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Flash Fiction Friday: Digitalis


flash fiction foxglove

It’s another Flash Fiction Friday, when poet and Every Day Poems editor Tania Runyan ventures into world of flash fiction, writing quick pieces using prompts from The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction. As you work on your writing craft, we encourage you to play around with different genres and see how that opens up new areas of creativity. 


The more Amanda’s mother warned her about the poisonous foxglove, the more she wanted to hold one of the mottled trumpets to her lips.

“Don’t mess with those flowers,” her mother said. “They’re so strong they use them for heart medicine.”

“Then wouldn’t they be good for my heart?”

“Enough. Just stay away, or I’ll have to rip them out.”

Amanda knew her mother wouldn’t do that. She often caught her sitting under the nodding stems drinking coffee as the world slipped away.

“When I was a kid, I didn’t waste my time watching iCarly or playing Internet games. I lay in the foxglove by the river and made up stories about the spots inside.”

“How do you make up a story about spots?”

“Imagination. It was easy. But those flowers are nothing to play with.”

Her mother abruptly went upstairs and started to run a bath, something she often did in the middle of the day.

Amanda walked the cracked stepping stones to the backyard cottage garden, ducking through the English daisies, climbing roses and sprawling blue geranium. She and her brother spent little time there. Toys that rolled or bounced into the garden were often tossed without warning.

The ragged swath of foxglove smudged the fence like eyeshadow. Amanda made sure no one was looking then crawled under the spikes of cascading blooms. She stared at the magenta spots that dripped from the flowers’ throats. Blood, she thought. Or maybe stars on fire. But she couldn’t think of anything else. People don’t think anymore, her mom always said. Her mind wandered to Andrew, the sixth grader with curly hair, and the new box of Nilla Wafers in the pantry.

She plucked one of the flowers and peered into it. Held up close, it was like a full-lipped open mouth. Is this what a boy’s mouth looks like before kissing? No, you’re supposed to close your eyes. She thought that Andrew probably would, hair curling over his lids.

She brought the bloom to her mouth and let it brush her lips. Maybe she could imagine dying from a flower, swallowing it whole and seeing spots, her heart beating faster and faster until it fluttered to a stop against her chest. She wondered if her mother still used her imagination between sulking and bathing and telling her kids they were wasting their lives. Maybe right now in the bathtub she was imagining brighter children who read classic novels, named the trees in the woods, and behaved responsibly in gardens.

She touched the foxglove with the tip of her tongue, thrilled by the silken danger.  She did it again and again with her eyes closed, red sunlight pressing on her lids, until she felt dizzy with thoughts of her classmates whispering about Amanda’s close call. She envisioned homemade get-well cards and Andrew standing teary-eyed at her bedside, giggling at the thought of it as her mother in a towel screamed and banged on the bathroom window.

Photo by MKooiman, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Tania Runyan, author of A Thousand Vessels.


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Your Comments

6 Comments so far

  1. L. L. Barkat says:

    Chillingly good. And I love the ambiguity of the ending :)

  2. Tania Runyan says:

    Thank you! Fun to be a little disturbed once in a while. . .

  3. Marcia Terwilliger says:

    I’m smiling, delightful, I can see her standing under those flowers and licking it. Expecially funny, her Mother banging on the window. Love, love, it. All of the poems I write always turn into a story, glad to see someone else write that way. We had honeysuckle and George lived next door and we would suck the nector. These days they now warn us of tiny spiders living inside that can kill us. Sometimes as a child we are better off not knowing then our soul’s are less tempted.

  4. Tania Runyan says:

    Ah, a few spiders never hurt anyone! Thank you, Marcia!

  5. Donna says:

    This is GREAT! I sure hope you’re collecting all of these into a book… I love them! And this one… I didn’t know whether to laugh or call 911!

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