Tag Archives: Death

FF – Mementoes

I’ll save my introduction for after the story, lest it count as a spoiler. Here, I will just say thank you to Rochelle for hosting, Claire Fuller for the photograph, and all the Fictioneers for cutting me a bit of slack at the moment, when I am struggling to read more than one or two submissions each week. My story (and then the intro) follows, and your comments and feedback are always gratefully received.

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Mementoes

Ella bought her first display cabinet when she was thirty-four. She’d never really been a collector; knickknacks always seemed like an expensive way to fill a house with nothing.

She chose a wooden, rugged-looking one, because Peter would have liked it. Pirate treasure wouldn’t have felt odd there. His treasures – hers now – fitted too: a piece of coral, seven rocks, a couple of dried leaves and a coin among the favourites. And then, in the final spot, the too-small urn where Peter himself could count them all forever. Her little Peter Pan, who would never grow out of boyish things.

 

Extroduction

I’ve touched on this subject before, but this week is Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness week, and while Peter in the story is a little older than that technically includes, the grief his mother feels is certainly in the same camp.

I know all about boyish collections – our front window ledge and porch are cluttered with just the sorts of things Peter has left for his mother, and soon I will have a second little collector on my hands. What I can only imagine (and frankly, try not to), is the grief of a mother who has lost her child. The origins of Peter Pan, it has been suggested, are in just this sort of loss, and certainly when I read about a little boy who never grew up, the childish fantasy is edged with the adult fear. There is only one way to avoid aging, and very few of us would choose it for ourselves or our children.

I am thinking and feeling today for the Lost Boys (and Girls), and for the parents they left behind. I know this includes some of the Friday Fictioneers – my heart goes out to you all.

 

 

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FF – The Greatest of These

This week’s FF story is a special one to me. During my recent absence, I lost my last surviving grandparent: my Grandma. She was a wonderful woman who wore her heart on her sleeve and never let any of us forget how much she loved us. She follows my Grandad, with whom she had a long and loving marriage of over 60 years and who I know she missed every day since his death. Although I don’t know what is on ‘the other side’, I am certain that her grief is over. Either they are now together or else it doesn’t matter.

When I saw Rochelle‘s picture, this story is what came to me. I hope you like it; I welcome your comments.

waves

The Greatest of These

The noise lapped over her in waves: hushed voices, a reading from Corinthians, a baby crying and quickly quieted. There was a weight to the sounds that wrapped them around her like an embrace, though she could see, hear, and feel none of it.
From a distance, and across a gap both wider and narrower than the physical one, she knew nothing of the details. Sight, sound and sensation were lost to her. Where she was, only love remained – from those near and far, surviving and already departed. It was love that flowed both ways, and would never end.

Of all the photos from my wedding, this remains one of my favourites.

Of all the photos from my wedding, this remains one of my favourites.

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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.

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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.

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Friday Fiction – Death Becomes Her

As promised, it’s December, so I’m back with the Friday Fictioneers. NaNoWriMo was great – I miss it already, and I’m desperate to finish my novel, but December is never a great month to write, and especially this year when we have guests for more than half of it! So quick, while I have a chance, here’s a story for Rochelle‘s prompt – a photograph from long-term and highly-committed Fictioneer,  Janet Webb.

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Death Becomes Her

“It does what?” Larry asked.

“It becomes her,” I said. “She looks good on it.”

“I’m sure that’s a great comfort,” he said, indicating her grieving bastard of a husband, then edging away.

“It is,” I said – to her really, or myself. It wasn’t clear to me where one began and the other ended. She wasn’t “a beauty” in life; too round, she always sighed, although some of us like a fuller figure.

I could hear her voice in my head – bemoaning the figure that had turned heads. Usually the wrong kind, she said.

“And mine,” I whispered.

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Friday Fiction – His World

It’s FF time again, and this week’s photo comes from Doug MacIlroy, a fellow addict who has just fallen off the wagon for at least the second time. Don’t worry, Doug, I’ve never made it onto the wagon yet!

There is a recurring discussion amongst seasoned fictioneers – it came up again a couple of weeks ago – about the prevalence of death in our stories. Are we all just macabre people? Is it taking the easy route? To an extent, I think it is; death creates instant drama, and that’s useful if you’ve only got 100 words to tell a story. But if it’s easy, does that make it bad? I hope not, because death crops up in my stories not infrequently. I hope, however, that I’m not always taking the easy route when it does.

As always, I welcome your thoughts – on that question, and/or on the story below.

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His World

Alice was dying. His little girl, on whom he had founded all his dreams, was dying.

The bodies at his feet writhed, screaming, a pink-striped leg occasionally escaping the tangle and lashing out; sometimes an arm grasping the leg of his trousers for an instant before returning to the mass.

But Alice was dying. Her husband, Owen, was gone already. And Alice was dying.

Dean wiped away a tear of self-pity; what was Alice to him, compared with ‘Mom’ to them? He etched on a smile and threw himself into the pile of giggles.

“Grandpa Monster’s coming to tickle you!”

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Inspiration Monday – End of Forever

Having returned to something approaching normality, I am pleased to bring you a new InMon story, based on the excellent prompts from Bekindrewrite. If you head over there, you’ll find a handful of great other stories based on either the phrase I used as my title and inspiration, or various other words and phrases. I hope you enjoy my story. As ever, I am open to comments and critique, so please do leave your thoughts.

End of Forever

We were so different, Patrick and I. He roared into love liked a tsunami, casting aside every obstacle, every question, every other possibility except that we would be together for all time. He never professed any religion, nor any concrete ideas about what happens after death, but he was certain that love was everlasting, and that we would be together for eternity.

I admired his passion all the more, because I had none. My love was a calm emotion: waves washing gently over a shore, unstoppable as a whole, but yielding on a smaller scale to piers and groynes and to the big problems that we encountered in those early days. And I believe in heaven, but not as a family reunion; my vows were only until death us do part.

And so I bury him with more finality than he would have done me. I am free to love again. I am free to find another man who will sweep me off my feet with his passion and vigour. I am free to listen to a new promise of happy ever after, of eternal devotion, of love forever.

But there is nothing after the end of forever. There is only darkness and silence. A bed that is too big for one person and a table with too many chairs. After the end of forever, nothing and never begin, and I am there, hoping I am wrong about heaven.

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Friday Fiction – A Different Journey

It’s FF time and the photo from Claire Fuller which inspires us today is gorgeous. I’m a big fan of old churches and this one reminds me of the Norman church in the village where I grew up. I could happily stare at it all day.

But that wouldn’t get the story written! Head over to Rochelle’s masterpage if you’d like to see what other Fictioneers came up with. As always, your comments are welcome and constructive criticism is actively encouraged.

church_and_tree-claire-fuller

A Different Journey

Misty’s mother pulled the dress slowly over Misty’s head – careful not to disturb a single perfect curl. Tears welled in her eyes as she looked at her little girl: all grown up and moving on.

In the distance, the church bell chimed noon. The car would be here soon. They’d always expected she’d be married there – a nice boy, a traditional ceremony, a sunny day. Rain slashed the windows today, but it seemed only right for sending her on a different journey.

“She’ll be happy with Him,” said Dad, his voice quiet and croaky. “Until we’re ready to join her.”

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Friday Fiction – He promised me a white picket fence

It’s Fictioneers time again! This week’s picture (the top one) is from Janet Webb, via Rochelle. It’s an intriguing photo and I hope you feel I’ve done it justice. I’ve finally managed to achieve my goal of following Rochelle’s advice to use it as inspiration rather than illustration – the illustration for the story is the second picture below, although I hope you’ll agree I’ve taken more than one element from the first image.

The edits are back – but for those without time or interest to read them, the final version is immediately below the first picture. Edits are then in reverse order after the second one.

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He promised me a white picket fence (Genre: Historical Fiction)

He promised me a white picket fence. And that we’d go blackberrying in summer. He promised that our boys would be strong and dependable, our girls pretty and sweet. He promised me my dreams.

But the brambles grow all year round now, and yield nothing more than thorns. Our boys will never be and our girls cannot smile.

He promised he’d come back. He promised he wouldn’t get shot down, or captured, or killed: that he wouldn’t, under any circumstances, go Missing.

He promised me a white picket fence. Now we have one, but it is nothing like my dreams.

War Cemetary

Version 1

He promised me a white picket fence.

He promised me a white picket fence. And that we’d go blackberrying in the summer. He promised that our boys would be strong and dependable, our girls pretty and sweet. He promised my dreams. He promised me the world.

But the brambles grow year round now, and never yield anything more than ants and thorns. Our boy will not speak and our girls will not smile.

He promised he’d come back. He promised he wouldn’t get shot down, or captured, or killed: that he wouldn’t, under any circumstances, go Missing.

He promised me a white picket fence. Now we have one, but it is nothing like my dreams.

 

Version 2

He promised me a white picket fence.

He promised me a white picket fence. And that we’d go blackberrying [I hesitated over this, in case it’s an English phrase. I feel this story is American in nature, because of the picket fence. But apparently soldiers in the American Civil War called truces to “go blackberrying” to ward off dysentery – the things you learn! – so I’m good to go. I just hope you guys use “bramble”]  in the summer. He promised that our boys would be strong and dependable, our girls pretty and sweet. He promised my dreams. He promised me the world.

But the brambles grow year round now, and never yield anything more than ants and thorns. Our boys will never be and our girls cannot smile. [I felt this was a young, newly married couple, so the idea that they already had three children didn’t fit that. It felt more heart-breaking that she would never have a son, and maybe the girls are twins – still very young but old enough to know Daddy isn’t coming home.]

He promised he’d come back. He promised he wouldn’t get shot down, or captured, or killed: that he wouldn’t, under any circumstances, go Missing. [I thought at first this was a story of abandonment. Then I realised her resentment was actually grief. I wrestled with a feeling that it was set during the American Civil War, even before I found the blackberrying reference, but ultimately stuck with a more recent period of history.]

He promised me a white picket fence. Now we have one, but it is nothing like my dreams. [The story didn’t feel finished in version 1, so I added another line to tie it back to the beginning.]

[Changes to get this to the final version above are purely word-count related. I took out the first line because the repetition felt unnecessary, especially when it’s at the end as well, but I might have left it in if word count had permitted, so it became the title (which had originally just been Promises)]

 

 

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Friday Fiction – The Sculpture

This week’s FF prompt shows that many writers are multi-talented. Claire Fuller’s photo is of her own sculpture. As ever, other responses can be found through Rochelle’s site.

For me, this one was a bit of a challenge. I had this idea, but I couldn’t think of a way to squash it down to anything like 100 words. It felt like a whole novel. The muse also kept shouting “Cicero”, which is not helpful. Cicero’s story is completely unconnected to the one I wanted to tell, and I couldn’t spare any words on incorporating it, or even on adding a cat called Cicero (Don’t you think it’s a brilliant name for a cat?). So the editing process was a lot less smooth this week, as those who read the previous drafts will see.

I had also challenged myself this week to try to go back to my roots and make this more of a story and less a description, which I feel like the last few have been veering towards. AND I wanted to see what I could do with Rochelle’s motto that the picture is “inspiration not illustration”. Lots of ambitions; I’d love to hear if you think I met any of them!

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The Sculpture

Lois dropped the chisel into the sink and ran the taps. Warm water flowed over her skin, revealing the fingerprint bruises and historic scars which mottled her arms.

Her latest work, the two-faced man, lay on the work-bench. Cold and lifeless. It was a grotesque vision – too many mouths, slashed into pale white; too many unseeing eyes staring at her.

As a sculptor, she knew that the work of a chisel could never be changed or undone, but this time she felt no remorse. There had been no mistake. And blood, she found, washed off more easily than plaster dust.

Version 1

Lois peeled dusty sleeves from her arms, revealing fingerprint bruises and peeling scabs. She hardly looked at them, concentrating instead on scrubbing at her hands.

“Cicero left his wife for a girl,” she said to noone. “Two-faced bastard.”

Warm water rushed into the sink, washing away the fine white powder which had coated her fingers.

“It seems he might have loved her in the beginning, but

[I stopped here. The story was getting long and I wasn’t getting anywhere!]

Version 2

Lois dropped the chisel into the sink and ran the taps. Warm water flowed over her skin, revealing again the fingerprint bruises and historic scars which mottled her arms. A sculptor, she knew that the work of a chisel could never be changed or undone, but this time she felt no remorse, no mistake. And blood, it turned out, washes off more easily than plaster dust.

 [This was the nub of what I wanted to say, so having gone too long, I thought I’d get it down and then see how much space there was for explanations. And for Cicero! 66 words down, only 37 to go]

Version 3

Lois dropped the chisel into the sink and ran the taps. Warm water flowed over her skin, revealing again the fingerprint bruises and historic scars which mottled her arms.

Her latest work, the two-faced man, lay on the work-bench. It was a grotesque vision – too many wide laughing mouths, slashed into pale white. Cold and lifeless.

A sculptor, she knew that the work of a chisel could never be changed or undone, but this time she felt no remorse, no mistake. And blood, it turned out, washes off more easily than plaster dust.

[At 93 words, this was close to what I wanted, but a few places weren’t quite right. The changes from this to the final version reflect a few added words – in particular the addition of the eyes and making “no mistake” into a sentence of its own – but also polishing of the image. The idea that the mouths were “laughing” seemed incongruous unless the man is still mocking her, and there wasn’t space to show that to my satisfaction so I ditched it. Washes became washed – there is a grammatical argument for either, but I preferred the latter in the end because it felt less like the author creeping in.

The ‘eyes’ sentence took a lot of thinking about. I wanted it to work for either interpretation, but while I could imagine slashes looking like extra mouths, I wasn’t convinced that the attack would have created extra eyes. And then I realised a way that two eyes could still be too many. She’s frightened of him – even in death.]

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Friday Fiction – Choices

After 50 posts to the Friday Fictioneers, I did wonder if I should find a new writing challenge, move on. But I’ve come to enjoy my weekly forays into the FF world, I value the friendships and feedback of the group and I enjoy reading the stories – so why mess with a winning formula? Besides, Sebastian is providing me with plenty of new challenges right now, so an old challenge makes a welcome change!

Life is settling into a new kind of normal with my little boy up front and centre in the new world order, but I’m hoping he allows me to continue the writing commitments I’ve enjoyed so much over the last few years. Right now, my muse seems to be suffering a bit under the weight of insufficient sleep and lots of distractions, so please be gentle with this week’s piece, but as ever I welcome your feedback, good and bad.

Here’s the photo, courtesy of Joyce Johnson. You can see the other responses linked from Rochelle’s page.

Choices

It wasn’t at all like she’d expected. There was no bright light, no beckoning figures; just two doors and apparently a free decision which to enter.

Each door was marked with a bronze face. One was serene and placid: its features unmarked by emotion. The other was twisted into a laugh or a grimace; she couldn’t tell which.  Either way, it was ugly. The other was more … angelic.

But her eyes kept coming back to the twisted visage. Even if it was a grimace, was that really worse than a world without emotion?

She paused, then pushed the door.

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