Thursday, March 3, 2011

Salt Water Birthday

Water gives life. It also takes it away.

Write a short piece - fiction or non-fiction
- inspired by one or both of these statements.

The boy walked through the double doors. Head down. Behind him came his grandfather. 

The old man spoke quietly with the officer behind the counter. After a moment, they were escorted to a small room. A table. Four chairs. Three men. One, authoritative, in blue shirt and black trousers  One barely old enough to be called a young man. The third, an old man, becoming older. 

After prompting by the officer, the boy began to tell his story. Tears coursing down his soft cheeks, bringing to life the betrayal.   

He told of the neighbors. How he took care of their yard work. How they always gave him a soda and snack. Asked him about school. His plans. His life. Paid him when he'd finished. Pat on the back. Until next week. 

How he'd jimmied the back door. Just like he'd been shown. Eased into the kitchen. Going through drawers. Looking for cash. 

Into dining room. The good silver in the china cabinet. He'd been told it was worth something.  

On the table, a gift wrapped package. The tag. 
"Happy Birthday Jeff!" 
They had bought him a present. For his birthday the next day. 

How the lights suddenly came on. The gasp of surprise. 
The gasp of pain as he ran by, pushing the old woman down.  The sound of something hard hitting something hard. 

The gasp of pain when she slapped his face. Called him names. Told him how worthless he was. Coming home empty handed. After all she'd taught him. All she'd done for him. How she'd wasted her life on him. How he'd ruined her birthday plans for him. 

The officer asked more questions. Kept his voice in check.  Kept his stomach in check. 
Then the boy is taken away. 

A few questions for the old man. 
How he'd walked into the room to see his daughter hit her son. 
How he'd heard the things she called the boy. 
How she'd forgotten her father had recently moved in with them. 
How he hoped his neighbor would be alright. 

The officer left the room. 
The old man sat still.  Tears coursing down his leathered cheeks, for the family he used to have. 


  1. Sad! I like the use of repetition "" and "something hard hitting something hard". The short sentences punctuate the piece, making it almost an impartial report, and the more emotional parts are even stronger in comparison.
    Good job!

  2. What a sad story! There are so many different things going on in such a short story and you wrote it all beautifully! Great writing!

  3. oh that poor boy! My heart breaks for him and for what might happen if the old lay is hurt.

  4. This was good. It provides so many different directions that it could go in- lots of food for thought.

  5. So much packed into a short space! I liked the pacing and how it circled around and around.

  6. Like Mandy, I loved the pacing. It's like thoughts racing, the way you worry at something in your mind, keep circling it and circling it until it starts to wear a groove in you.

    And the poor grandfather, so silent until the end.

  7. Oh. This is just so sad. The last line got my tears flowing.

  8. Such a sad short story. I enjoyed the rhythm, it made me want to read it aloud.

  9. I love long stories told in small form. And how it unfolded...uncertain and a totally open scenario at first that can go many ways, and then narrowing until it is clear what happened. Very nice.

  10. Such a sad story.

    I feel so bad for the boy. What a rough life he has lead. I feel sad for the grandfather. How sad for him to see his family disintegrate that way...

  11. So well told! Love the circle of life w/ the tears from the young man and the tears of the old man. And the pacing...nicely done!

  12. The love the sentence structure. It's like the abrupt nature of the words add strength to mask the sadness.

  13. This is fantastic!! I the short sentence structure- it really adds to the piece. And the sadness from all the characters, except the mother...

    I really enjoyed how it is all intertwined....

    Great job!

  14. What n original take - love that! So heartbreaking.

    I completely agree with the commenters above. The pacing is perfection.

  15. What "an" original take. Typos rock ;)

  16. Gorgeous. I love the line in the second paragraph, "An old man, getting older."

    So much emotion in a short space.

  17. Such a fast-paced story in such a small amount of words! Well done...I felt for the boy, could almost hear his re-telling of what happened.

  18. Really good piece of flash fiction! You did a lot in few words - which I personally LOVE, and shows you don't have to be wordy to tell a really good story. Which this was.