Slash and Burn

He’d read about the Yanomami tribe. How, when the soil sours and the hunting wanes, they move on. The men hack away at a new patch of the Amazon and the women join them to drop embers onto the pale stumps that remain. Together they swaddle the fresh ground in ash.

Their abandoned village is sacrificed to the maw of the jungle. Years later, a scavenger– angry with hunger and wandering into the clearing– could shout at the empty yard where hundreds had once argued over contracts and duty, and wait an eternity for a response.

That’s how he feels standing in his living room, as her cigarette still fumes on the table despite the embrace of an ashtray. Because Mellie just snatched her coat from its hook and walked down the steps holding on to another man.

*This post was inspired by Monday’s flash fiction prompt and by Blogging101.

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23 Replies to “Slash and Burn”

  1. fantastic story, hooked me from the start. The ending, I felt that man’s pain, I’ve felt the slash & burn, I watched them walk away. I understand the Amazon. You put into words what I have felt.

  2. I love this story. You are a gifted writer. I feel there is enough detail here. The opening line is good. It got me in. I re-read the story several times and enjoyed the slight mystery of what is going on.

    My take on the ending is that two long time partners have argued many times and it is finally over.
    You have given me a clue. I will try this sort fiction as well! 🙂

    1. You are very kind, Hugh, thank you. Feel free to answer the questions I asked in my reply to Meg above. I’d love to know how you interpreted it and if I shaved off important pieces of the story.

      1. Hi Nate, I think Mellie has just told her husband/partner that she has met and fallen in love with another man. Although it’s a modern day story (because of the mention of the cigarette still fuming), the narrator has likened the situation to that of the Amazon tribe who move on when things become stale and there is nothing left to help the situation they find themselves in. So to me, it’s all about moving on. Hope that all makes sense.

    1. I highly recommend trying it, Meg, it’s difficult paring stories down to their essentials. Upon rereading, I feel like I may have edited out key parts. So I’ll put these 2 questions out there, reminding you that there are no wrong answers. What do you think happened before the narrator tells you that Mellie just left the house? What do you think the tribe has to do with the narrator and Mellie’s story? Feedback would be so appreciated.

      1. Well, the title says a lot: Slash and Burn. The Amazon tribe is a metaphor for the couple: burning a precious resource that they will soon regret. The contrast between the two settings — Amazon tribe and (presumably) Western couple –is pretty stark, so the metaphor comes through clearly. That said, blending them more might make the piece flow better? Me two cents.

      1. My interpretation on it? For me, it felt like the end of a relationship, I haven’t quite decide whether that of a couple, or parent/child. I think couple. They have argued prior to her leaving, he has tried to persuade her to stay, to honour her commitment to him. I felt that she had decided that there no prospect of breathing new life into the barren ground that is their marriage. He is left alone, still hungry with his longing for her, his pleading gone unheard. Her cigarettes will form a fresh layer of ash in the home of her new life.
        Not sure about the connection with the tribe. Personally, I saw it as an analogy. Given your passion, you may have had a different slant as you wrote.
        I just know I loved it, that I was absorbed immediately, my mind racing to flesh out the bare limbs.
        Hope that makes some sense, is some help.

        (Ugh!! Please don’t tell anyone else that I am not always flippant, and sometimes use my brain! I have a reputation to uphold!!!)

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