The Fairytale Ending
Jill and Mason had been together for 12 years when they decided to marry. As between them they already had four children ranging from 16-year-old Violet to six-month-old Alfie, they resolved to make their nuptials more celebration of home and family, rather than their well-established partnership. They invited 100 nearest-and-dearest to their sixteenth-century cottage on the banks of the river Ouse. As the cottage had a large and charming garden, they hired a marquee and a sit-down hog roast and a brilliant magician to do impossible sleight-of-hand tricks and a bouncy castle full of red and yellow plastic balls to keep the children amused. The big day dawned fortuitously dry and sunny, and friends flew in from far and wide. The children bounced and laughed and threw the balls everywhere and at each other and everyone said it was the best wedding ever − a day they would always remember.
Five years later when Jill and Mason were pruning foliage under the ancient and majestic copper beech, they found a yellow plastic ball lodged in the undergrowth. How the memories flooded back. They squeezed each other’s hands as they shared a nostalgic smile.
Thirteen years after that, they planned a garden party to celebrate Alfie going to university. They braved the drizzle to cut back hazels by way of tidying up, when they found a single red ball perfectly preserved after all these years. Long-ago laughter echoed around their imaginations as they kissed in the verdurous gloom.
Twenty-two years later when Jill was scattering Mason’s ashes over the roots of a newly-planted apple tree, Alfie showed her the crumpled yellow shell he’d found when he dug the hole into the claggy soil. Tears shone in Jill’s eyes as she recounted the plastic’s history. Alfie hugged his mother and dropped the plastic into his pocket – a timely reminder of a moment of joy, in an increasingly volatile world.
After Jill’s death, the cottage eventually passed to Alfie, the last of his kin to live in that beautiful place. As a diligent citizen he replaced the saturated topsoil every year in line with government recommendations, and sometimes when he did, he found concave hollows of red and yellow plastic mixed in with the waterlogged loam and smiled a wistful smile.
A century later when the then-owners dug out the rotted apple tree and the drowned copper beech and replaced the last surviving plants with genetically modified flood-hardy crops, they were horrified to find slivers of coloured polyethylene terephthalate in the saturated mud. They shook their heads as they carried the filthy polymer into their stilt-built home, shocked by the folly of previous generations.
A thousand years after that, when ocean had replaced all that had ever been: the soil, the ashes, the cottage, the river – deep beneath the surface of wind-lashed waves, amongst the submerged ruins left by the last of humanity, salt-worn fragments of red and yellow lined the lairs and nests of water-scorpions and sea-snakes, remembered by no-one, signifying nothing.
About the author:
Jan Kaneen has an MA in Creative Writing from the OU. Her flash fictions have has been published hither and yon, most recently in Ellipsis, Flashback Fiction and Molotov Cocktail. She tweets @jankaneen1 and blogs at jankaneen.com. Her memoir-in-flash The Naming of Bones is scheduled for publication by Retreat West Books in April 2021.