our lives on things we think have always been and always will be, when so often in reality, neither is true. But we don’t come to terms with that unless we’re forced to.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading and for your nice comment! In real life, I’ll always prefer the moment of joy. But in my stories, I do like to throw a question of survival at them — because that’s what leads to conflict and change and growth, and future joy, hopefully!


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