Flash fiction: There were exceptions for everything but this

Author’s note: In preparation for NaNoWriMo 2009, someone put up daily prompts on one of the forums. I did them in the spirit of warm-ups, but some of them turned into stories. Here is one such.

Prompt (and title): There were exceptions for everything… except this.

English is not so much a language as a train wreck.  A traffic accident, a two-mile pileup in all directions as five major roads meet with no traffic lights in an ice storm.

You get the picture.  That’s why there are no spelling rules to speak of.  The grammar is tenuous, a gossamer web of assumptions.  Mess up the word order, and you’re hopelessly at sea—the mid-Pacific, say, no land in sight and two miles of watery abyss below you.

I thought about that all the time now, looking at Marina.  The assumptions, I mean.  She didn’t run on the same rules as I did; the gaps and voids, and the bridges across them, were in completely different places.  In English, there is a slim volume called Rules, and a ten-volume opus magnum called Exceptions.  Yet we’re rule-bound in practice, and never have I so keenly realized that as when Marina shrugged or frowned in the face of my terrors.  On the lip of the precipice, on the spider’s bridge across complete annihilation, she shrugs and then smirks.

“Nothing is dripping on us,” she says.

Structure.  Grammar.  I don’t speak her language particularly well, and she laughs at my archaisms.  I’m in the nineteenth century, apparently, and every once in a while I come out with something that nobody said in ordinary speech even then.

She laughs at me and there’s a flash of lips, teeth and tongue.

I remember how it happened too, how I got caught—trapped—captured—by this alien creature.  The rigidity of grammar—those hours of drill on declension—throws delicate lines across the abyss of unmeaning.  The words shift order.

She laughed at my terror.  You can switch up the order, she said.  That’s how you get shades of meaning.  Then leaned in, and kissed me.

The grammar of lust.

There were exceptions for everything… except for this.  This, apparently, was in her language, which has nearly no exceptions.  The order, apparently so rigid, opens up chaos and darkness, galaxies under our feet.  Three spelling rules, which I learned after the alphabet, and a thousand years of churning disorder.  Quite fascinating to read, more unsettling to live.  And she had just invited me to cross the border.

(Process information: 10/17/2009 12:59 PM to 10/17/2009 1:11 PM, 375 words)

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One Response to Flash fiction: There were exceptions for everything but this

  1. susielindau says:

    Your first line was freakin’ amazing! Being from Wisconsin, I can relate! Across the border is right! Excellent!

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