Coming Home

il_fullxfull.436891681_gdroHere’s the second 20-minute story I wrote during a writing workshop in Ohio. Though I have no great gift for fiction, I’d recommend this exercise to anyone interested in stretching their skills. Something about being in the crucible of the moment makes you focus on the essential elements of a narrative.

Mom wore an expression I recognized—the wary one she once showed strangers who dared to approach me in a playground or anyone who asked for “a moment of her time”—and she gripped Dad’s arm just above the elbow.

“May we help you?” Dad asked.

I moved to gather the backpack and duffle bag I’d dropped to ring the bell, and they stood squarely in the doorframe.

“How’re you guys? I had a break in the semester and—“

Sometimes you look into a different face when you deliver news it didn’t know or when you disprove facts it’s repeated confidently for years.

My parents’ faces steeled.

“Excuse me?” Dad said. My mother pulled herself closer to him. “Do we know you?”

“Jesus, Dad!”

They blocked my way as if I were our cat, instinctively and with a mind to try as many times as necessary. I should have visited sooner, but school work rose like walls before me. I’d just found time to see my way through.

“Look,” I said, “I’m sorry. I should have called, but—”

“I don’t know you, but if you try to come in here, we’re calling the cops!”

Sometime, my mother left him, retreating into the house, and her flight alerted me to all that was altered. The table in the entry hall was Pennsylvania Dutch instead of sleek Danish, adorned with a plastic bouquet in a teapot instead of three gray paper flowers in a glass vase.


I might have stood there longer, implored longer, insisted whatever prank should end, but my mother returned wielding a handgun and shouting for me to leave.



Filed under Doubt, Experiments, Fiction, Fiction writing, Gratitude, Home Life, Identity, Memory, Metaphor, Parenting, Writing

7 responses to “Coming Home

  1. Another awesome story. I believe you do actually have a bit of a gift for fiction!

    • dmarshall58

      I might believe you if I knew what fiction IS. People talk about how mystifying poetry is, but I’m never quite sure what I’m supposed to be doing when I’m writing a story. I end up addressing the conventions instead of the broader purpose in composing a narrative in the first place. –D

      • Personally, there is so much opining and protesting and self-righteous soap-boxing going on through social media these days, that when I read a piece of fiction, I want it to be just that: fiction. I want to be entertained, moved, and while it’s okay to be thought-provoking, if by “broader purpose” you mean that the piece is only relevant if it contains some sort of message to somehow better society, I disagree.

        …But maybe you don’t mean that at all. Hey, I’m still coming down from your “Asking For It” essay, man. (lol)

      • Thomas

        I read some of the McSweeney submissions and like those, this one could have grown into its own story. For me, that’s the mark of good fiction. I liked this one.

      • dmarshall58

        Thanks. The toughest part of the form, I think, is writing something whole… or whole enough. If it were as simple as starting a story, there would be little challenge. But, if it’s going to work, the entirety of the story has to be at least hinted in the first 20 minutes worth of writing. Thanks for visiting and commenting. –D

  2. A frightening scenario. And like the other commenter, I would say that you do have a gift for fiction. This is well written.

    • dmarshall58

      However anything turns out, I always hope it’s written cleanly, efficiently, and as deliberately as I’m able. Thank you. –D

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