Welcome to Flash Points. Every (ish) Monday we stick one of the previous Friday’s entries under a sparklyscope and tear it to pieces (in a good way). What makes writing “good”? Specifically, what makes great flash? Let the discussion begin!
Prompt: Map readers
Word limit: 240 -260
Today’s chosen flash piece: The Time Traveler’s Daughter, by Cindy Vaskova
He’d have me seated beside him on our white Spanish terrace overlooking the sea and he’d open an old map with names barely readable, holes forming where the edges met; it always seemed magical to me with its untraceable lines and curves, nameless mountains and ancient rivers, distant cities and marvelous capitals. My father would then say “Point somewhere, anywhere, and we shall go at once.” And I did, thrilled to have this little adventure of imagination…
I regretted not visiting my old father for many years after that; one summer though, I went back to Spain.
“It seems you haven’t changed at all, Father.”
He smiled. “The Spanish sun does me wonders, my dear Ophelia. Come now, sit with me – I have your tea and our map settled.”
I had secretly hoped to play our little game again, though I knew by now the limits of travel and the vastness of the world.
He stretched the map and for the first time perhaps I noticed how indeed old it was – the material resembled papyrus and all the contours were needled in, fine thin laces of horse hair. I gasped.
“Any place you’d want to visit, now, just like old times.”
I traced places familiar and not and chose the distant sands of Egypt; the mysticism of Cairo. My father then did something I did not recall from before – he took out a beautiful compass from his inner pocket; it spun as he opened it, glimmering, pulsating in golden, and madly searching… searching for Egypt.
Then the world became a blur.
Oh, how I love this story. It resonates with me in a way it no doubt resonates with many of you who, as children, spent hours imagining with your parents over maps or globes. (The worlds built by my own father also included Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Arabian Nights. Today I can’t think of a genie without hearing his voice.)
Cindy tells the story well. She frames it beautifully with time-compressed scenes of a child, then adult, studying the same old map with her father. The worldly wise grown daughter regrets not having visited her father, but there is also a hint of regret in her loss of imagination (“I knew by now the limits of travel and the vastness of the world”). This blending of maturity and regret shows us some marvelous character development and strikes an emotional chord for the reader as well. (After all, doesn’t a part of us cry more than the children when they stop believing in magic?)
The spinning compass seizing the pair across the world or into history also echoes scenes of so many other wonderful stories, from Alice falling through to Wonderland, or Lucy stepping through the wardrobe, or the children climbing the Faraway Tree, or a hundred others. This connection to other well-beloved tales is both familiar and clever.
The story itself is kept simple; we readers are left behind to wonder at Ophelia’s pending adventures. But we know, oh yes, we know, she is launching into an entirely new life with her father. Reminiscent of the search for the Fountain of Youth, someone has at last found a way to recapture childhood, and with pleasure and longing we watch them vanish into wonder.