The Leaf – a Flash Fiction Story

The Leaf

brown and crumpled leaf

The Leaf

I removed my flannel jacket from the coat rack next to the door, and threading my arms into the sleeves, pulled it on before braving the cold early morning winter air.

A light fall of frost had dusted the landscape over night, and I trudged along the path that led to the lake. Having misplaced my gloves, or really just forgotten them, I placed my cold hands into my jacket pockets to warm them and as I did my right hand came in contact with something dry and crinkled. Taking it in my fingers, I withdrew my hand and saw a brown and wilted leaf.

For just a moment I tried to remember how a leaf had found its way into my pocket, or why I would have deliberately put it there? It had been months since I last wore this jacket.

Suddenly, the memory returned, and as it did a tear formed in my eye. I wiped it away as I recalled the previous Spring, and earlier. This had been the very first leaf that appeared on the mulberry tree I had planted the year before.

You had always loved mulberries. The dark fruit that stained your mouth, tongue, and hands purple everytime you feasted on them. I remember pretending to struggle to escape as you tried to kiss me with your purple lips.

It was for that very reason that I chose that particular tree to plant over the place I sprinkled your ashes.

I took a detour through the woods, and walked to the small, private clearing where I had planted your tree. It was our favourite place, where we had gone to be alone together as teenagers, and even later as adults, after I had bought the property and we made our home here.

I sat down on the frosty ground next to the large granite rock bearing the simple metal plaque that said “Janie – R.I.P. 6 June 2015.” The now leafless skeleton of the mulberry tree stood starkly next to it.

I crumpled the dry leaf on the ground at the base of the tree as I said a silent prayer, and told you how much I miss you. Come Spring, when the tree showed signs of life again (almost like you being resurrected), I would return and take another leaf.

by John Hansen © 2016

Mulberry leaf
The Mulberry Tree

What is Flash Fiction?

Flash Fiction is a general term given to very short short stories. The rules for flash fiction are open to interpretation, some saying these stories should be kept under 300 words in total, and others who believe anything under 1000 words meets the criteria. There are a number of other terms for very short fiction including: short short stories, micro-fiction, twiterature, dribble, drabble, and sudden fiction.

Flash fiction differs from other short written works in that it generally features a traditional story arc — an evocative scene that doesn’t have a beginning, middle or end wouldn’t qualify, which is why it’s a tough medium to tackle.

David Gaffney in an article in the Guardian lists six main points to remember when writing flash fiction:

  1. Start in the middle
  2.  Don’t use too many characters
  3. Make sure the ending isn’t the end
  4. Sweat your title
  5. Make your last line ring like a bell
  6. Write long, then short
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John Hansen

Longtime poet but not in the traditional technical sense. I enjoy rhyme but like to experiment and dabble in many different forms and maybe even make up some of my own. There is always a message or lesson I want to promote through my writing, for that reason, my poetry generally shies away from the abstract and obscure. After a lot of procrastinating I have finally self-published my first eBook of poetry "I Laughed a Smile" at Now I find myself branching out and experimenting with short fiction. I have also been fortunate to have two poems chosen to be made into songs and recorded. The first "On the Road to Kingdom Come" by Al Wordlaw, and the second, "If I Could Write a Love Poem" by award-winning Israeli/British singer Tally Koren. I am also finding my services increasingly in demand as a freelance writer and I have ghost-written the text for a number of children's books and educational tutorials. It has taken me many years of searching and restlessness to realise that my life's passion is to write. It saddens me that I wasted so many years not devoting to that, but thinking positively, the experiences gained over those years are now wonderful material for my stories and poems. I want to try to bring a new focus on poetry and try to make it appealing to a new generation of young people and those who thought they never liked or understood it before.

7 thoughts on “The Leaf – a Flash Fiction Story

  • July 21, 2017 at 8:18 AM

    Beautiful flash fiction story, John. It is heart-rending and so emotive. Your notes on what flash fiction is are very helpful. Great work.

  • July 21, 2017 at 8:29 AM

    Thank you, Phyllis. I am glad you felt the emotion I wanted to portray and enjoyed the story. I hoped the notes on flash fiction helped too.

  • July 21, 2017 at 9:37 AM

    This was a very poignant verse of recollection my friend. It’s those unexpected items we find, whether in a pocket such as your find or a discovery by scents, signs, music or old photographs. Both of you spent some time together near her now resting place, near the mulberry tree. I’m sure another memory will stir you back again and again to that tree. Very nicely articulated John, I felt the connection as you resurrected such a fond memory of Janie. Bravo.

  • July 21, 2017 at 10:06 AM

    Yes, Vincent, it is amazing what memories are rekindled by the most unexpected items. Thank you for the kind comment. This was a total work of fiction however though I did feel the emotions as I wrote it.

  • July 22, 2017 at 9:27 PM

    So nicely rendered John, and very much enjoyed. That what I love about writing, it seems to effortlessly connect us to memories that we don’t expect. And the words flow. Great work John. And also the notes on flash fiction help with the genre. Cheers!

  • July 22, 2017 at 9:55 PM

    Thank you, Tony. After poetry, flash fiction is my preferred genre of writing. It amazes me how just a word, book title, song etc can evoke suppressed memories and spark a new piece of writing where the words effortlessly flow from the pen. Glad you thought the notes on FF helpful too.

  • July 29, 2017 at 10:30 AM

    Thank you, John, for this Flash Fiction. I was a bit curious, myself.

    Your story is very touching. Sometimes I find dried-out Bay Leaves in my pocket because I really enjoy the fragrance of Bay Leaf, and then I will forget to take the leaf out of my pocket. I will end up having 3-4 sweaters with dried-out Bay Leaves in them.

    When I was growing up, we had a small Mulberry Bush, and in reading your story, it brought up the memory of this bush we had in our backyard. Strangely, Mulberries are not often heard of, as that of Blackberries, Blueberries, or even Raspberries.

    I am growing a Thornless Blackberry bush out back, right now. It is alreading spreading quickly, and producing rather large berries. It is such a blessing!

    Thank you for your delightful Flash Fiction.


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