Friday Fiction – Childhood Dreams

Fans of the old, dark, miserable Elmo, will be delighted to hear that today’s piece returns to form. Hopefully subtly enough not to upset any younger readers, but if you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by happier posts, consider this a warning of “Adult Themes” and also “Some Readers May Find This Distressing”. Feel free to come back another time if you prefer not to read on.

As ever, I welcome feedback – good and bad. At which point I’d like to thank those who stopped by yesterday’s pitch slam – if you didn’t get chance, check out the link in my post yesterday (

Thanks again to Madison for the prompt, you can find her story, and links to the others, at

Childhood Dreams

When Annie found the abandoned truck, she thought it would be a good place to hide: away from her brothers, and her father’s grimy hands. She knelt behind the wheel and pretended she could drive away from this town. But then Daddy found her there, and the truck became as grimy as his hands.

Twelve years later, her sons found the truck, barely touched by time. They took turns to sit at the wheel and imagine driving away. After dusk, they told each other ghost stories, and pretended they heard heavy breathing, screaming, and saw shapes moving in the darkness.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

55 responses to “Friday Fiction – Childhood Dreams

  1. Aw. An unfortunate situation but a sweet ending. And I’ll bet the have no idea…

  2. Tom Poet

    Very nicely done. I think I like your dark side best!

    Here is my take on it

  3. I agree with Tom above, I like your dark side. Here’s mine:

  4. Dark, but totally convincing. Life at its grimiest. Well written, well paced.

    Mine’s at

  5. Excellent germ of an idea. I think that tweaked and revised it has an excellent chance of being published by a literary journal. Here’s mine:

  6. Ivan

    Dark is definately a strength. Full of unease is how I would describe it. The passage creates a very strong atmosphere of disquiet. Oddly the fact that ‘her sons’ came to the same place in twelve years adds to the unease for me – how old is she then and now; how old ar the sons? This shortness of time deepens the confusion in a very subtle way in such a short piece. Excellent!

    • Thanks Ivan, I hoped that the image of her “kneeling” behind the steering wheel would help to clue eagle-eyed readers into her height (and therefore age) – and given the symmetry of the piece, I think we should assume that the boys are roughly the same age she was when she found the truck.

  7. Intense. You wrapped it up nicely. Love the contrast between the girl’s desire to run away and the boys’–Good job!


    • I’m glad you liked the symmetry, VL; it was something I was keen to keep when I was editing. It’s a common childish dream, but for Annie has an added dimension of course.

  8. So many things unsaid and left for the reader to interpret – I think that’s the best thing any story could do. Well done.

    (there is this tho: “and image driving” should be imagine, yes?)

  9. Russell

    I think Craig nailed it when he said you left plenty for the reader to interpret. This is one of those tales where I just want to flush my brain with Clorox after reading it to remove the visual images. But well crafted and artfully told.

    mine’s at

    • Sorry about the mental images, Russell. Having said last week I needed to focus on description, I deliberately didn’t this time. But unfortunately for you, sometimes I think less description can lead to stronger images. Go and read a fairy tale!

  10. This is a wonderful story. I prefer a well-told tale with a bite than saccharine any day!

    Bravo! And I can’t wait to see more of this side of Elmo.

    My link is here:

  11. Michael Fishman

    Very dark and very atmospheric and I liked it a lot which was a surprise to me since I don’t generally care for stories that deal with this subject. But you wrote it without getting lurid while still maintaining a feeling of creepiness*. Good job.

    Mine is here:

    * I mean creepiness in a good way.

    • I know it’s a tough subject to read, but I’m glad you liked it in spite of that – I definitely don’t think I could write a lurid version. Thanks for your comment!

  12. Caerlynn Nash

    I agree with “all the above.” Very gritty, real, and touching. Great piece.

  13. Spooky! I love ghost stories, although this one is a sad ghost story. Good emotion.

  14. Zombies are nowhere near as scary or disgusting as real life can be. Very well done – poignant, powerful prose.

  15. Okay, that was creepy allright. You got down and dirty with that grimy hands and the grimy truck. Yes, and you let us wonder about those sons – her half brothers perhaps? Pretty ugly, but well told little tale, except this line: “and image driving away” – I think you meant “imagine”, because image is too sophisticated for this story!

    • I’ve fixed the typo – thank you, indeed just a typo. I think I created it when editing the sentence down to size. You wonder rightly about those sons – I hoped that the clues to age and the short time period would hint at exactly that.

  16. Dark is right, Elmo… whew! Very, very good story. Leaves a lot open, which is good, and puts across the idea of the persistence of the past so well. More than just a ghost story.

    • Kind words from a master, Carlos, thank you. I didn’t like to give the reader too much – although sometimes I think less detail can be creepier in a way, because you fill it in yourself.

  17. Very good indeed. Carefully constructed and with acute if cruel sense of irony. Subtle and visually striking, really good use of the prompt.

    If something needs tweaking it’s the last line of the first paragraph – I love the way you’ve picked up on grimy again, but something doesn’t quite work… This is a really complicated (and rubbish) explanation but I think it’s because grimy is usually used only to mean covered in grime – dirty, yes, but usually only in the literal sense. And so the line, although conveying meaning satisfactorily, doesn’t quite convince because the connotation you are making is slightly forced. In the back of my mind is the physical transference of dirt to the truck, rather than the more sinister intention. Filthy and grubby both have accepted connotations of something nastier and work in both senses – the literal meaning the first time, the suggestive meaning the second time. I’m not sure grimy does. Another thought (not a nice one) – would she be more likely to feel grimy afterwards? I think this might be where the line falls down, actually – grimy might be how SHE feels, but the truck’s association in her mind would be something with a meaning more like tainted? If you can work out what I’m trying to say I’ll be very impressed!

    (The only other thing is ‘this’ town – which might be more appropriate in a first person narrative?)

    Other than that, the rest is pretty much perfect. Great pitch and rhythm in the second paragraph in particular.

    • Great praise from the Bookworm, thank you.

      Looking at the specifics – I ponder over “this town”, it is very much a glimpse into Annie’s head, which I feel strengthens it, but at the same time I agree that it sits badly with the omniscient narrator. “Her town” or even “her hometown” seemed too weak though, and “here” / “there” seemed to point to the place the truck was, rather than the whole town. Hmmm…

      I’m pretty sure I understand your point but I’m afraid I’m going to stand by grimy. Now it’s my turn to give a convuluted, psychological explanation. Filthy has too much of the non-physical meaning for me, and I wanted Annie to be focusing on what upsets her about the hands (their literal dirtiness) not what they are doing. In the same way, the truck, which an outside observer would know was physically grimy from the beginning, only because grimy (literally, dirty) to her once its magical power as a hideaway has been removed. When i’m famous, English teachers will be setting essays “Why did Pendergast choose to use the word grimy twice?”!!!

  18. Eeep! Murder!
    Good story. The creepiness factor was up there.
    Only oops I spotted was “image” when I think you meant “imagine”.
    You can check out my story at

  19. A realistic depiction of kids playing make believe. 🙂 Nice touch adding abit of tension through her relationship with her father.
    Here is the link to mine:

  20. TheOthers1

    Oh gosh. You did accomplish subtle, but distressing is right. Great writing though and I always feel like tough stories shouldn’t be shied away from. Very nice.

    My attempt:

  21. Very dark. Can’t change a Moose’s antlers, I guess 😀 Here’s mine –

  22. Oh, this was a good one, Elmo.

    Shades of Chinatown, to my way of thinking. Scary and all too real, but I do love the dark side of you.



  23. Love the imagery, how you instill the unthinkable act in the reader’s mind without actually having to spell it out.

    Here’s mine:

  24. Such a subtle story about such a despicable act, that you turn on its head magnificently, ending with a more innocent, sweet look at childhood. Brilliant, powerful writing.

    Mine’s here:

  25. Madison Woods

    LOL, there must be something wrong with me because I like the ‘DarkElmo’ too. I’m think the 100 words lend themselves well to darkness because it’s not enough room to get really bad…I don’t think, anyway. I guess it could. But I liked your story. Dark subject illustrated in a very vivid way.

    And THANKS for doing the pitch slam this past Thursday. I’ll send your results before next Thursday to give it time to collect straggle votes.

  26. Wow. What a terrible road Annie traveled. Very poignant tale, Jen.

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