In the dream we’re falling. She’s a tiny bundle in my arms and we fall and fall until I don’t know whether I’m terrified or grateful that there’s no ground to hit.
Her cries pierce me awake and for a moment we’ve hit the ground but no, we’re in bed and she just wants a drink or a diaper, or maybe she was dreaming too. For that microsecond she’s all there is: even outside the dream there’s only her and me.
But then the world comes back, and there’s her, me, and the gaping hole where her mother should be.
Trigger Warning: I haven’t written much misery recently. Maybe having kids makes it harder to write sad stories. But this one came to me and it needed to be shared. If I’ve done my job well, and especially if you’ve just been watching the UK’s Christmas adverts (McDonald’s in my case), it might bring tears to your eyes.
Little kids just take things for granted, don’t they? When I was in Kindergarten, I didn’t know it was weird to go to school nextdoor to a graveyard. Or to watch your teacher sneak out and eat her lunch every day beside a small grey angel statue, come rain or shine.
We collected leaves between the headstones and took rubbings of their intricate carvings, but we never went near the angel. It was Ms Connor’s special place.
This blog has been quiet so long, I bet you wondered if I was ever coming back. I did too. But here I am, possibly for a one-off, possibly for a sporadic return to the fold. We’ll have to wait and see. Those little boys whose births were announced here 2.5 and almost 5 years ago are growing, and growing up and definitely keeping me busy. Here they are in a forest, up to some cute mischief!
But I’m really ere to share a story, to try my hand at getting back into the Friday Fiction party, and for that, I present to you a picture (Copyright Sarah Potter) and 100 words of story. I’m not happy with any of my current ideas for a title – feel free to suggest one if you are inspired. Either way, I welcome your constructive critique, I’m a bit rusting on writing, editing and what-have-you, so I’m sure there’ll be plenty to say!
For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.
The line flew unbidden into Alice’s head as she stared at Joey’s old boots, stuffed away and forgotten when summer called for sandals. She’d spent so much of their marriage cleaning up after him, it’d probably been her, but she couldn’t remember. Occasionally he’d swept through the house and made it look like she never put any effort in at all; annoying her even more.
A spider dashed out and shot across her hand.
“Oh Joey,” Tears washed black spots onto the shoes again. “I wish you’d come back and piss me off again.”
Thanks to Ted Strutz for this week’s photo, which reminds me of the Zac Brown Band song “Toes”. I went a different way for my story, though. I welcome your comments as always.
Allie lay down in the creek. The rushing water eased her muscles, washing away a week’s sweat and mud. The water stumbled on rocks and branches, but never relented in its quest for the ocean. Allie wished she had the same certainty of purpose, but Owen was gone, their children were gone … She had no one and nowhere to race toward.
She was soaked when she finally stood again – diverting just a little of the creek from its mad rush to the sea to travel a while with her.
“You’ll get there eventually,” she whispered. “And so will I.”
This morning, I met my son’s toddler gymnastics teacher. She smiled and said, with honest enthusiasm, “You look exceptionally beautiful today.” I am desperately tired, wrestling a cold myself and two children who have also got it and have entirely forgotten how to sleep at night, at least in their own beds. It will pass, we will get through it, but hearing “You look ex…” my brain completed it with “…hausted.”
I could barely keep my eyes open. The short walk to class felt like a mountain climb. I looked exhausted. But apparently the top I had chosen at random from the drawer this morning – one which I love and which is in a colour that I’ve always thought suits me – meant I looked something else too.
I’m not writing this out of pride or self-pity. I’m grateful not just for the compliment, but for the reminder – we can be many things all at once. It’s better to focus on the good ones!
Pin-pricks of light scattered across the ceiling. Annalise thought about the star-cloth backdrop they’d had at their wedding. It was a silly thing to focus on, especially today. Light was just light, after all. Thomas was lying in a box in the next room, and people were filing past shaking her hand or putting arms around her and saying things in hushed tones that she couldn’t hear.
The stairs swept up around her and she briefly wondered where they led. What happens on the second floor of a crematorium?
But more, she focused on the light. It was exceptionally beautiful.
A day late, almost a word short (I finally found a place to add one!). Here’s my story for Al Forbes‘ fantastic picture prompt. I appreciate feedback and I read every comment even though I sometimes struggle to reply quickly!
Eloise squinted in the June sun and fingered the battered paper poppy on her lapel. People had been staring her whole life, but this was different. The Mayor was saying something about oldest surviving… her ears tuned out, her memory washed in… then her name, and Eloise was meant to speak.
Oldest surviving, she thought, her hand moving to the scar on her hip where they’d taken away her sister. Then it flew back to the poppy, and her mind to Bobby. Either of them might have been standing beside her. Oldest surviving, she thought, really just meant longest bereft.
Ooh, my picture today, and a recent one too, taken in the waterfront park at Penetanguishene, Ontario. My story went a different way and I would appreciate your feedback. In particular, the middle sentence in the final line was a late addition. I think it adds clarity, but I’d love to see what you think.
Edit: I always say it doesn’t matter how you read these stories – your interpretation doesn’t have to match mine. But the interpretation most people seem to have had made my last line feel incongruous to them (rather than being a clue), and that’s just a shame. I’ve taken the comments on board and rewritten somewhat. Does it help?
Not Even Love
There’s rust on the gate he walked through daily, coming and going; and the flowers in the bed beside it are wilting because he was the only one who ever remembered to water them. There’s cheese in the fridge that used to smell in a good way, but not anymore; and the box of chocolates I bought to console myself is empty but for the fudge one, even though I know he won’t be coming back for it and I’m not really saving it for him.
Nothing lasts forever, they say. Not even love, they say. Let’s hope they’re right.
Nothing (Previous Draft)
There’s rust on the gate he walked through daily, coming and going; and the flowers in the bed beside it are wilting because he was the only one who ever remembered to water them. There’s cheese in the fridge that used to smell in a good way, but not anymore; and the box of chocolates I bought to console myself is empty but for the fudge one – which he likes and I don’t – even though I know he won’t be coming back for it and I’m not really saving it for him.
Nothing lasts forever. Not even love. Thank goodness.
A moment’s pause in our day, just long enough to find something to say about Claire Fuller‘s intriguing picture prompt (the first image below) for the Friday Fictioneers. I still haven’t worked out what it is, but a couple of phrases sprung to mind from the picture and from those phrases came a story. I appreciate your honest feedback.
Row on Row
They stood row upon row. Uniform and yet unique. Brian stood out to me, because of the invisible umbilical cord linking us long beyond the real one, but I know he was just part of the blur of green to the mothers of the boys beside him, behind him and in front.
Perhaps they had mentioned him in letters; perhaps they were some of the boys he occasionally referred to when he wrote.
I stare again at them all. The other boys’ just part of the blur of white surrounding Brian’s cross: uniform and yet unique. Like all the rest.
As a parent, I can splice my life easily – to the time before Sebastian and the time since his arrival. There are other divisions, of course: different homes, schools, jobs, before and after my marriage etc, but the years Before Sebastian seem, in a sense, longer ago than any of those other ages. It’s true what they say – I can hardly remember the time before.
For him, though, I imagine it’s harder still. Even as we grow up and learn of history, both worldly and individual, it’s hard to really comprehend that our parents had lives before we came along, that the world has existed for billions of years and will keep on existing for billions more after we’re gone. We know it, but it’s hard to comprehend. As a small child, I doubt he even knows it yet.
Those are the thoughts I had as my story came to fruition this week. I hope you enjoy it, please feel free to leave honest comments even if you don’t. The prompt is from Georgia Koch – copyright for the photo is hers.
Our Parents’ Lives
The picture had hung on the wall all his life, so he barely noticed it any more. Venice, he assumed, which was where his parents had been on honeymoon, although he’d never asked and couldn’t recall ever being told.
Someone had already taken it down when he arrived. Aunt Susan perhaps; she’d done the lighter lifting. It was stacked against the wall with others under a note saying “Take or Ebay”. Jack picked it up and ran his fingers across the rough paint. Then his Mum’s unmistakable handwriting on the back of the frame caught his eye.
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.