Friday Fiction – Memories

Tough one this week: the photograph is Rochelle‘s own and a fascinating collection. I wrote this story as scantily as I could and it was still 158 words. Some fierce editing was needed to bring it down to 100; I hope you enjoy it and I’d love to hear what you think.

I’m on and off with computer time this week, so please forgive any delay in reading your comments and/or stories.



Alma’d felt so grown up, consigning her etch-a-sketch to history in the ninth box. Each Christmas since, she’d chosen something special, like the photograph she found in the trash after Anthony’s ship sank. When she met Ralph at a concert she put the ticket in, even though it was only June.

But as the years passed, she began to worry: there were only 36 boxes.

She and Ralph spent that Christmas at the sea. Alma paced the beach and picked out two large shells. She returned to find Ralph smiling at the hotel door, his arms stretched around a present.

* * * * *

Some notes. Only read these if you’ve got lots of time and nothing better to do.

Pre-edit, I really liked the opening paragraph, but it was too long and had to go. I felt it was a better explanation of the set up, and of Alma’s character: Alma started the collection when she was nine, looking back over her childhood and allocating one box for each year. She felt so grown up, putting her etch-a-sketch in the ninth box and thus consigning it to history.

A few comments have mentioned the other items. I can’t explain them all, but here’s a few I know…

#2 Alma was very ill as a toddler. The medicine bottle represents this and her gradual return to health.

#11 & 13 Alma learned to skate at 11, by thirteen she excelled at ice hockey.

#14 Alma’s older brother, Anthony was in the navy. When she was 14, his ship was hit by a torpedo and sank. Her mother, heartbroken, threw out all her old photographs of Anthony, including this one of him with Alma. Alma found it in the bin and rescued it for her treasure trove.

#24 When she was 24, Alma went to a summer concert and met Ralph. She was so certain about him, she immediately shelved the ticket instead of waiting until Christmas.

#31 Alma felt this year that she’d achieved pretty much everything. She was married, had a house, a car and a dog. She was packing away her monopoly set pending the arrival of her firstborn when she realized how well the pieces matched her life.

#32 Alma and Ralph’s first child arrived.

#36 With one box to go, Alma went for a walk on a beach and sent a prayer into the waves that the conclusion of the boxes wasn’t a sign. Luckily, she’d picked a diamond in Ralph, who knew the most valuable present he could buy his wife was a new set of shelves (or boxes) and 36 more years of memories.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

39 responses to “Friday Fiction – Memories

  1. Dear Jennifer,

    Hope that present was a ring. I love your use of the prompt. 99% of the things in the box have a special significance for me. It will be fun to see what others make of them.
    Lovely story. I always look forward to your stories. This one did not disappoint. It left me smiling on the beach. Enjoy your time at home in the UK.



    • Hi Rochelle!
      I assumed those items meant something to you. It made me hesitate to have the photo be a dead brother (Anthony) so I hope you don’t mind that.
      The present is a new set of boxes (hence stretched arms; it’s big) to take her into their future. In my head, the ring was a few years before, and preceded the baby carriage aged 32.
      Thanks for the comment, and for a wonderful photo prompt.

  2. camgal

    That was a lovely story, plus having to edit it wow.

  3. Having his arms stretched around a present makes it seem big, so I’m thinking a larger place to put all her keepsakes? (Or a large dog. 🙂 ) Great story, as always.

  4. Great story of memories – I love the idea of saving one thing a year, and then worrying that there were only 36 (maybe this is worth developing?).
    I know that you’re trying hard to cut words, but I wonder if ‘present’ is just too generic. How does she know it was a present? Was it wrapped? We know roughly it’s size (really clever how you got that in without having to spell it out), but more information about it would make for a better ending, for me at least.

    • Thanks Claire. I definitely wanted to show a bit more of her (admittedly unreasonable) fear of what happened when all the boxes were full, but I ran out of words!
      As for the present: it’s Christmas and he’s clutching a big parcel, but yes, I did have a bit more info on that which was sadly cut.

  5. I wonder what great things you edited out, because this story was so complete.

  6. I enjoyed the story. For a moment I thought each box represented a year of life, and there were only 36, then the game was over.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. I love the general theme of the story but I still wonder why she was worried for the number of boxes left. Was she wondering when the game would be up? Did she get a pleasant surprise at the end of the day?

  8. Oh gosh, I loved the story up to the last line. I could not figure out what the present could be. I even thought it might be another woman, so then she’d have to get a new set of boxes after leaving Ralph.
    I think it would be better if you actually said he had a box in his arms with 64 more boxes to fill! We want you to live at least until 100 boxes!

  9. I love sentimental things / the box really does tell a sweet story. Yours brings out the history
    I thought the gift was a new, larger shelf 🙂
    happy travels

  10. This is just fantastic. And you so seamlessly incorporated things in the box. You have a wonderful imagination!

  11. I don’t think the ending is that confusing. (Have you already edited it?)

  12. summerstommy2

    We all have memories, those things appearing insignificant but such a part of our lives. Thanks for this lovely take on the prompt.

  13. I hope she got at least 36 more boxes 🙂

  14. I hoped the present was a box, and scanning through your notes, I see that it is! Many more memories to come….

  15. You made it work, editing and all. A great collection of memories for Alma.

  16. Jennifer – the bizarreness is overwhelming… my 1st draft was EXACTLY 158 words too! I changed the essence of my story several times after slash edits and finally (after half an hour or so) had just 100 words!

    I haven’t read the notes yet – I wanted to comment cold on the flash. I liked it. The end line leaves the reader intrigued – or at least, I was. I wanted to know which of the shelves houses the present Ralph bought. (Was that implied?) I mean, I don’t know if that was the intention of the ending.
    Maybe he bought her another big shelf unit 😉

    Brilliant – I just read the notes… spot on!
    Like the backwater – Rochelle’s image makes building a backwater for a character a lot easier! WOW! Lots of work!

  17. Helena Hann-Basquiat

    Your writing is always a pleasure to read. I, too had the hardest time with the 100 word limit this week.

  18. Hi Elmo, reading your longer explanation after the 100 word piece left me amazed at the novel synopsis you concocted from the photo prompt. How incredibly creative your mind is to generate so much material from a single image. Well done! 🙂

  19. I enjoyed it, Jen. I was wondering about the last line (why wife will verify that I’m not much of a mind reader) until I read the explanations–which I enjoyed BTW. Great use of the prompt.

  20. Wonderful, Jennifer – and I’m so glad I read the ‘additional information’ which fleshed out Alma’s past and ‘present’. 🙂

    Enjoy your time in the UK; we have sun and cloud here in SW England at the moment so I hope you are dry and comfortably warm. 😉

  21. I really enjoyed your explanations! It helped fill in the boxes in my mind. Wonderful story.

  22. pattisj

    Awww! I like the long version and the history–and what a great gift!

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