THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
June 11, 2016
Greetings! This week, beginning on the second Saturday in June, I am pleased to showcase a dozen writers who have contributed 99-word stories about going home. In some cases the term home is a metaphor for a state of being; in others it’s a home town, a childhood residence, a house or an apartment. Built into the stories is a common element of surprise. Some warm and pleasant surprises, others more like nightmares.
I spent most of my childhood in the home of my Uncle Neil. My father died when I was two years old, leaving my mother virtually penniless, with four children to raise. Her older brother, my Uncle Neil, came to her rescue. He was a wealthy businessman, a bachelor, and he persuaded my mother to bring her family and move in with him, first in Bradford, Pennsylvania, then to Cleveland, Ohio, and in 1950, to a house in Farmers Branch, on the rural outskirts of Dallas, Texas. By that time my siblings were all away at college most of the time. I was eight years old.
Farmers Branch, as we called my new home, was a glorious estate. A fine place to grow up.
Well, a few years ago I wrote a novel about an eight-year-old boy named Davy, who moved to Texas with his mother to live in Elephant Lake, the country estate of Davy’s Uncle Fergus. The place in my novel was modeled closely on Farmers Branch. The people were exaggerated versions of my mother and my uncle. The story was completely fictitious. But it helped me to better understand my childhood fantasies, my mother’s alcoholism, and my uncle’s mysterious magic.
Writing my novel Elephant Lake was how I came home to a place I’d never been before.
I Came Home to a Place I’d Never Been Before
a collection of 99-word stories
HOME OF MY ANCESTORS
by June Kozier
A few years ago, while doing genealogical research to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, I discovered one of my great, great grandmothers was a Bronk.
The Bronk home, built in 1663, is the headquarters of the Green County Historical Society. The Coxsackie Declaration of Independence was signed there more than a year before the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Of course, I had to visit the site. When I entered the original stone one-room dwelling, it did not feel like other historic houses that I had visited.
It felt strangely like home.
I CAME HOME TO A PLACE I’D NEVER BEEN BEFORE
by John Hellen
Our plane was approaching Shannon Airport in Ireland; I couldn’t contain my excitement. My parents had always told me stories of their childhood days in Shannon, where they first met in high school.
My father’s sister, Maureen McNally, met me at the airport and took me to their cottage outside of Shannon. I was greeted by many aunts, uncles and cousins I have never met before. They gave me Guinness Stout and toasted their newest family member.
I was being welcomed in such a way that I felt I had come home to a place I’ve never been before.
YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN
by Phyllis Povell
He was writing a novel with NYU as its backdrop. “Will you accompany me to your old stomping grounds?”
A chance to go home to my Alma Mater.
Came out of the subway, walked in the wrong direction. Oriented myself, but couldn’t recognize my former home. All the new construction; buildings rising up where they never were. Stores, cafés, theatres. Where did they come from?
Students with purple and green hair carrying books and chatting in a variety of languages still there.
Security guards at every building. “You can’t come in without student ID.”
You can’t come home again.
I DON’T NEED A MAP
by Frank Thayer
“I don’t need a map,” Al told the Hertz guy at DFW. “I grew up in Dallas.”
Coming out of the Hertz lot, Al had to turn onto a freeway he didn’t remember. Hmm, he thought. This airport used to be called Love Field, too. Well, I’ll be fine.
Twenty minutes later he was pulled over for driving too slow. The cop read his driver’s license. “What brings you to Texas?” he asked.
“My granddaughter’s wedding.”
“In Dallas. Obviously.”
“Anybody expecting you?”
“It’ll be a surprise.”
“That it will, sir. You’ve just entered the city of Fort Worth.”
by Tim Hershberger
The woman, pleasant enough in manner and looks, keeps running her fingers over my brow and through my hair while she drives.
“We’ll be home soon, Hon,” she says.
I study her features, every line and curve of her face.
“I should know her,” I think to myself, and then my thoughts drift to where I had woken up.
“A coma,” they said at the hospital. “Three years.”
Strange to remember so little; my name I have only from what this woman has called me. Now we are driving “home,” home to a place I’ve never been before.
by Cathy Mayrides
I met you when we were kids, but didn’t see you again until I was almost out of my twenties and newly divorced. My marriage to the abuser was thankfully over, but I looked at the world with trepidation: what if every man was the same?
Then, suddenly, I met you again.
I found something I never had, and that was unconditional love. It eluded me in childhood and it was never part of my life until you wandered back into it.
I came home to a place I’d never been before, and I never wanted to leave.
PEACE OF MIND
by Jerry Giammatteo
Anxiety roiled in every fiber of his being. Since he was a child, the smallest conflict or inconvenience was always magnified.
Relax, his mother, wife, even children told him. He would try, but it was useless. Inner peace eluded him. He accepted it, even joking about being a type B personality and that was that.
Well into his fifties, he tried meditation at the urging of his wife. Reluctantly. This won’t work for me, he thought. But after a few sessions, he felt better.
It’s funny. He felt like he’d come home to a place he’d never been to.
SEASON TO SEASON
by Ryan Matthews
I opened the door to my apartment, finding red wine had left a Jackson Pollack image staining my shag. Blinds hung askew, obnoxiously blocking my ocean view. The kitchen sink adorned by dirty dishes stacked, rivaling any frat party, awaiting another’s soapy hands. Someone has been sleeping in my bed—soiled sheets tossed along with the spread. Wet towels left on the bathroom floor.
Evidence intruders left their mark on my space. Yet the vistas and sunshine beckons for my return, entranced am I as a sailboat floats along the horizon.
Ring, ring, it’s my broker, my oasis rented again.
THE RIPPLE THAT ROARED
by Pat Shevlin
Sandy loved the Cramptons but did not think an aging “chubbette” was cool enough to live among the rich and famous.
Notwithstanding her insecurity, Sandy’s love of the water fueled her confidence at a time when Cramptons real estate was approachable during the sinking economy of 2008. “Timing may be right for this older and wiser beach wannabee.”
Just like Goldilocks, her search was challenging until that morning, when she was greeted at the door by the owner. “Shhhh. If you are quiet, you can hear the water.”
Sandy had come home to a place she’d never been before.
THIRTY DAYS AWAY
by Diane S. Morelli
I left for thirty days. I came home to a place I'd never been before.
When my journey began, I turned my keys over to my best friend. He owned a housecleaning service. I said, “You’ve got a month. Do the best you can.”
His crew earned enough extra money to pay for lunch for several weeks after they cashed in the beer cans I’d left everywhere. They deserved it. Their work was awesome; they even removed the Malbec stains from the grouting in the stall shower.
Professional treatment proved effective for purging me, and my home, of alcohol.
LIFE WITH CLUTTER
by Christine Viscuso
“I came home to a place I’d never been before.” Sam Clutter turned, slowly, around in his living room.
“That doesn’t make sense, dear.” Happy Clutter removed her dirty cleaning smock.
“I’ve lived here, amongst piles of books, magazines, shoes strewn about, coats never put away, piles of unread mail. There’s our couch. Look at our beautiful kitchen table that we haven’t been able to eat on in five years. Finally, there’s a path to the kitchen. Are you sure this is our house?”
“Yes, dear. Now get moving and haul the hundreds of garbage bags to the curb.”
Calling all published authors—
I feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for July’s 99-word story submissions is July 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for July 9
note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.
Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:
1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: email@example.com
THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Write a story inspired by this sentiment: “Yes, I love you, but you’re going to have to choose between me and that animal.”
And now a word from our sponsor:
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a novel by
John M. Daniel
It’s a magic summer for eight-year-old Davy Llewellyn. He battles a dragon. He rides through a savannah on an elephant. He leaps from the roof and flies to the moon.
Unfortunately, he must come back to earth, where the magic is dark and there’s a skull in the attic
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What is Davy to make of his mother, who turns into “The Evening Rose” at cocktail hour; or his Uncle Fergus, a wizard who does Elephant Magic; or his Uncle Mike, whose life is a shambles? Luckily Davy has an ally, his cousin Lily. And luckily, they both can fly.
Set in the summer of 1950, Elephant Lake takes place at an elegant country estate eighty miles southest of Dallas, Texas. The story is told from the point of view of Davy Llewellyn, an eight-year-old boy who is trying to figure out the adults in his life: his mother, Rose, an alcoholic and depressed widow; his Uncle Fergus, an oil tycoon and Republican power broker who does magic for children; and his Uncle Mike, a has-been athlete and Hollywood playboy. Davy’s ally is his cousin, Lily, a self-conscious adolescent with enough sense to know her elders are fools. Davy’s escape is an eerie imagination that gives him the power of flight and leads him into encounters with a crimson dragon, a human skull, and an elephant named Boola Boola.
Much happens in the summer of 1950 at Elephant Lake. A boy jumps off a roof. A field catches fire and is saved by an elephant. A bulldog battles a dragon to the death. Geronimo’s skull is discovered in a dusty attic. A girl falls off a roof. A future president of the United States smashes the windows of an abandoned farmhouse. A drunk man dives from a roof. A boy and a girl hop onto a flying horse and fly into the stars.
Elephant Lake is a novel about alcohol, depression, and death, but it is even more about love, adventure, fantasy, and flight.
That's all, folks. I leave you with one suggestion: If you want to go home to a place you've never been before, make up a story about that place, with a character you can understand, because in some sense, you were there, and in some sense, you've done that. Adios until next week.