Friday Fiction – Beyond His Shadow

Normal service resumes, folks. I am home, I am sane, and I am writing fiction with a dark side (SPOILER ALERT: someone even dies)! I hope you enjoy this story, and I welcome your critique and your interpretations, whether good or bad.

This glorious photo, courtesy of Sandra Crook, goes to show just how much the bitterness of winter can also be its beauty. Toronto is finally warm (by which I mean positive temperatures. +2 feels balmy after a few months of -20somethings) and sunny, the snow is melting and we can walk down the street without having our faces ripped off by the wind. I am fortunate not to suffer from anything as extreme as SAD, but the Winter definitely takes its toll on my mood, and I can’t wait for Spring to get its boots on and come out to play.



Beyond His Shadow

When the dust settled, everything was almost as it had always been. Life revolved around the gaping hole where the old man used to stand as though a real dust, an embodiment of his presence, coated everything. I went shopping and felt his hand on my arm; I heard his voice on the train, on the phone, in my dreams; I lay awake in bed, waiting for his hand on the doorknob.

My father’s grave weathered seasons of frost and rain, tenacious weeds and beating sun. And I weathered grief and relief by turns, learning to live beyond his shadow.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

44 responses to “Friday Fiction – Beyond His Shadow

  1. Richly-layered, suspense kept-up and real phychological drama. You cannot ask for more! Very well done.

  2. Poetry in prose. That’s a beautiful piece.

  3. This is a beautiful piece, Jen, something all of us will deal with at some time, whether good dust or dust we wish we could shake off immediately. Lyrical.

    As for spring, it seems to have finally sprung here, and after too many sub-zero temperature this winter (-35 with wind chill stays in my mind and came around more than a few times), I, too, am more than ready for spring!


    • You are right, of course, Janet. I suspect for most of us the relief will be less, but the dust is a part of love – for better or worse.
      This winter seems to have been worse than usual, although numerically I’m pretty sure last year’s ice storm etc was more vicious. Maybe it always feels this way in March!

  4. Lovely emotive piece and such a universal theme. Like the title too.

  5. Dear Jennifer,

    Your writing is so good and this story so perfect that I am left with one overarching thought…I cannot wait to read your novels. ‘Waiting for his hand on the doorknob…’ ‘Grief and relief by turns’.

    You make reading Friday Fictioneer stories a pleasant task, knowing that I will eventually get to your, and be rewarded.

    Say hello to Spring for me. We have had 12 straight days of rain. (Not that I’m complaining). Snow on the mountain has kept me from having to work for 6 of those days.



    • It comes to something when everyone sings in praise of ‘warm weather’ and ‘spring’ while the thermometer lies on 2degrees c. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this country!
      Thank you for your generous words about my writing. The novels are in progress, but currently they are mostly at the “fermenting in a drawer” stage of progress. Small children do not patient novel-editors make!

  6. learning to live beyond his shadow….I think a lot of us can relate to that.

  7. Jennifer,
    This is beautiful. I love the idea of his residual presence like dust, covering everything. Such a simple, yet enduring true picture.
    I’m glad Toronto is warming up too. 🙂

    • The frost in the picture reminded me of volcanic ash, David, and this is where I ended up. And yes, the warm weather is around the next corner (or the one after that!)

  8. Powerful stuff! And a moving story!

  9. Dear Jennifer,

    I’m late to this comment party and don’t know what’s left to say. You’ve illustrated grief beautifully. When my father passed away I experienced these very feelings. It seemed so odd that he could be there one day and be gone forever the next. I expected his daily phone calls.

    Spring seems to have finally come to Missouri, too. 😉

    So well done, Jen. Thank you for being such an integral part of this family.



    • Grief is such a strange beast, and I’m certain still powerful even where it is tempered by relief as in this case. The people (and animals and things) we live closely with become such a part of our landscape that their absence can be as powerful as their presence.
      I feel a bit like that about our snow!

  10. When the dust settled, everything was almost as it had always been. – this alone says volumes, the rest of the piece even more. Beautifully written.

  11. You may not have meant it this way but I came away with sexual molestation. The hand on the doorknob of her bedroom and the grief and relief she was feeling over his death. Excellent, as always. 🙂

  12. Nicely handled, Jen. The death of an abuser raises complex emotions, and you handled it beautifully in this short tale.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail

  13. I could feel his hand on my arm too – beautiful writing.

  14. Really atmospheric and chilling -then with hope at the end that makes this reader want to cheer for the narrator, the survivor.

  15. gahlearner

    I didn’t read the sexual abuser, but a larger-than-life father whose death at the same time was a relief and pain. In any case, a very moving story, I can’t add more than others have already said.

    • I’ve said before, but it bears repeating – I don’t think a reader’s interpretation can be ‘wrong’ even when it doesn’t chime with that of the writer. There are plenty of reasons to feel relief at the death of a loved one; not all of them as gruesome as sexual abuse.

  16. The hint of the hand on the doorknob and the shadow.. sometimes filling in the blanks in between means that I get a sense of relief at the father’s grave.

  17. Wonderful images and emotions. I love how you’ve used the dust to symbolise his presence and absence simultaneously.

  18. A vivid study of grief and mourning. It reminded me that death has two stings. The first is the initial fact that the person exists no more, and the second sting, the realisation of their continuing absence from your life. It’s this latter sting, I’ve found, that can repeatedly catch you unawares, years down the line. well done.

  19. Oh, Janet! I love this. It feels so much like I feel about my own dad, gone 5 years this year. Lovely words. Thank you!

  20. Jen, I too feel like it’s all been said… and so eloquently. Grief, grief counseling, hospice, is where I live so much of my life and this piece really resonates with the rawness– that has a much longer shelf life, than so many understand– that comes with loss. Beautifully done. Dawn

    • You and Sandra have both made comments that real more vivid to me than the original story. Grief is such a strange beast, and so much more complicated than most of us realise.

  21. Powerful! That read like grief until the telling phrase ‘waiting for his hand on the doorknob’.

  22. Phew!
    AnElephant finds this very disturbing.
    Expertly developed parallel emotions.

  23. I’m remiss in my reading this week but I skipped ahead to read yours and I was not disappointed. Your phrases are so beautiful. You captured the mixed feelings that are grief.

  24. wonderful tone and emotions. Nicely written. Randy

  25. Dee

    Grief in all it’s many stages is captured here. I smiled as I read this as I lost my father twenty years ago, and for weeks afterwards, I felt his presence in the car, in the kitchen in the shop. Even now I occasionally talk to him when I’m alone in the car on a long drive.
    Beautifully written Jen.

    • As others have said, grief takes us all by turns and even after you are over the initial shock, there are moments when it returns. It sounds like your car-drive conversations are a lovely way to remember.

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