Friday Flash: The Woman Who Rusted

Mona’s brain began to rust first. She would sneeze and spray solid bits of orange into her hand. She began to forget things like where she left her car, if she fed the cat, the fact that she no longer had a cat and, on a rainy Tuesday, she forgot to slip on her pants before walking out to the mailbox.

One day she sneezed and her teeth popped out onto her lap. She screamed, but then did remember she had dentures and this would sometimes happen when she forgot to buy denture cream. She would also need to buy skin lotion, she thought, as she scratched at a patch of brown scales on her arm.

“You should move to Yuma,” her doctor told her. “Low humidity. Will help delay the oxidation.”

“Oxidation?”

“Yes, rusting.”

Mona scratched at her flaking, cracked lips. “But, how?”

He shrugged. “These things happen.”

Yuma was all limitless sky, blue and more blue. Mona wondered what she was supposed to do with all this limitlessness. It only made her feel more small and insignificant.

In a folding yard chair, she sat, rubbing lotion into her pits and cracks and waited. It took longer to fall apart under a Yuma sky, but she waited patiently.

Her bones became brittle. Her pitted heart groaned at the exertion of pumping and circulating. Her lungs stiffened. The scent of acid and iron swirled around her. She shooed away neighborhood kids as they tried to polish her, thinking they were desert squirrels. Her mind was the first to go.

The Yuma sky began to rust, too, right before it bruised and then was shot through with pinholes. Mona tried to touch the light shining through the pinholes. She couldn’t get her heavy hand to move.

A neighbor rested a washbowl in her lap, mumbling something about being useful to nature. Sparrows and mockingbirds soon came to dip their dusty beaks and feathers. Their beady eyes were curious but unafraid. She knew she had lost her humanity. She was now just a curiosity.

In the silence, only the sharp edge of forgetfulness remained.  She had forgotten to do something. But what?

Her last breath beneath the limitless blue was a soft sigh of relief.

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  1. #1 by Carrie Clevenger on January 29, 2010 - 4:46 am

    YES. This was a splendid flash. Rusting woman. What a unique idea! Wow. Thank you for this chilling tale.

  2. #2 by Marisa Birns on January 29, 2010 - 5:08 am

    The first paragraph hooks the reader and the others keeps intriguing.

    Loved the line, “It took longer to fall apart under the Yuma sky, but she waited patiently.”

    Another favorite was the neighbor handing her the pot and telling her she should be useful to nature.

    Very imaginative work.

  3. #3 by David G Shrock on January 29, 2010 - 5:11 am

    Great concept delivered well in pure flash.

  4. #4 by Olivia Tejeda on January 29, 2010 - 5:22 am

    Shannon, I think Mona is completely wonderful. I’d happily sit and rust with her. This is a wonderful story and it’s so easy to imagine this lovely rusted statue in someone’s backyard. I’m so glad she finally remembered what she had to do. Brings tears to my eyes. ~ Olivia

    • #5 by soesposito on January 29, 2010 - 2:35 pm

      Thanks, Olvia- although, she never did remember to live. I think because of her never doing anything about her own life, someone else made her useful.

  5. #6 by yearzerowriters on January 29, 2010 - 8:07 am

    Wonderful, simply wonderful. Deft, light of touch to better deliver the melancholy. brilliant

    marc nash

    • #7 by soesposito on January 29, 2010 - 2:35 pm

      Easier to deliver melancholy in the winter, for sure. Maybe I’ll go back to cheery murders in the summer. 🙂

  6. #8 by Lou on January 29, 2010 - 1:31 pm

    I really enjoyed this. Magical realism with deep philosophical pools to dive into. And I know *exactly* how that blue sky can feel.

    • #9 by soesposito on January 29, 2010 - 2:36 pm

      Thanks for dropping by for a swim, Lou. 🙂

  7. #10 by ~Tim on January 29, 2010 - 2:25 pm

    I often wonder what to do with limitlessness. Interesting concept, that we could rust away.

    • #11 by soesposito on January 29, 2010 - 2:37 pm

      I agree, Tim. I definitely work better within boundaries. Limitlessness is scary.

  8. #12 by Melissa on January 29, 2010 - 2:35 pm

    Wonderful concept. The line “It took longer to fall apart under the Yuma sky, but she waited patiently” also stood out to me. Heartbreakingly sad, yet so common, such people (even (parts of) ourselves?) remain for us…curiosities (“things” as Simone Weil would say). Beautifully written. I like the photo–is it a painting?

  9. #13 by Skycycler on January 29, 2010 - 2:52 pm

    Wow! I love this Shannon. What a incredible and fertile imagination. Perfect dialogue, perfect rhythm.

  10. #14 by Laura Eno on January 29, 2010 - 3:00 pm

    You described the effect of the blue sky in the desert to a T. Perhaps that’s why I don’t like deserts…
    Fascinating story, Shannon! Rusting woman, finally useful as a birdbath. You find the most beautiful photos to go with your stories as well.

  11. #15 by Jen Brubacher on January 29, 2010 - 3:13 pm

    Incredible story. Very sad and also very charming– somehow, rusting doesn’t seem like such a bad way to go. Thank you for sharing it.

  12. #16 by mazzz_in_Leeds on January 29, 2010 - 3:16 pm

    Freaky good concept!
    The limitlessness – yes, that is scary.
    Loved the last breath

  13. #17 by CJ on January 29, 2010 - 3:17 pm

    I felt that way when I was in Yuma.

    Excellent, vivid imagery and her thought process was endearing. I love your ideas.

  14. #18 by netta on January 29, 2010 - 3:19 pm

    Excellent. There’s a whimsy here that makes the deterioration of Mona even that much more poignant.

    Unique and memorable. Great job, Shannon. 🙂

  15. #19 by David G Shrock on January 29, 2010 - 4:02 pm

    I came back to read this again. The timing, the whimsy (love the doctor’s response,) the rhythm; everything comes together so well.

    Super great job, Shannon.

  16. #20 by Deanna Schrayer on January 29, 2010 - 6:58 pm

    Shannon, your imagination just soars! I am always amazed at the way you think, so creatively, and not many writers have the ability to think that way and also get down what they see in such a clear way.

    I know Margaret Atwood is your favorite author. I believe that shines through in your work as your style reminds me much of hers. Oustanding!

    • #21 by soesposito on January 29, 2010 - 7:50 pm

      Deanna- I think I love you! 🙂

  17. #22 by Heather on January 29, 2010 - 7:59 pm

    Lovely work! The voice is superb!

  18. #23 by David Masters on January 29, 2010 - 8:24 pm

    Your prose flows beautifully – every word is perfectly placed, making it immediately engaging and easy to read. I love how your imagination works and all the wacky ideas you share in friday flash.

  19. #24 by Laurita on January 29, 2010 - 8:24 pm

    Wonderful writing. I have to agree with Deanna that your writing style is similar to Atwood’s (she’s a favourite of mine too). Your stories are always a treat.

  20. #25 by G. on January 29, 2010 - 9:19 pm

    Sad.

    I saw too much of you in this one. Not that you are not living, but the sentiment and the recent moments without dark chocolate, I mean.

    Well written, though. =)

    (And, on a lighter note: relax, you’re just 50, and, well, that is the new… 48 or 4?? Or, so I’m told. Just hitting my thirties good, I really can’t empathize from experience or anything like that, but, you know… I try).

    Ehem…

    And remember, the beatings WILL continue, until morale improves!

  21. #26 by G. on January 29, 2010 - 9:20 pm

    That second number should have been 49.9. Ah, you’ve got to watch me and my typos.

  22. #27 by John Wiswell on January 29, 2010 - 10:33 pm

    I’m with Marisa: the first paragraph has a fine hook. Even that one image of sneezing orange plays off the title and charmed me immediately. Charmed me so strongly that I was sure her teeth had rusted to the point of looseness in the second, and I laughed loud when it turned out they were dentures.

  23. #28 by Emma Newman on January 29, 2010 - 10:38 pm

    I think this will haunt me till the day I die. Simply wonderful. The bizarre nature of what is happening is beautifully tempered by the calm delivery. Love it, love it, love it!

  24. #29 by donaldconrad on January 29, 2010 - 11:17 pm

    Huh—to rust under a big blue sky… these things happen. Cool, thanks.

  25. #30 by G.P. Ching on January 30, 2010 - 2:13 am

    I think this might be happening to me but I can’t remember to be sure.

    I want access to where you get your ideas! 🙂 This is one of those stories that just amazes me in it’s originality. It is both entertaining and deeply meaningful. Well written!

  26. #31 by karen from mentor on January 30, 2010 - 4:31 pm

    I know I’ve said this before but I just love your work. You boggle the mind, engage the heart and tickle the funny bone in one arresting piece. Holy cow!

    this line killed me:
    He shrugged. “These things happen

  27. #32 by Anne Tyler Lord on January 30, 2010 - 5:00 pm

    Wow! That was amazingly beautiful and haunting. It was written so simply and felt delicate, but the bizarre idea of a rusting woman rotting away seemed natural and sad.

    Your writing and imagination astound me!

  28. #33 by Chance on January 30, 2010 - 5:54 pm

    Oohhhhh spine tingling, stuff. Really creepy idea – I may have to now hide my macbook in the fridge till it goes away

  29. #34 by Anton Gully on January 30, 2010 - 6:24 pm

    Nice analogy. Really great writing. You always deliver, though I don’t say it enough, but that was just perfect.

  30. #35 by Virginia Moffatt on January 30, 2010 - 8:23 pm

    That’s a really chilling idea. Liked the way you contrasted colours and used aridity to express her condition.

  31. #36 by Cathy Olliffe on January 30, 2010 - 8:44 pm

    Hi Shannon: were you, by any chance, describing menopause? Cause sometimes that’s how I feel, that I’m rusting away, bit by oxidized bit. Loved the story.. loved the picture! The turquoise and rust colours were just beauty.

  32. #37 by Sam on January 31, 2010 - 11:56 am

    Absolutely gorgeous #fridayflash. Wonderful concept excellently executed. 🙂

  33. #38 by Estrella Azul on January 31, 2010 - 1:40 pm

    I loved this piece! Great contrasting colors and a beautiful picture to go with the wonderful writing!

  34. #39 by Gram on January 31, 2010 - 5:53 pm

    Ageless..time takes it toll and we all rust. I loved that it was her mind that was the last to go..and yet it still lived on. She was aware that she was still being used, not matter what. I wanted to paint the rusted women.. I loved her. Thank you ..

  35. #40 by Laura Packer on February 1, 2010 - 6:59 pm

    Wonderful. Beautiful images and languid, economical language.

    I have a benign skin condition (granuloma annulare) that looks like rusty patches, so I found this particularly chilling.

  36. #41 by Tony Noland on February 1, 2010 - 6:59 pm

    This was beautiful and touching. Very well done!

  37. #42 by Jim Wisneski on February 2, 2010 - 2:16 am

    A rusting woman. . . how sad and perfect at the same time.

    And the descriptions and imagery here are excellent. Well done!

    Jim

  38. #43 by Eric J. Krause on February 3, 2010 - 5:55 pm

    Good story. Very imaginative.

  39. #44 by Mark Kerstetter on February 3, 2010 - 11:50 pm

    “Death creeps in slow, til you feel safe in his arms” – I think I got that right, from a Beck song.

    So beautiful, so sad, so true!

  40. #45 by Dana on February 8, 2010 - 6:42 pm

    How did I miss this last week?

    This was lovely, Shannon.

  41. #46 by Clive Martyn on February 16, 2010 - 12:57 pm

    Awesome flash of sci-fi. Loved it.

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