Writing Exercise # 5: Flare

This post is approximately 800 words.

This is just me, writing as far as I can after starting with nothing. No ideas, save for what popped into my head right before I sat down. No plan. The only goal is to write until the baloney runs out.

*     *     *     *     *

Rosalyn Flaherty’s paternal grandparents were both Irish. As in, straight from Ireland. They’d immigrated to America after World War II to start a better life for their children. Rosalyn’s father Peter was the their fourth child, but the first American-born. He always joked about being raised in a world of green. Rosalyn suspected this wasn’t an exaggeration.

Her grandparents never let her forget her heritage, and their tutelage ranged from the history of some obscure traditional dish at supper to celebrating some forgotten holiday, the names of which usually sounded like they were clearing their throats as they taught her the proper pronunciation.

Rosalyn hated it. She hated the history. She hated the culture. She hated her ancestry. If she’d put her teenage brain to it, she’d have realized it all stemmed from her own self image. At the heart of it, she hated her milky skin and the explosion of red curls atop her head, to which she credited her fiery temper, not her contrary nature. She took it all out on everything Irish.

In the predominantly German and Scandinavian area where they lived, the red-headed Flahertys stood out amongst their brunette and tow-headed neighbors. Amongst her peers, Rosalyn felt like a glowing image of color in a black-and-white photograph. Many girls her age expressed their love of her hair, which she took as sarcasm, rather than envy. They, and many of their mothers, raved about her flawless porcelain skin. Rosalyn was never gracious about any of the compliments directed her way and her temper often flared up in response. She tried to forestall their praise by keeping her hair short and by concealing herself with long-sleeved shirts and pants, which turned her mother into a clucking chicken who was always picking at one thing or another about her appearance.

Rosalyn drew inwards as she grew older, and lived as solitary a life as a teenager could. Aside from the crowds of her high school and the seeming zoo of her parents’ house, she tried to be alone as much as possible. It relaxed her rigid posture. It cooled her temper. It allowed her to roll up her sleeves and let out the sometimes unbearable heat. Rosalyn’s higher-than-average body temperature was unfortunate for a person who preferred clothing with full coverage. Her mother had often commented that it was Rosalyn’s anger boiling to the surface, which was a better explanation than the doctor’s diagnosis that some people just had warmer blood. At one hundred and one degrees, Rosalyn had much warmer blood.

Summer was approaching, bringing an end to the school year, and temperatures had been steadily rising for a month. If she had allowed it, Rosalyn would have been regretting her turtleneck today. But she suffered through it with a dignity borne of will. Without conscious thought, she found herself on a secluded path that led from her school to a nearby woods. The path was rarely used, so Rosalyn often had a quiet walk with no interruption. In addition to the seclusion, the shade afforded some relief on hotter days.

But it didn’t seem to provide any comfort this afternoon. In fact, Rosalyn’s distracted thoughts were soon consumed by her discomfort. The turtleneck seemed to be constricting her and generating a heat of its own. She stopped walking, assuming she had been moving too quickly and was overheating. She looked around, seeking deeper shade in which she could rest. The asphalt path ahead of her shimmered in the afternoon heat, but so did the trees around her. As did the grass and the sky. Rosalyn stumbled, feeling light-headed. Bringing her hands up to wipe away the sweat on her face, she saw a blush upon her white flesh. The blush darkened, assuming the rich color of too many hours in the sun.

Then Rosalyn burst into flames.

*     *     *     *     *

This came to me to me as I walked in to work from my car. My path leads along the edge of wooded park, the border of which is a berm topped with trees. Its slope is covered with brush and a thick undergrowth that radiates heat in the summer.

The thought of someone bursting into flame and adopting the identity of “Flare” led to Rosalyn’s last name “Flaherty”. The red hair and first name developed to follow the fire theme of the story.

The Irish angst seemed to come from nowhere, except as a device on which she could focus her misplaced teenage anger.

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