flash fiction story about a comet and a marriage proposal

Wishing on a comet

Comet flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a comet. You can consider how it features into a story, influences a character, or creates a mood. Go where the prompt leads.

When I think of comets, I think of Halley’s Comet which passed by in 1986. At the time my son was twelve, my daughter was not yet born, and I was teaching a class of seven to nine-year-olds. My son and the children I taught may be lucky enough to see the comet for a second time when it returns in 2061. I wonder how many will still have the time capsule we made that year, and if they have it, think to open it. They will all be in their eighties.

It wasn’t an elaborate time capsule; really just a large envelope with stories and information about us, and I’m not sure what else. I was recently in contact with one of the girls from that class and she remembers the night we had a sleepover at school to look at the comet, and she still has the time capsule she made. I think that’s pretty cool. How special to create these shared memories that last.

My response to Charli’s prompt is about creating shared memories.

You may recall my previous two flash stories, the first of which was my first attempt at writing romance. He invited her to go camping. She was reluctant but gave in when she ran out of excuses. When she arrived at the campgrounds she saw the words “Marry me” spelled out with solar fairy lights. But he was nowhere to be seen.

It got such a good response that I continued the story the following week, leaving the conclusion open-ended. This too received a great response, thank you, and encouragement for me to continue the story along with lots of suggestions and ideas of how to do so. You were undecided about his intentions – were they honourable or not? At the end of the episode, she pushes back the tent flap and screams. But at what? It’s at this moment that I pick up the story, guided by Charli’s prompt. I hope you enjoy it.

flash fiction story about a comet and a marriage proposal

An Imperfect Proposal

“What the…?”

He scrambled through bushes, slipping and sliding on twigs and gravel in haste to his love. When he reached her, she was doubled over holding her belly.

“What happened?”

She shook her head.

“What’s wrong?”

“I thought…” Her body shook.

“What?” he soothed, wiping away tears.

“Snake… I thought…” She pointed.

On the bed lay the strap of his telescope bag coiled neatly.

“You’re laughing?”

She nodded.

——

Camping became their family tradition, but their children’s favourite story was of the “snake” that frightened Mum, not of the comet that graced the sky the night that he proposed.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

40 thoughts on “Wishing on a comet

  1. Steven

    Like others here, I also commend you on this series. Very clever, although one mystery remains. What did he make her? Perhaps that should remain a mystery.

    I would have seen Halley’s Comet in 1986, although I no longer distinctly remember it – perhaps a sign of my advancing age (I may be too senile for my next opportunity). Although I don’t remember an actual observation, I do remember other parts of it quite vividly. I remember having a white jumper with a lovely cartoon-style blue/glittery depiction of the comet. It still sits on a hanger in the wardrobe of my parents place. Knowing that nothing lasts forever, a few years ago I made an effort to scan the image for safekeeping. I don’t think that I particularly liked jumpers (mostly for those stiff and scratchy labels), but I do remember liking that one – it was warm and soft, with the inside sort of feeling like polar fleece.

    I do also remember the international fleet of spacecraft sent to study the comet. I quite distinctly remember a television broadcast (probably on ABC, likely a special feature by Quantum), which I think was a live broadcast (or near realtime) mostly of Giotto making its closest approach. I remember the computerised visualisation of the spacecraft’s shield indicating impacts of various sizes. I remember so many small holes, continuously appearing, non-stop. I think there may also have been some limited live imagery of the nucleus as well, but I don’t remember that as vividly as the computer visualisation. In retrospect, the ability for them to be able to represent such information to the level of detail and in or near realtime in less than ideal conditions and with the technology that would have been available back then, is quite impressive.

    Generalising about other spacecraft, I do distinctly remember other special features that were broadcast on ABC. The first one I remember is the Voyagers encounter with Saturn. I don’t recall whether it was Voyager 1 or 2, or it may have been a post-encounter program covering both, regardless it is impressive for me considering that I would have been perhaps 5 or 6 at the time. Again the computer visualisation was quite distinct – plain due to technology limitations, but distinct. I remember the various bodies being indicated as simple spheres broken by a very limited number of lines of longitude and latitude, or circles indicating orbital circumference. I remember Dr Andrew Prentice making an appearance in the program (and others below) to explain a prediction or observation.

    I remember watching the follow up when Voyager 2 made the Uranus encounter (I’m almost certain that it was a Quantum special and I think it was hosted by Karina Kelly). The computer graphics were much improved in those few years with better renderings, but I guess that is to be expected given that there hadn’t been any advance in television resolution. And of course, I also remember watching the final Neptune encounter, which was perhaps the most surprising one at the time.

    If a saw such a program for the Jupiter encounter, I certainly don’t remember it.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Wow, Steven! Your memory is out of this world. I am impressed by what you remember. And I know for a fact that you are nowhere near senile. I’m not even, fingers crossed, and I’ve got a good decade or two or more on you! I think I’ll be watching the return of Halley’s Comet from my underground chamber or sprinkles of stardust or whatever is the most environmentally-friendly solution at the time.
      With your great interest in technology and in preserving aspects of it for the future, I’m not so surprised by your interest in this space technology. I never cease to be amazed by the ability to send vehicles into, and so far into, space and send images back to us here on Earth. It is just beyond my comprehension. I am definitely no rocket scientist.
      Thank you for sharing your wealth of information and memories. I’m sure you have many to share with your children around the campfire.
      “His surprise” – as it turns out, wasn’t a rogue brother. He had booked out the campground to have it all to themselves that night so they could observe the comet uninterrupted and he could propose in the romantic setting of this once (or maybe twice) in a lifetime occurrence. No flash dance group for him. 🙂

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      1. Steven

        Ah lovely, a booked out campsite. When my memory works, it really works well – otherwise it is average. However I did have a memory correction event this morning… it occurred to me that some of those programs wouldn’t necessarily have been Quantum back then. They could very well have been Beyond 2000, or the even earlier Towards 2000. Remember that?

        If your next encounter with Halley seems unlikely, but think you can clock in for another decade and make a trip to regional NSW, then how about something as spectacular (which I have been quietly counting down for some 15 years now). There will be a significant solar eclipse across Australia in 2028 and the entire continent will experience something, but for a chance at totality then it might be worth a family country trip.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_eclipse_of_July_22,_2028

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        1. Norah Post author

          I hope to be here for another decade, at least. But who knows. I hope I remember to view that solar eclipse. How amazing. It will be spectacular. Thanks for the tip, Steven.
          I’m not sure if I remember any of those programs you mention. Maybe it’s because I lived too much of my life in the last century. 🙂

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  2. Jennie

    Oh Norah, I LOVE the story! A perfect flash fiction, and a perfect ending to the trilogy. The best part is looking back at what their children said. And, your memories of the time capsule and the night at school with all your school children is just wonderful.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Jennie. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the story. I was pleased that the ending just appeared with Charli’s ‘comet’ prompt.
      The memories of those children are very strong and very special.

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  3. Jules

    Now that is an ending that has a combo outcome.
    I’m not scared of little snakes. But I think I’d scream too if I saw a big one.
    What a fun story to hand down 😉
    We have a few ‘blushers’ in our family too. And they always bring a laugh with fond memories.

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  4. Hugh's Views and News

    That’s a really lovely ending to the story, Norah. It was a tough challenge given the prompts from Charli, but it did a brilliant job with them all.

    I remember burying a time capsule in my parents garden in 1975. My father still lives at the house, and on a recent visit from my sister (who lives in your part of the world), we tried working out which part of the garden the time capsule is buried. My father (a keen gardener) has changed the garden a lot, so we’re at a loss as to where exactly I buried it. Maybe in hundreds of years time, it will get discovered? Maybe in 2061 when Halley’s comet next visits?

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your kind words about my story, Hugh. I was quite pleased to be able to tie it all in with Charli’s comet prompt.
      I wonder how many other time capsules are buried to be found in hundreds of years. If all are made by children, I’m sure the archaeologists will have some fun interpretations. 🙂

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  5. thecontentedcrafter

    Well done! I had no clue how you would wind this up with him in the bushes and her screaming her head off at something he hoped she might like…….. And you did it, not just for the moment but for their future generations too – in just 99 words no more, no less. Brilliant!!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Pauline. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the way the story went. I had fun thinking of all the possibilities but ended up going back to romance. 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          Don’t we all. For a lovely romantic movie, take yourself along to Book Club with Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, and Candice Bergen. It’s hilarious. I loved it!

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