Winner of the January 2018 Prime Number Magazine Flash Fiction Contest
Judged by Wendy J. Fox, author of The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories, winner of the 2014 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction
Followed by a Q&A
The Parable of the Yacht
I once knew a woman who came into possession of a yacht she did not want. She spent many afternoons in my kitchen complaining of the inconvenience. For reasons I did not understand, she could not part with the yacht. It was entirely out of the question. She would have to make do with it; these were the words she used. Make do. She bought what I considered to be a very silly hat and a wardrobe of mostly white linen. She invited people to little soirees onboard. She met a man who enjoyed fishing. Within a year, she began to disappear down to the Bahamas over long weekends. When last I saw her, I did not recognize her body. She had been a little slumped over to tell the truth, a little hunched in the shoulders and maybe overweight. The woman I saw that day had excellent posture and the most ridiculous brunette extensions, and when she saw me, she looked surprised and disappointed and was unable to remember for the benefit of her company, my name.
I wish now that I had told that story differently. I don’t think I knew that woman nearly as well as I let on. She kept the yacht, but she didn’t have the money for it. She believed it was better to own then to sell. She had to sell her car and her condo and her favorite dog, Chubby. She had to work weekends pushing pork at the supermarket. The man she met had nothing but his love of fishing to recommend him. For mysterious reasons, they agreed to grow old together. They brought people onboard the yacht—nascent seafarers. I cannot imagine where this woman found them. The people bumbled around the deck and sometimes broke things. They could not tell port from starboard. Many confessed predisposition to seasickness.
The first time these people stepped barefoot onto the pillowy sand of Nassau Island, they did not imagine themselves indebted to a hundred million years of coral growth and erosion and, quite possibly, iron from Saharan dust. They had never before left mainland Florida. Even there, they’d tread as sleepers over weathered mountains, buoyed in recent years by quartz from inland mines.
Lindsey Griffin holds an MFA from the University of Miami and is a prose editor for the museum of americana, an online literary review. Her writing has appeared in Epiphany, Image, Sou’wester, Saw Palm, Midwest Review, and elsewhere. She is a member of the Lighthouse Writers Workshop Book Project in Denver.
I was reading parables in the Gospel of Matthew and became interested in the form. I wanted to try to narrate from a character’s point of view so as to offer unreliable judgements about the action. When I first began writing, I started with the opening line to the biblical parables, “The kingdom of heaven is like a…” and then filled in yacht, woman, and beach. The fiction evolved from there.
What is one thing about you that people assume?
I assume that people don’t pay that much attention to me, which is funny because I enjoy noticing details about other people. Every once in a while someone will make a comment that shows they are indeed paying attention, and I always find that a little bit jarring.
What is your spirit animal?
I am fond of manatees but I wouldn’t call them my spirit animal. They are benevolent plant-eating sea cows. Once, one surfaced in a river near where I was standing and snorted at me. Then I reached out and touched it on the nose.
Rock, paper, or scissors?
Paper. In my experience people seldom throw scissors, a lingering inhibition from grammar school, I think.