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CRANE FLY • by Katherine Clements

The crane fly only had three legs. It sat on the whitewashed garden wall next to the river, back legs splayed at one hundred and eighty degrees. It hadn’t moved in at least twenty minutes and Daniel wondered if he had killed it.

A group of boys from the village, camouflage skinned with grass stains and dried mud, shouted and splashed upstream but Daniel didn’t want to join them. He preferred spending time with smaller creatures; the dive-bombing dragonflies and stripe legged spiders that buzzed and crawled amongst the weeds. He had been sitting in his usual spot by the garden gate since lunchtime and he was practising keeping still. It was easier to concentrate that way and he didn’t disturb the insects.

He had noticed the fly, black and immobile like a scribble against the bright painted bricks and felt a strange camaraderie with the hamstrung creature. Daniel didn’t know how many legs a crane fly needed to stay alive. He didn’t know if it would hurt to have three missing legs and he didn’t know if he was perhaps witnessing the fly’s silent demise. Daniel pressed a smudged hand to his forehead, a whisper of pain curling behind his left eye. The weight of the question was making him tired.

If it were still alive, would it be able to fly? Its criss-crossed wings looked sturdy enough but perhaps it needed all six legs for take-off or for balance? Daniel knew that crane flies didn’t need to eat, that their sole purpose was to find a mate, and he wondered if this particular crane fly would ever be able to join the others flitting above the water as the sun went down.

Daniel shifted his weight. He felt his belt tighten and dig into the soft folds of flesh around his middle. He could hear the muddy boys upstream running and jumping and whooping. His head thumped behind his eyeballs and he bit his lip hard, tasting blood. He wondered what it would be like to dangle a leg in the cold, clear river. What would it feel like to swoop the waters surface like a tiny helicopter? What would that kind of danger feel like?

But none of these thoughts would change the fact that this particular crane fly only had three legs and that this particular crane fly might be dead and that Daniel, just by concentrating on it, might have killed it. Daniel decided that he had to know.

He started to sweat as he edged closer, tongue slicking his lower lip in concentration. One sticky hand pressed to the wall, he tilted forwards until his nose was level with the fly. For a moment he stayed there, transfixed by the pearlescent gauze of its angel wings, its mottled caterpillar body and its two tiny gemstone eyes. He shaped his lips into a kiss and breathed out, a tiny warm breath at first and a then little stronger and a little stronger until the crane fly’s wings rippled and it struggled into the air.

Daniel watched it, dry mouthed, his heart pounding and plunging as the fly dipped and dragged to the top of the wall. He gasped as it lifted itself into flight, its three spiderweb legs dangling like loose ends of black cotton. A laugh bubbled from deep inside his chest as the fly circled sleepily and headed out over the water.

Daniel’s hand trembled on the wheel of his chair.


Katherine Clements writes in Guildford, Surrey, UK and is currently completing her first novel. Her work has been published in Mslexia magazine.


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CRANE FLY • by Katherine Clements, 3.4 out of 5 based on 65 ratings
Posted on March 7, 2010 in Literary, Stories
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  • http://www.paulfreeman.weebly.com Paul A. Freeman

    That was a definite five stars (in spite of the lack of variation in sentence structure) until I reached the last line and couldn’t fathom what it meant.

  • http://rumjhumkbiswas.wordpress.com Rumjhum Biswas

    Five from me too. This story brought a sense of stillnes and peace, and also sorrow after reading it. The sensory experience of a child’s afternoon provided a wonderful journey. Thank you Katherine.

  • R.A.S.

    Absolutely beautiful. Just enough hints throughout to make me wonder if Daniel was not playing in the water with his friends because he could not. And a powerful reveal at the end: the contrast between the fly circling out over the water and Daniel confined to his wheelchair. Five from me!

  • http://www.deborahblood.com Debi Blood

    How absolutely beautiful! An incredible piece of literary fiction.

  • Natalie S Ford

    Loved it. To the person that could not fathom the last line, um, WHEELCHAIR! Duh! Then again, I have multiple sclerosis and so maybe I am more receptive to disability imagery than you, Paul A Freeman.

  • Cindy Lu

    Every morning, I can’t wait to read my EDF. You guys are so talented, and Ms. Clements doesn’t disappoint either. Four stars.

    Just to clarify, I think I’d tell the reader how many legs a crane fly is suppose to have.

    In the line…He preferred spending time with smaller creatures; the dive-bombing…..

    Should it be…He preferred spending time with smaller creatures like the dive-bombing…..

    Or…He preferred spending time with smaller creatures: the dive-bombing fly, stripped legged spiders, and colorful dragon flies. (Not to add, but with the colon you must have 3 insects to complete the list.)

    In the line…He didn’t know if it would hurt to have three missing legs… I think, I would delete that line part of that line. Of course it hurts and Daniel did know what it was like to not have the use of his legs

    Wonderful ending.

  • Margie

    Such a beautiful story. Absolutely a well deserved 5 stars. However, I must admit that I got hung up on “crane fly,” because I thought that was a different name for a Crane (as in machinery), but once I understood, I started back at the beginning and throughly enjoyed the story. :)

  • http://www.evbishop.com Ev

    Beautiful, touching story with great put-you-right-there details.

  • Marilyn C

    A lovely story with such vivid descriptions, especially of the “smaller creatures”! Five stars.

  • Val Phillips

    Gorgeous, Katherine. Just gorgeous, and I loved the ending. I love that we had no idea just why he would feel such a kinship with a creature that had lost half his legs until the last line…it totally worked. Beautiful.

  • http://www.paulfreeman.weebly.com Paul A. Freeman

    Cranefly = Daddy Longlegs

  • Paul Graham

    A touching story with immersive descriptions. Really glad I read it.

  • http://www.paulfreeman.weebly.com Paul A. Freeman

    Oh, and Natalie, thanks for putting me in my place for my lack of, er, receptiveness.

  • http://luanakrause.com Luana Krause

    Katherine: A wonderful, memorable story. Powerful and poignant ending.

  • http://barndance.biz Ian Carter

    Very captivating indeed. A nice sense of irony.

    One typo – third sentence from the end – “lose” is a verb, rhyming with “choose”. The adjective required here is “loose”, rhyming with “moose”.

  • J.C. Towler

    Beautifully written and well deserving of the high praise it has received thus far. As a kid, I was always fascinated with bugs and felt a connection with the MC.

    The choice of the crane fly was interesting, but understandable if you know what one is. They are about as fragile looking a bug as you’ve ever seen with gangly legs that break all too easily if you are not careful. I’ve always called them “mosquito hawks” and Paul’s referencing them as “daddy longlegs” was a new one on me (always thought of daddy longlegs as a type of spider). Anyway a perfect counterpoint to Daniel…the more I think about it the more I really like this story.

    –John

  • Anne Marie

    A lovely job of description, putting the reader right beside the wall amidst the insects. And then the gentle reveal about the wheelchair.

    Congratulations on a wonderful story.

  • http://bookspot.blogspot.com Camille Gooderham Campbell

    Thanks for spotting that typo, Ian; I’ve fixed it now.

  • Katherine Clements

    Thank you to everyone for such wonderful, helpful comments. It really means a lot to receive such positive and encouraging feedback.

    – Katherine

  • http://www.apcharman.com Andy Charman

    Perfect proof that you can find plot and tension in the smallest events. A very enjoyable story, told with wonderful, flowing prose.

  • Bex

    Very nice Katherine. :)

  • Ian Madej

    Wonderful story, good contrasting ideas, and vivid emotions. I hope to see more from you soon.

  • katie bourne

    What a lovley piece of writing. Great to read you Kathrine, I look forward to the novel. Good luck xx

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