Friday flash: Chains of Memory

Chains of Memory

Alina sipped her cinnamon latte and looked around the coffee shop. A young man had just entered through the open door. A few thin chains trailed from him, ghostly silvered colors of a light life. The pair he passed were something else — the woman, bent double with her dowager’s hump, chained with heavy iron to the man across the table, more links being tossed at him as she spoke rapidly, while his own chains were frayed construction paper, barely holding on to him. As Alina watched, another of his links broke and faded to nothingness.

Heartbreaking, but these were not the people she had been called here to help.

“Frankie in?” Thin Chains asked the barista, a young man with heavy and light chains intertwined, some caught on his piercings, others as ghostly as Thin Chains’.

“Hey, Frankie!”

A young woman stepped out from the kitchen area in the back, her chains so heavy Alina was surprised others couldn’t see them. Ship links, motorcycle cables, rusted iron, dog leashes — Frankie carried a lot with her.

This was why Alina was here.

She didn’t look to see the sights and sounds beyond the chains, simply stood and moved to the condiment bar, where she fussed with the cinnamon and cocoa shakers. It gave her something obvious to do while she sang the chains. Her notes were soft, indistinguishable from someone humming along with the background soundtrack, but they reached out and rippled across the chains, testing the links, weakening the weights, resonating along the lengths.

“I heard about last night. You okay?” Thin Chains’ gentle voice was tossed out as another light strand, gold wheat, but it hit Frankie a length of welded machine chain.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Her voice was stiff.

“But Janey said–”

“If you care what Janey says so much, go talk to her.” This time, it was her voice that whipped like a loose chain. It struck home, and stuck to Thin Chains, the most solid of his links.

Alina’s fingers fiddled with a coffee stirrer. So much to be done! But Frankie resisted the blandishments of the music as much as Thin Chains’ sympathy. The links did not break; the chains did not fall.

“You know it’s you for me, Frankie, not Janey. You chased her off. You chased your brother off. You even chased off Dewey, who’s dense as a brick post. But you can’t chase me off.” The links between them shone, silver moonlight glistening off a chain that softened, lengthened, thinned into a bond.

“Maybe not, but if you want me, you take me, past and all. Even if I don’t want to talk about it.”

She would hold onto her chains, would she? Still, Alina was called to help. Rust and tarnish fell away, weights lightened, darkness faded to let the good shine through. Chains did not have to be prisons.


Alina placed a plastic cap onto her cup and turned to go. Her work here was done.

— The End —

500 words

My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.

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  1. I like this story!

    .. Mrs Widds and I were at a thrift store this afternoon, and the woman behind the counter wore the most gobsmackingestly impressive chains. She had a dog collar around her neck, from which hung a single chain, about 40 cm (16″) long with a large ring at the end. Through this ring ran another chain, attached to both her wrists by ‘D’ pin-and-cotter rings. I doubt she could move her hands more than 90 cm (3′) apart. Although obviously made out of very lightweight hollow plastic, each link in the chains was a good 10 cm (4″) in diameter, and coloured to look like you’d imagine chains in a torture dungeon to look like!
    This, in a small town, in B.C.’s version of the bible belt, in a Salvation Army thrift store no less.
    Made our day it did!

    • Thank you!

      I think the West tends to have more such fashion choices — haven’t seen any around here! I can see why it made your day, although it does sound rather impractical for work.

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