Almost two years ago, I wrote a short short story called “Knot-Tangle,” and at the time, I felt like it was flash/micro fiction. A writing exercise just proved me wrong. The exercise asked me to cut half of the words in a previously written story. I chose to revisit “Knot-Tangle” and was pleasantly surprised by the resulting piece of real flash/micro fiction. The original (second) draft of the story, the one I published in the Writer’s Block at Wabash College, was 734 words, and this new version is exactly half that: 367 words. So, without further ado,
It glowed in the hazy moonlight: a knot, a beautiful tangle of brunette hair, wrapped around the headboard of my bed. Through overly moist eyes, I worked to untie it. The mass was thick, but I worked incessantly because she deserved her freedom.
“What’s her name?” Naomi said.
“Does it matter?”
“Ja—her name is Julie.”
Silence, and then: “Oh, Julie! Don’t stop!” She arched her perfect back as best she could with her hair trapped, a prisoner of vigorous lovemaking. Her skin was smooth, damp with twinkly sweat.
“Stop it!” A tear fell from my chin and soaked her hair.
“Don’t tell me to stop. You should have stopped. What happened to love?”
Something died. Darkness poured in through a funnel, and I wanted her to hurt me. Somehow. Just hit me, I thought. “I do love you. I just—missed you, while I was away.”
“When you miss someone, you call them,” she said. “You don’t go out and fuck the first thing you see.”
I frowned. “I’m…sorry.”
Her face was empty, eyes gray and wet. “You cheated!” Tears leaked onto her pillow in two spots, forming a broken heart.
I couldn’t tell her what had really happened, that there was more to it than a bit of hot sex. That, paradoxically, my spontaneous encounter meant more to me than any lovemaking with Naomi ever did. It was something I’d always craved but never had the guts to try—because I loved Naomi.
“For Pete’s sake, cut it!”
Hesitantly, I reached into the end table drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors. “Are you sure?” I said, looking at her beautiful hair.
“Cut the damn thing off!”
At that, I sobbed uncontrollably, and my tears connected with hers on the pillow. Just a blob. It mocked us, me. I held the scissors up, and the brunette strands flowed into the metallic grip of the scissors. I hesitated again.
“I can’t do it.”
She grabbed the scissors and started cutting. The knot—the tangle—turned into a million dark hairs, in slow motion, and fell between bed and wall. She dressed, and then left. My tears kept coming, exploding, like supernovas in deep space.
NOTE FOR THE READER: In this story, I was intentionally mysterious and vague/ambiguous about a few things (not to a fault, though, I hope). This wasn’t the initial plan, but I had an epiphany soon after starting the story: I could make it sexually ambiguous, which would be very interesting, at least to me. As you read the story the first time, you likely read it as Naomi and her cheating boyfriend. I invite you to read it again but more deeply: Try to see it as Naomi and her cheating girlfriend, then again, perhaps most interestingly/shockingly, as Naomi and her closeted bi/gay boyfriend. I think all of those scenarios work well, but maybe that is my writer’s bias talking. In any case, this was a difficult story to write because of the logistics, the purposeful ambiguity. It’s actually quite a challenge to be unclear or vague on purpose!