Tag Archives: Memories

The Haunted

The Haunted

I live with ghosts. Ghosts aren’t spooks. They’re memories that you’ve clung onto so long they start to cling back. Hands you held so tightly, you can still feel their touch when they’re gone. Voices that ring through empty rooms.  

Ghosts can be five years old with pokey toes jabbing you in the night as you sleep, and sixteen next morning, when a song comes on that she loved back then. Ghosts can disappear as you reach them, or hang around all day.

Ghosts can stay even while their souls go on living, having kids and grandkids of their own.


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FF – The Art of Conversation

Thank you Ted Strutz for this photo. You can check out his blog here: https://tedstrutz.com/

The Art of Conversation

“I love talking.” Mum would say, “And he listens better now, especially when he’s got his pipe.” A lifelong non-smoker, Mum had cleaned and refilled that pipe every day since Dad’s death, then placed it unlit on top of the blue carved box that held his ashes. A habit of devotion.

Maria stared at the pipe and box and wondered what she should do with them now. Should she add Mum’s ashes to the box, or scatter them somewhere together?

Maria emptied the pipe into the bin. The tobacco smelled like Mum. She opened the pouch to fill it again.


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Friday Fiction – Our Parents’ Lives

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.

“Dawn Treader, Narnia.”


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Friday Fiction – A New Chapter

When I saw this week’s photograph, my first thoughts turned to suicide notes. Perhaps it is the Robin Williams news that took my mind so readily in that direction; I don’t know.  I resisted it though, partly because I suspect others might have had a similar idea, and partly because an old desk has another meaning for me. The story that follows is almost all fiction, but there’s a grain of truth in it, and if I could find the real note that inspired both the story and the author (tucked away somewhere; I assure you I haven’t lost it) I’d have copied its wording more faithfully.

Thanks to Rochelle for hosting us, and her husband Jan for the photograph. So rich with elements, it could have inspired 100 different stories. Oh, wait, it probably has!


When I opened the desk, it held a note.

Dear Little Friend, I have served faithfully for generations. Now a new chapter begins: we will make great discoveries together, I am sure.

With it was a photograph of Grandpa sitting at the desk, writing. I often looked at him or the note when homework, characters or life had me stumped.

The note and photograph are tucked into a drawer that’s always lacked a handle. The Universal Author calls me to my epilogue now, but my Grandson will find them when he is ready and another chapter will begin with him.




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Friday Fiction – In Memoriam

This week’s FF picture (courtesy of Kent Bonham) reminded me of something else. In case it doesn’t have the same effect on you, another picture follows the story. Thanks, as ever to Rochelle for hosting us all; you can find many other stories through her site.


In Memoriam

That summer, we built a ramp. Dad found some wood in the shed and I helped him saw and screw, sand and stain it, then we ceremoniously lowered it into the corner of the pond and banged a couple of nails in to keep it steady.

I used to imagine elves and fairies using it as a slide, covered with ice in winter. But nothing could remove the image from my mind: Mrs Tiggywinkle floating face down among the marsh marigolds. I obviously wasn’t the only one. Three years later, Dad filled the pond and planted  wildflowers over her grave.



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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

Friday Fiction – A Couple More

One of the amazing things about Friday Fiction is how many widely varied stories one prompt can produce. In the region of 100 writers respond to the prompt and while there is often some overlap in themes and subjects, there is always a huge spectrum among the pieces. I’m sure this week will be no exception.

What’s different this week is that the picture generated three very different ideas in my head, all of them crying out to be written. I posted my first story yesterday and commented there that I had other ideas. I’ve now had a chance to pen them into stories and I can’t even tell you for sure which is my favourite, but in case you are interested, here are the other two, all based on the same picture prompt.


Justification 2

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

“So why do it?”

“It was her time.”

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

“Absolutely. You’re too young to understand, but us old folks, there are some places we can’t stand to be.”

“You cut down a centuries-old tree because you didn’t want to hurt its feelings?”

“If I left her there, how’d she have coped? Concrete tower blocks all around; kids hanging swings from her lower branches; dogs crapping on her roots and pissing all over her bark… I couldn’t bear to see that happen.”



She’s always been there, shared everything: my first kiss with Lily Spacek, when she told me afterwards my sister paid her to do it; the time my brothers dared me to swing out over the creek and I came home with one missing tooth and a mouthful of blood; when Amy agreed to marry me and the tears I cried when our daughter was born.

That tree comforted me after Amy’s funeral and now they say it has to be cut down? Well, they can use it to make my coffin. Bury me with the best friend I ever had.


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Friday Fictioneers – A Reminder

This week’s FF photo is Rochelle’s own – taken from the cover of her short story anthology. It’s suitably eclectic for that purpose, so I’m intrigued as to what the fictioneers make of it. My response is below, together with previous editions again. Comments, critique and criticism all welcome.

Genre: Police Procedural!


The Reminder

“What’s the picture, Guv?”

“That was taken at the first scene I ever investigated. Old Mr Lewinski killed himself and…”

“You keep the picture to remind you of the case?”

“I keep the picture to remind me that even criminals have their own human stories. Motivations that make sense in their own heads.”

“But … you said suicide?”

“Lewinski’s depression started when his daughter died in childbirth five years before. Old Lewinski raised the kid. See those crayons?”

“Oh God, he was there when the old man did it?”

“Sergeant, it was a murder-suicide. The kid was Lewinski’s first victim.”


Version 1:

“What’s the picture, Guv?”

“First scene I ever investigated. Old Mr Lewinski killed himself and…”

“You keep the picture to remind you of the case?”

“I keep the picture to remind me that even criminals have human stories.”

“But … you said suicide?”

“Lewinski’s depression started when his daughter died in childbirth five years before. The kid survived. See those crayons?”

“Oh God, he was there when the old man did it?”

“Sergeant, it was a murder suicide. The kid was Lewinski’s first victim.”

[At 84 words, quite a bit too short. I decided to go a lot longer for v2, then cut back, as I find it easier to cut than extend word by word.]

Version 2:

“What’s the picture, Guv?” asked Detective Sergeant Briggs, picking up the framed photograph from his boss’s desk. He’d been meaning to ask for years, and finally plucked up the courage this morning when the old man seemed in a talkative mood. [The easiest way to add words to a dialogue scene like this, is to add narrative. This is the background I’d thought was going on anyway, so I simply put it down on paper]

“That was taken at the first scene I ever investigated. Old Mr Lewinski killed himself and…” [Another way to add words is to cut out the colloquial shorthand of the senior officer.]

“You keep the picture to remind you of the case?” A menorah, a black and white photograph and an old telephone – off the hook as if someone had tried to call for help. [Again, narrative. I would have liked to keep the description of the photograph. I fought myself to keep this in the final edit, but ultimately, it didn’t make the grade, because having cut the rest back to dialogue, this bit of description stuck out.]

“I keep the picture to remind me that even criminals have human stories. Reasons, motivations that make sense in their own worlds.” [There’s a saying “Nobody ever does anything wrong by their own view of the world.” I needed a reason for the senior officer to keep the picture, but also I suspect that saying – fascinating in its own right – would be all the more potent to a murder detective.]

“But … you said suicide?” Something didn’t add up. [If I was adding narrative, I needed some in this second half of the piece, but I was very glad when I could take this out again. It feels very hard-boiled Detective story-ish to me.]

“Lewinski’s depression started when his daughter died in childbirth five years before. The kid survived her. See those crayons?” [Given the ending, “the kid survived” is confusing, so I added her. It still didn’t read right though, hence the change of focus in the final version.]

“Oh God, he was there when the old man did it?”

“Sergeant, it was a murder-suicide. The kid was Lewinski’s first victim.”


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Inspiration Monday – Haunted Word

This week’s InMon prompts are extra exciting because I think one of them will meld well with the Friday Fictioneers prompt for tomorrow. Check back then to see if I manage to fit both in. For now, however, I’m going with the prompt Haunted Word.


There’s a ghost in our family. You can’t see it, it doesn’t throw crockery and, unlike whatever presence lingers over our stairs, it doesn’t spook the cat. But it’s there nevertheless. It’s in a look that crosses Jerry’s face, a knot in my stomach, tears in our sons’ eyes. It hides for days on end, leaving us to pretend we live a normal life, then it jumps out and catches us unawares.

There’s a van I’ve seen in town sometimes. It’s black, with white writing and symbols etched on the side: “Paranormal investigators”. I looked them up online once, just to see. They specialise in haunted houses and in removing the ghosts of former occupants who died there. It’s not right for us, of course, because it isn’t the house that’s haunted. I almost feel as though it could be sometimes – I catch myself seeing a flash of dark ponytail out of the corner of my eye, or I go into her old room and think for a moment I can smell those awful concoctions she used to make by adding dried petals to my shampoo. My little chemist.

But she isn’t there – in human or in spirit form. The house isn’t haunted, though I sometimes wish it was. Our family is haunted, by memories, and by a word. Her name. Emily.



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Friday Fiction – Ruins

Thanks to Madison Woods as usual for organising us – she’s been away recently, but I hope she’s back joining in with the writing part this week. Also thanks to Piya Singh for the gorgeous photo. I was right back in the UK with this one.

As ever, I’d love to hear what you think.


Grandpa used to bring me here and tell me about the giant who dragged this truck to market. It wasn’t a cottage then, but a giant’s cart, with huge wheels on either side. When the giant died, the hills grew up around the cart until only one wheel was left exposed. That’s why it’s at the wrong angle to the water. See?

Now the hills are growing up around Grandpa; leaving only memories exposed. I want to pass them on to you, so that you know how great he was, and don’t just see the ruins of a badly-designed watermill.


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