THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
August 13, 2016
Beware. The past will come and haunt you. The past is never over with. As William Faulkner said, “The past isn’t dead. It’s not even past.”
These visits from the past usually occur as a surprise. And they often come in the form of a person you haven’t thought of for ages. These people from your past walk into the scene unannounced, and, intentionally or not, they stir up the present, either making your day a bit pleasanter or presenting an unholy mess that needs to be cleaned up.
It’s surprises like this that make good fiction. The appearance of somebody who was once important in your protagonist’s life is sure to add spice to your plot. New twists, new conflicts, new changes, new consequences, the return of the past’s pleasures or troubles. So if your story is stuck and going stale (it happens to all of us), try introducing a sentimental or unsettling someone the reader has never met before, a someone your main character knows all too well and hasn’t thought of for years.
In the stories that follow, join some men and women as they meet up with their pasts, thanks to surprise visits from a former teacher, a deceased spouse, a departed mother, old friends, and old flames. Who knows where these chance meetings might take us if the authors weren’t confined to 99 words.…
by June Kosier
There was only an elderly priest on the elevator I was taking when leaving work. “Are you Father Waldron?”
“Yes, I am. Do I know you?”
“You taught me Freshman Latin in 1963.”
“I must have been a very bad teacher if you still remember me.”
“No Father, you were a very good teacher—better than the nun that taught second-year Latin. She would have a fit if you put your name on the right side of your homework instead of the left as she wanted. You didn’t care as long as your name was somewhere.”
He smiled knowingly.
MIRACLE AT THE HEADLANDS
by Barbara LaSalle
My walking rule was five miles an hour. Only the beat of hip-hop kept me on pace. I looked at nothing but the path and my watch. But I happened to turn my head to the right, and that’s when I saw it: the Headlands!
Awestruck, I fell to my knees. Recovering at last, I ran to my husband. “Look!” I said, dragging him outside. “A miracle!” “
Where?” he said.
Years later I returned to that same spot, and there I found him: my late husband—on his knees, staring at the Headlands.
“Look!,” he said. “A miracle.”
NOT TOO YOUNG NOT TO GET MARRIED
by Christine Viscuso
“Paris, the City of Lights. Nine long years. I’m back.” I huffed and puffed as Frank and I climbed the stairs to the first landing of Le Tour Eiffel.
I looked up through the wrought iron lattice structure to see a Peter O’Toole look-alike with a dyed black Pompadour descending. I recognized those green eyes belonging to the Elvis wannabe—my high school sweetheart.
The man stopped with a clinging, much younger woman. “Chris?”
“It’s been almost fifty years.”
“Never forgot how you left me for someone younger. Your wife seems ageless though.”
“Meet wife number four.”
A VISION OF MOM AND MILFORD
by Jerry Giammatteo
I approached the beach in Milford, Connecticut for the first time in thirty years. To my surprise, I saw the bungalow we shared each summer with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. I was certain it was bulldozed to make room for condos many years ago.
I walked the beach hesitantly. It was empty except for a boy about six years old in the water and an attractive woman calling out, “Don’t go out any farther. You’re doing great.”
It was only then I realized the boy in the sound was me and the pretty lady was my mom.
by Tom Donovan
I watched the Harlem River flow by the old Highbridge in the Bronx. Years ago Terry, a red-haired freckled faced twelve year old, beckoned to us kids to join him on the rickety raft he’d built.
Six kids clambered on, to beat the August heat.
After swimming, the six of us went home, but Terry stayed below the pea green water of the river, held fast by a long hooked nail under the raft.
After all those years, Terry again waved to me to join him.
I waved back, enjoying my world, and not yet ready to join his.
SWEETS ON THE CYCLONE
by Diane Morelli
I was seventeen the first time I rode The Cyclone. Too afraid to go on alone, I convinced my ballsiest friend, Twizzlers, to join me. That August we rode the rickety rollercoaster fourteen nights straight.
Twizzlers and I sat in the last car, giggled on the chug up the tallest ramp, admired all of Coney Island from the apex, and howled from the terrifying first drop and the jolting turns that followed.
Since then, I've taken an annual Cyclone ride. Always in the rear, alone.
While boarding this summer, someone pushed on with me. She said, "Move over, Skittles."
FANCY SEEING YOU HERE
by Margaret Ueland
For our honeymoon Larry and I went to Mendocino, California. On the summer solstice I persuaded him to walk with me on the bluffs to watch the sunset.
“I did this every year I was in college,” I said as we watched. “On the solstice.”
Just as the sun set, I heard a familiar voice. “Midge? Is that you?”
Yikes! I turned and said, “Hal?” We hugged till I pulled apart. I introduced him to Larry.
Hal told Larry, “Midge and I watched the sunset together here every solstice, back in the day.”
“I see,” Larry said. “I see.”
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for September’s 99-word story submissions is September 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for September 10, and will stay posted for a week.
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 the following sentence: The Princess looked again into the mirror and said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
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.
Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week.