"And So It Begins." Flash fiction stories of up to 500 words that begin with a first sentence we provide. The first sentence for issue one is "I had never seen a tree on fire before." (Honorable Mention)

A Valuable Girl

By Lisa McMann

“I had never seen a tree on fire before,” she said, standing in the rain. “I had never seen so many people walking, so many sampans lining the muddy brown banks.

“I had never heard the whistling of a grenade, the click of the pull, the grumbling of tanks colored to match the gravelly roads, the soldiers inside dusted grey by the wind.

“I had never panned for so much rice in the paddies; scoop and swish, scoop and swish, scoop and swish. My eyes were sharp. I could see through mud. I was very valuable to my Uhm-ma. My mother,” she added, but I knew.

“You were a lookout,” I said.

My grandmother nodded. “I was ten.”

She turned toward me, faced me with her melted brown lids. She reached out her hand, found my shoulder. “I am me, here.” she said. “You are the tree. There. Close. My lookout tree. Click…spirrrrrrrrrrrrrr.” Her hand fluttered like quail from a bush.

“It is a sound I will not forget,” she said.

She lifted her eyes to the rain, but they didn’t wash clean.