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Each has their own way

by archgimp 

Posted: 03 January 2006
Word Count: 469
Summary: This is the flash that came to mind when I read Dreamer's 'A Parting Gift'. Thought I would share it with you all while I try to come up with something for the latest challenge.

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The charred remains of the house jut up from the earth like blackened teeth. The snow transforming from white to grey to brown and eventually a sooty black as they walk slowly up the garden path.

Becca draws the children near as Tom takes those extra few steps and disappears into the remains.

She hears a feral howl as Tom releases all the pent up anger, the rage that drove them so far from home. As it tails off she can hear regret, sorrow, the icy twine of loss strangling his voice until it is no more than a whisper.

Then the sobbing starts. She tries to call him back, tries to let him know that the kids are all right, and thatís all that matters, but deep down she knows better. Tomís loss would always be far greater than hers. He had been the one so close, so intimate with Tammy and Rex.

She busies the kids with snow fights; trying to fill the day with happy memories, as though it could wash all the pain away, make it as clean as the snow by the back gate. Children always try, always make the right noises, make you think any loss is as forgotten as this morningís meal. Becca wondered though, the fear of later outbursts lying heavy on her heart.

Leaving them safely playing, she picks carefully through the door that would now never seal the house from the cold again. Everything inside is distorted, twisted by heat, blackened by soot. Even the heart of the kitchen is now listless. The permanent heat of a working home replaced by an oppressive cold that would envelope her long after they left.

She finds Tom in the master bedroom, sitting bowlegged in the dog-basket, staring at where Tammy and Rex would cling to each other close each night, their impressions still visible, frozen there by firemenís water. Tom is sobbing, quietly but fitfully.

This was where they had died, their faithful friends through her pregnancy and the first month of their childrenís life. Without them, she knew that Tom would never see their family as complete, never feel whole again. The relationship between master and dog too deep to be separated by a mere fire, too strong for the vast chasm of death alone to cut every tie that binds.

Doing her best to comfort her partner, she beckons Tom back to the garden. The children would be getting cold, they needed to move on, find somewhere new.

As they padded out through the hole in the back fence, the baleful look in Tomís eyes and his drooping tail told her that no matter where they ended up, no matter how far they travelled, this would always be his home, and Tammy and Rex would always be his masters.

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Comments by other Members

Prospero at 07:36 on 03 January 2006  Report this post
Very good, David.
a feral howl as Tom releases all the pent up anger
a clever bit of foreshadowing that didn't give the game away.

On the first read through I really didn't get it to the last paragraph, then I went back to see how you had put it all together.

Excellent flash! Well done



I'm afraid I having a 'thickie' I don't understand the title. :(


darrenm at 10:30 on 03 January 2006  Report this post
There is some great description here particularly:

she picks carefully through the door that would now never seal the house from the cold again. Everything inside is distorted, twisted by heat, blackened by soot. Even the heart of the kitchen is now listless.


staring at where Tammy and Rex would cling to each other close each night, their impressions still visible, frozen there by firemenís water.

Unfortunately, and this is purely personal, whenever I read a story where the mc ends up being an animal I always feel conned rather than pleasantly surprised, so the ending turned me off a little, sorry.

Of course this isn't to take away from the writing, although on second reading I wondered about the credibility of dogs named Tom and Becca!


archgimp at 12:28 on 03 January 2006  Report this post
Thanks for the positive comments. I must confess this was really a quick piece entirely inspired by that parting gift flash. Read the story, has a bus journey to digest it, then wrote it in one hit when I got to work.

Glad you liked the foreshadowing, John. I try to put those things in as (for me) it makes the payoff more satisfying.

In regards to the title, it *does* make sense when you give it some thought, but then you shouldn't have to give it thought, so I'll change that, thanks for pointing it out.

Darren, glad you enjoyed reading the piece, even if you felt a little conned at the end. I tried (see above) to provide enugh clues that the truly canny reader could conceivably guess before the end. To be honest, though, this wasn't really meant as a wham-bam-'it's a DOG' kind of ending. It was more about the feelings they experience and the loss. You never hear about the pets of people who die in fires, and I wanted to put forth what I believed they must be feeling, giving it equal respect as the feelings of a parent who loses a child. To me, the ending was more meant to make you think 'Well I never really thought about it, but I guess that's how pets must feel' rather than 'haha it was a dog all along'. It probably wont make you feel less conned, but explains why I used the device.

I would like to add as a post script: I hate dogs. I really do. I'm a cat person. I find dogs too needy and child-like. I'm glad this piece came across as credible, given how little i know dogs.

Thank you all for your comments so far as ever :)

darrenm at 12:34 on 03 January 2006  Report this post
Yeah, I see what you're getting at. Who's to say animals don't feel loss as well as humans?

By strange co-incidence, I'm a cat person too and also know nothing about dogs, yet in my last story there was a dog too. And they say 'write about what you know'!!


Prospero at 13:31 on 03 January 2006  Report this post
Count me in. Fully paid up feline friend. Not against dogs, but then never that keen on them either. Strange I have got quite fond of friends dogs, but I never really wanted one.


crowspark at 21:49 on 03 January 2006  Report this post
Hot-dog! Nice writing. Great opening (don't think you need, ' of a sneering beggar.') If you prune, cutting the bits you don't need, you should find that the story becomes faster and stronger.
I think the doggy twist has made your task harder to pull off but there is some great description and invention here. Love the gradations from white to black up the garden path, the interior unpicked and twisted by heat.

I have always been a cat person. I have a three legged cat called Thing. He is very cool.

Great flash.


archgimp at 07:13 on 04 January 2006  Report this post
Thanks Bill, glad you enjoyed it.

I'm inclined to agree about thwe sneering beggar line. It's now history. The idea was to use a realtively universal experience that further anthropomorphised the MCs without using a human-only experience. However, I like the way the line scans better now.

Many thanks for the input :)

choille at 15:02 on 04 January 2006  Report this post
I really like the discriptions in this and the winter burnt out house.

I, personnally don't like the fact of the MC's being dogs. I think it spoils it. At any creative writing class and in some magazine submission guidelines they all warn against doing this.

I seem to remember that Jeffrey Archer was accused of plagarism by some one who'd been on a course and they'd written a story where at the end the MC was 'revealed' as a cat.He seemed to have published a very similar story.

For them to be humans and for the male to pine for his deceased pets would be a fine tale and the mother to hold the family together is especially poignant.

All the best with it


archgimp at 06:54 on 05 January 2006  Report this post
Aha, Caroline. Now that's a criticism I can take to the bank. If both CW classes and magazines don't like the device, then the device shall have to go. I'll rework this, edit it and them sent you a WW mail with a link for the edited piece as your feedback would be most valuable indeed.

Thank you for the insightful crit. :)

choille at 10:26 on 05 January 2006  Report this post
Hi There,
I am only expressing my personal views and those expressed by some mags and courses. Some other people like it. That is the thing with creative writing 'each to their own.'

Don't take me too seriously.

All the best

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