I participated in the NYC Midnight 250 word micro-fiction challenge (2021). I received Honorable Mention for my piece, and wanted to share it below! I've also shared the judges' comments after.
The prompt: Watering a garden; Must include: the word glass; Genre: Drama
The glaring sun beat down on me as I walked through rows of cropless fields. The monotone brown landscape was only broken by a small patch of flowering weeds near our farmhouse. I sat down and pulled one up by the roots. As it fell limp in my hand, I started to cry.
Each summer grows unbearably hotter, and it had been months since anything sprouted in the scorching heat. The climate crisis had moved beyond a fear, and become my new reality. How would we make a living off crops when we couldn't even grow enough to feed our children?
The screen door opened with a screech.
I glanced up to see my youngest daughter, Winter, walking over with a large glass of water between her pudgy hands. I quickly wiped away my tears so she wouldn't see.
"Mommy, I saw you watering the flowers and wanted to help!"
Confused, I looked down at the weeds to find my teardrops resting on their petals like beads of sweat.
I tucked the plucked flower behind her ear, scooping her into my arms.
“I would love your help.”
Together, we tipped the glass, letting the water sprinkle over the tiny flowers. If this weed could grow, something else might too.
The sweltering heat made me angry for what it cost us, but my sweet girl was the cool breeze that kept me going. I used to dream of spring, but now it was Winter I found myself searching for.
WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT THE STORY:
#1 - This is a very simple, strong piece. The conflict is established early on—a daunting one at that—and the stakes are clearly very high. It is a self-contained slice of life and has a sweet ending to it; however, it doesn’t feel wrapped up in a bow because the conflict still looms large. I enjoyed it.
#2 - The author created an engaging plot where the climate change crisis became very personal, where an ordinary farmer became fearless. It was an inspiring event for Mom and a wonderful contemporary conflict. Her tears watering the weeds proved to be a terrific plot point. Though they're often regarded as a sign of weakness, Winter saw the tears and weeds as something different and it was quite moving.
#3 - I enjoyed what this author played around with especially in the naming of the daughter to Winter! Also, there were some great visuals in this piece. I especially liked how the author described this monotone brown landscape. I really felt like I could see it!
WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK:
#1 - I think the piece needs a stronger sense of place. I understand that the farm has been affected by climate change and thus has turned monotone and dry; however, it feels like a pretty general location. It could be any farm in any place that the narrator happens to own. Since the piece has such a personal feeling to it, a personal location would make a lot of sense.
#2 - Though the reader can see the fields, there's still an opportunity to distinguish the setting a bit more. Where are the fields? It could be very eye-opening to learn that they're in Nebraska or Kansas or even another country. Though climate change affects many places, where is she feeling the cost of it? Think about planting the reader in a specific setting. By doing so, the location will become even more real to them. "Searching for Winter" makes a fantastic impression. If the author distinguishes its setting, the story will be an outstanding microfiction narrative.
#3 - While I loved this piece, I got a bit confused on the tense shifts. For most of the piece, it is in past tense, but occasionally it switches to present tense. But this was a wonderful piece, and thank you so much for letting me read it. Please keep writing! (I ended up editing the tense issues when I shared my piece above!)