In which my self-introduction is waylaid by a genuine writing sample! Backstory: I’m a big fan of Chuck Wendig’s blog Terrible Minds (check it out some time; it’s great for laughs and brutally honest advice and observations on writing, society, and child-rearing, to name a few subjects). Roughly every Friday he posts flash-fiction prompts for his blog subscribers to participate in. This week’s prompt: “It starts with a bang.” My contribution is below; it will also be archived in my “Fiction” section at some point in the near future. Enjoy!
He stared at his reflection in the mirror, looking at the aftermath of his actions. So callous, so gut-wrenching, he thought as his hand shook, the cold metal around his fingers gradually warming to his touch. Breath ragged, heart pounding. Destroying something that had been a part of him for years. True, in the beginning he’d suffered a lot of insults and abuse. But what started out as stubbornly emulating his idols had slowly turned into a matter of pride. He liked it. It was a statement. Granted, when he’d first made the decision all those years ago, he was too young and inexperienced to know what it was a statement for. Over time, it had simply become part of his self-identity. To just dispose of it, like refuse, seemed… cruel. Heartless. Yet here he was, watching his reflection hold bits of his youth, his formative years, in his hand like clumps of weeds he’d ripped from the ground. Letting his eyes fall from the mirror, he held his fist out to the side, numbly opening his hand and dropping the victims of his crime into a half-full wastebasket next to the sink.
The carnage was horribly mesmerizing, like seeing the aftermath of a car wreck on a highway. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t look away. A shiver ran down his spine, sparking a wave of panic. What had he done? How could he have thought this was a good idea? What if this changed him, destroyed some crucial aspect of himself, turned him into someone he never wanted to be? He should just stop the torture now, abide the damage he’d already caused and save himself from more grief. Step away from the sink… back out of the room… try to drive the image in the mirror out of his mind.
But no. He’d gone too far to back out now. His only option was to finish what he had started. Complete the transformation, and hope that the physical change didn’t penetrate more deeply, didn’t fundamentally alter the core of his being. His only consolation was a single thought, looping in his mind. It’s not forever, it’s not forever…
He lifted his gaze back to his own image before him, and suddenly something about it seemed different. A new sensation washed over him, and a laugh rose unbidden from his belly. A part of him wanted to suppress the reaction, deny that any part of his plight was humorous. But a chuckle bubbled from his throat. Quiet at first, a closed-mouth snort, a low rumble of amusement, but it opened the floodgate and the laugh grew louder. He looked like her. And he started to see what he would look like if he kept going, finished the job. His cheeks flushed with equal parts embarrassment and mirth, and, keeping his eyes on his reflection, he leaned away from the mirror and called through the open door. “Hey, Jenny… Jenny, come here.”
A distant sigh from another room. Footsteps approaching. “What do you want? I’m trying to finish my homework—“
His sister appeared in the doorway, her annoyed expression quickly transitioning to pure shock before she burst into hysterics. “Oh my god! You gave yourself bangs!”
“It’s a work in progress,” he countered, trying to sound indignant despite the grin on his face.
Once her laughter subsided, Jenny stood shoulder to shoulder with him as they peered into the mirror together. “You look like me,” she said, playfully body-checking his image out of the frame.
“Yeah, only a head taller,” he added as he regained his balance.
“Do you want some help with the rest of it?” He held out the scissors to her handle-first. “I never thought I’d see the day,” she said as she set to work cutting his hair. “Didn’t think you’d ever want to get rid of it.”
He sighed as heavily as he could without moving as she worked the blades near his head. “I may have had a small panic attack when I started. But I can’t just look good on paper anymore,” he said. “Gotta look good in person too. First impressions, right?”
She abruptly stopped cutting. “That’s not why you’re doing this, is it?” she asked, meeting his eyes in the mirror.
“I know what you’re gonna say, but yeah, that’s part of it. More than that, though, I think it was just time for a change.”
“To go along with the other changes? Graduation, job interview… might as well get them all out of the way at once, I guess.” She resumed her work with the scissors, taking all the length off and leaving him with a roughly hewn mop of short hair. She reached up and tousled it, smiling. “And Mom and Dad are gonna flip when they get home.”
He ran a hand through his newly short locks, then frowned at the clippings stuck to his fingers. “Seriously. They’ve been after me to cut it off for years. They’re not gonna shut up about it.”
“Well, you’re gonna look great once you get it shaped and styled. And long or short, you’ll knock ’em dead on Monday. You’re a shoo-in for that job.”
Jenny rinsed her hands off in the sink, but caught him inspecting himself in the mirror as she dried off. Pausing, she grabbed a strand of hair that had missed the wastebasket. “How about I put this in a baggie for you to keep?”
He shook his head, grinning. “Get out of here,” he said, pushing her toward the doorway.