Friday, 19 February 2010

#Fridayflash - September

My childhood days were full of wonder and glory…or so it seemed. The sun, for me, was always shining, and the barley was always golden. My skin stayed tanned year round and I was happy and warm, breathing perfumed country air.

Of course, as an adult I realise, it must have rained sometimes…but strangely, I don’t remember. To me, it was always summer…even when my Sundays were spent picking blackberries and the mushrooms scented the woods with their heavy musk.

My father, you see, was an excellent parent, and undoubtedly, the reason for my eternal sun. He loved my brother and I more than he loved his life, and it shone from him like starlight. We never questioned that we were his everything.

When Dad wasn’t working, out on our farm, he spent his spare hours by our sides, backing up my brother and I at our latest swimming gala or rugby game. He was always the proudest father in the crowd, even when we didn’t win – and as we got older, he revelled in the warm embarrassment we pretended his attention caused.

My mother, on the other hand, had never been around. Dad said she left when I was three, but that didn’t matter – it only meant he would have to love us twice as much.

I asked my brother about Mum sometimes, when it occurred to me that I ought to…but at barely 12 months older than I, he didn’t remember a lot. She had blonde hair, he said, the colour of our barley fields, and eyes like the blue of the sky. She smelled of earth and fresh bread, and made chocolate chip cookies on Thursdays… That’s how he knew it was Thursday the morning he woke and she wasn’t there - because the cookies were.

My brother remembered Mum’s breakfasts best, he said. She’d made him eggs, just like I learned to when I grew tall enough to reach the stove. Our Dad had never been there for breakfast…because cows need milking when the sun comes up…but my brother recalled that he and the dark-haired labourer who lodged with us, would come in later for cups of tea.

It was around the time my mum left, that my brother also recalled the commotion of an accident. Our labourer, Dad said, when pushed to talk about it, had slipped and fallen under the baler… We didn’t ask for more than that, as Dad found it hard to recount that day. With no neighbours for miles around, the two men were the best of friends…and Dad could never bring himself to hire help again.

Each year throughout my childhood, Dad would take us up to the woods in September, with bunches of summer’s last flowers…which we laid at the foot of a pair of oak trees Dad told us he’d planted there for his friend.

We didn’t understand back then, why the trees were two. You see, I had no memories of my infancy...and through the years, the truth faded from my brother’s mind too. We grew up without thinking about it…content with our wonderful father and our charmed country life… And in the midst of all that sanctuary, we hardly noticed that our raven hair wasn’t red, like our Dad’s, let alone detected the reality of how our true parents came not to be there. Not even when we stood at their graves…in sunlight…each September.


  1. It's a good story, but you asked for comments...
    I'd lose the entire last paragraph. Somehow work the hair colors into the story at an earlier point and let the reader figure it out without leading them to it.

  2. Better than you thought, in my opinion.

  3. Yeah, that was my feeling too...I'm not usually inclined to be so explanatory! I think I felt it was too obvious, which is sort of why I don't think this is my best stuff! :-/

  4. Lovely - I agree with Laura- but well done. :)

  5. Well, I did not think it was too obvious because the last paragraph did surprise me. But you might try Laura's advice to see if it works better for you.

    Did like the details you gave, such as knowing it was Thursday because of the chocolate chip cookies.

    Nicely done!

  6. Good thing he got rid of those crappy old "parents". They were just a bother anyways.
    The red hair doesn't quite work's a recessive trait and can skip generations. My dad had red hair and none of us did.

  7. Whimsical, beautiful writing.

    Yes it made sense that they weren't the "Dad's" children before the last sentence, but it's not completely clear who the Dad is. Was he married to their mother? Or was he a psychopath that turned up and killed their parents?

  8. The one they 'remember' as the labourer is intended to be their father & he didn't 'fall' under the baler. They never saw what happened to Mum.

    The perfect 'Dad' who raised them was the 'real' lodging labourer - who liked the family he worked for so much, that he claimed them for himself...the kids were too young to ever recall this man as anything but 'Dad' & thus, years later, they have the identity of the characters at the breakfast table reversed.

    I guess the reason I don't think it's great writing then, might actually be because it isn't clear enough in some places or subtle enough in others! :D Maybe I'll edit this at a later date. Thanks for your input guys!

  9. It was a wonderful story, Amy. To contradict was great writing, it's just that if you were to drop the last paragraph, as Laura suggested, you would need to leave better hints regarding their parentage during the story. It was very well described.

  10. Amy, I really liked this one. I won't repost any suggestions because I feel everyone's thoughts so far are on track.

    A few minor tweeks and this could AND SHOULD be sent off for publication somewhere.

    Well done (again. . . I just finished reading and commenting on your poem).


  11. Morning Amy. . .

    This story worked for me. I like the first person, I like the flow, and I like the action and movement of it. . . it keeps going and going and going smooth.

    Like everyone else seems to suggest - a few edits and it's perfect.

    Jack Roth

  12. Amy, you asked for feedback and I'll try to provide. Hope this is useful!

    I will go further that Laura. The first four paragraphs would be sweet if they were non-fiction blogging, but for fiction they do very littleand it prompts skimming when they take up about a third of the story's length without doing much. They aren't original sentiments or details, feeling very gilded. You don't need a paragraph saying the childhood was full of wonders (especially if you don't describe them), nor a paragraph saying adults realize things (we'd get that point from the story itself). Such things are nice for a paragraph but don't carry narrative weight, and considering you're trying to build a twist in the story, they do it a disservice. If you got right to the problem, or to the mother/father dynamic in the second paragraph, it would execute more smoothly and give you more space to give details that make the twists matter.

    I had no idea that the non-biological father wasn't the owner of the estate where people labour. I had no reason to believe otherwise - how does he get control of the place where they labour if he was just a labourer? Or did he? You gave me the sense that he was in ownership, which is something that isn't dispelled as it's revealed he wasn't the biological father. If the narrator remembers details of dispute, or them having to move after the "labourer" (actual owner) died, that might help, but given the very natural way of speaking you've got with this narrator, I don't know how you could fit that twist into this story. I think to pull it off you would have to give more narrative about what life was like with the man who wasn't their father - remembering daily routines that hinted at more. By far the best part of the story are the graves in the woods. Even though you have the narrator outright say what they mean, they're the most tangible elements of truth, and thus, the most tangible elements of what's going on. If you could build more things like them into the story (not necessarily objects or places, but events that are unique to their lives), it might click better.

  13. Lots of interesting & helpful ideas for edits here, and there are things I'd agree with in all of them - I think I'll rewrite this with greater hints to the children's true parentage, before I reveal the graves in the woods...and I might also make the complex idea of easily assumed identity in a remote, rural location a bit clearer!

    But there are certain things I'd leave alone too. The 'gilded' impression you get at the beginning is very deliberate - I wanted this to feel fake - like someone recounting a heavily-rosy view of their childhood and what kind of parent 'Dad' was. The perceived perfection is intended to make the sinister conclusion more shocking.

    I also don't want to 'tell' my readers too much...I think describing HOW 'Dad' got control of the estate after the killings would be largely extra to the point of the tale - it was intended that the story spoke for itself on those grounds, in that the reader should feel this man wholly adopted the identity of the children's true father...and that it wasn't noticed, because there was no one there to notice.

    All in all, much to improve my tale with - and hopefully, when it's done, I might like it! Thanks! :)

  14. I thought the father had killed his wife and hired hand because of an affair. It wasn't clear that you meant the hired hand had taken over. I love the image of the two trees to explain the mother's disappearance.

  15.'s ambiguous, I know. That's the fundamental problem. So. how would you suggest I make that point clearer..?

  16. Although the previous comments were good, I have to say that I didn't get it until the two trees that "dad" planted. The description of the mother was very nice. I might suggest that you separate the chocolate chip cookies and her leaving, a little; e.g., the brother wakes up, smells the chocolate chip cookies, knows its Thursday. Then she wasn't there. Very intriguing story, and I like the twist.

  17. I dropped by to read your story but I'm on a mobile. All in all ihave to agree with Laura. Also the beginning is a sort of infodump I think. Idid enjoy this it does need editing cheers Amy.