Friday Fiction – Justification

Time for another FF story – prompted this week by this photo and led by the inestimable Ms Wisoff-Fields. A few notes and thoughts on process follow the story for those who are interested, but you are welcome to just read the story itself. Critique and comments are always welcome.



“She was beautiful. Gnarled, craggy and deformed, but absolutely beautiful.” He sounded wistful.

“So why do it?”

“It was her time.”

“Euthanasia? You’re telling me this was an act of kindness?”

“In the rainforest, there is so little space, light and nutrients, one tree has to die before another can grow. Every death is a rebirth. A sacrifice of one generation for the next.”

Sparrow had heard enough, she knocked on the door and waited for the guard to arrive.

“Sick bastard,” she muttered as he closed the door behind them.

“Most of them are, ma’am. Most of them are.”


When I first looked at this picture, a few ideas sprung immediately to mind – the idea of a crooked family tree, for example, full of dark places and flaws, or an old man remembering all the scenes from his life that the tree had seen. But when I actually started writing, this is the story which popped out.

Until half-way through, I hadn’t actually decided what this story was. I thought it was about a farmer who had cut down a tree because he didn’t think it would be happy living in the middle of a housing estate when the land went to be developed. And then… well, I don’t really know what happened, but we ended up in some sort of Silence of the Lambs scene, with a murderer who believes his own justifications and a still-innocent agent trying to make sense of him. After that, her name was the only thing left to decide, and then a bit (a lot) of tweaking to cut 147 words down to 100.

I actually think any or all of the others might be interesting to write, but it was hard enough to get this one down to 100 words and I think they would all need to be longer. Maybe I’ll come back to them later this week, if I get a bit of time. ***Update: Two other stories  from this prompt can be found here


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

55 responses to “Friday Fiction – Justification

  1. I really enjoy your writing. This is really good.

  2. Tree limbs grow where they might why not words?
    very well done

  3. Damn, Jen… Now that’s a take!

  4. Jen, although it doesn’t sound as though you meant it this way, I like the idea that this could also be a sort of ecological terrorism story, where killing a tree is a crime. But I like it well as you meant it. Your muse “done good.”


  5. Whew, good one with this. The mix of metaphor and twisted logic, and the mystery of the character’s motivation for going there, and that perfect, dismissive last line (from the guard, warden?). Loved the whole thing.

    • Cheers, Brian. It’s weird how it came out nothing like I expected. I imagine if I tried to write the novel I’d be done for plagarism, but it was fun for a day!

  6. Your story was absolutely great. But what I personally really enjoyed was your explanation and the creative process that lead you to your final written piece. Thank you for that!

    • Hi Penny – thaks for your comment, I try to include something on process when I can. It seems to interest many readers and it’s good for me to study my own process too

  7. Very good, and I especially liked the fact the agent’s name is Sparrow.

  8. I enjoyed this. I like it when a story takes on a life of its own, and we become delivery vehicles! Calling the visitor ‘sparrow’ was a touch of brilliance. Well done.

  9. I think this is brilliant. Loved it

  10. Some dark story that ! But loved it.. beautifully written ! also I liked the background u gave about how you u ended up with this story 🙂

  11. kz

    sick bastard indeed. such a sinister tale, brilliantly told. Sparrow– cool name ^^

  12. Took me a little while to get this – I think I was reading too quickly, or maybe it needs to be clearer that he was talking about a human. But it’s a great little tale despite my slowness. I love the way he justifies his actions – very creepy!

  13. Pingback: Friday Fiction – A Couple More | elmowrites

  14. Mystikel

    I also took this to be a tale of futuristic ecological terrorism where it has become a crime to kill a tree. Either way a deftly told story and very creative.

  15. Dear Jen,
    I’m happy in reading in the comments that the writer isn’t sure whether the victim was a tree or a human. Either way it was well worth the read. I appreciate your sharing the process. One picture, so many different thought processes.

  16. I really like this one, Jen. It could be interpreted so many different ways–and all of them work.

  17. That’s an interesting twist on the debate between the good of the individual versus the common good. The chainsaw suddenly looks a lot more sinister.

    • Sometimes what seems like the common good to one person doesn’t to others. I would generally advocate the common good, but in the rainforest nobody arbitarily decides which tree should make the sacrifice.

  18. Elmo that was terrific. It didn’t feel at all like 100 words, you really pulled me in. 🙂

  19. You took it in the right direction. This is a great story, excellent dialogue.

  20. Great! That was totally a twist on the twisted tree. At first I thought the questioner was an environmentalist, angry at this guy killing a real tree, but your twist was perfect!

  21. Hi Jen
    A taut piece of writing that reads like a scene from a longer work. Intriguing!
    I also appreciate the thinking behind the stories. I’m a little afraid of looking too hard at my own processes in case there aren’t any – a puppet without a hand!

    • Your comment is kind, Nick; I’m sure you put yourself down. I’m hoping that looking at my own process will help me to learn from it and improve upon it.

  22. Now I am not sure which one I like best…..Let’s just say they are all good!


  23. Ain’t that the truth (most of them are).

  24. It took me a while to piece together what was happening — I was stuck on the thought of the tree being cut down, not a person. But it cleared up for me, and it was a neat way to end it, with the dialogue turning out to be an interrogation.

    • I’m glad it came round, zooky. I’m trying to learn from Rochelle’s “Inspiration not illustration” lesson, but it does seem to confuse people sometimes.

  25. jennifer – i suppose since I never watched SoL it just did not come to me, but I like the direction you took. I will look for the other two stories as i always enjoy your writing so much.

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