91 comments

Nov 16, 2020

Sad Fiction Contemporary

It had been twenty-four years since she’d last seen the old house.

Mary Jane Kimball stepped carefully up the steps and onto the front porch, running a trembling hand over the victorian bannister. Despite the peeling paint, the little house was still beautiful, a time capsule of memories. The porch swing still creaked when the summer breezes blew, and the flowerbed still held gardenias, zinnias, and tiger lilies, though they had long since escaped into the yard.

The old woman adjusted her knitted red sweater and turned the brass knob.

The capsule opened, admitting her into its dusty secrets and passions long withered.

Mary Jane remembered living here as a young child, racing up and down the stairway by the den, and then tearing through kitchen and out into the yard as her brother chased after.

She remembered living here as a teenager, the days when she felt invincible, until reality would stretch out its hard and pull her back from whatever adventure she was on at the time. Then she would come back to this old house, with its blue paint and whitewashed railings, and back to the strong arms of her father, and the caring embrace of her mother.

She remembered living here in college. On the weekends and holidays, she would come back to this place like it was an oasis where she could refresh her soul.

She remembered getting married in the backyard, wedded under the protective branches of a massive pecan that had been there for longer than anyone could remember.

And she remembered the family cemetery, much farther into the woods, in a peaceful little clearing all alone, with no road or path leading to it

James Martin, and Holly Martin, read her parents’ crumbling headstones, the names almost eroded away by time and the elements. Another read Joseph Kimball. This grave had no grass over the piled earth, and the letters were sharply defined.

A final grave was set off to the side, much smaller than the rest. It was the freshest, and marked not with a headstone, but a stout wooden cross like those that marked military graves. The letters inscribed into the wood read Jenny Kimball.

Hot tears traced the creases of Mary Jane’s wrinkled face, dripping to the dusty floor like drops of her very soul, each seeping into the thick layer of must until no liquid remained. A painful shock ran through her chest.

But she wiped her eyes with a handkerchief from her pocket, and journeyed further into the past.

In the living room she ran her hands over couches that had been faded when she was a little girl, trailing clean streaks from her fingertips. The radio by the fireplace was still intact, though it didn’t turn on.

All the kitchen appliances were still in place, arranged on the small counter in a familiar way; the old mixer, blender, mandolin; the perpetual stack of pots and pans still waiting to be washed by the sink. A heavy wooden rolling pin perched precariously at the top of a stack of bowls, waiting for the barest nudge to fall over.

From the kitchen Mary Jane could look out big glass windows and over the backyard. Though the grass had overgrown long ago, she could still see the depressions where painted flagstones made a path leading to the very edge of the woods.

She remembered building that path; each sibling painting a new flagstone each year. When it was finally finished, she and Max and Eddy had skipped for joy, racing back and forth from the towering oaks and pecans to the back porch over and over again.

Mary Jane struggled up the slick wooden steps of the staircase in the den, clutching tightly to the bannister. At the top was a long hall with doors on either side.

She walked slowly down the carpeted hall, gently pushing each door open as she passed. And with every door she opened, Mary Jane remembered.

Playing dolls with her unwilling brothers, then yelling when they grinned devilishly and began dismembering the plastic Barbies and ponies. Drawing sweet comfort from her mother’s hug after tripping on the stairs and gaining a goose egg on her forehead. Baking cinnamon-oatmeal cookies for Thanksgiving and mistaking the salt for sugar. Spending all night cutting paper Christmas decorations and hanging them from the ceiling, only to have the cat somehow claw every one to shreds before dawn. Sparky always had been a naughty kitty…

The phantom memories only grew stronger.

Max screaming like a demon in the yard after falling from a tree, his leg twisted at an unnatural angle under his body; he’d never fully stopped limping. A teenage Mary Jane kicking at Eddy’s shins when he tried to come into her room to get help with his research paper. All three children peeking silently around the corner as their father punched the wall, leaving deep knuckle prints in the drywall as his sky blue eyes misted.

Finally Mary Jane came to the very last door on the right. She pushed it open with an unsteady hand, savoring the feel of the painted wood even as her heart rate spiked.

Inside the room, a twin bed occupied the entire right side of the small space, overflowing with pink ruffles likes waves on a cotton-candy ocean. On the left was a simple dresser and a bookshelf filled with well-worn spines in every color and size imaginable. 

Warm light from the window above the bed illuminated a single phantom; herself, as an old woman sitting on the pink bed. Her red sweater contrasted sharply to her white hair and pale face, making her look like a ghost wearing a tomato skin. This translucent reflection of herself suddenly jerked, clutching at it’s chest as it went limp and fell sideways. Then as its eyelids fluttered shut and it disappeared, Mary Jane knew.

She crossed the room and sat down on the bed… and something clenched within her, constricting like a hot wire drawn tight around her heart. She felt her vision slipping away, receding as if she were backing away from the only window in a darkened room.

But with her final moment, her failing eyes swept over the room. She was here with her memories, phantoms of times long past and people long dead.

Mary Jane was home. And that was all that mattered.

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91 comments

Beth Connor
00:17 Nov 17, 2020

Interesting piece. I have little to no experience with plotless stories and am newer to writing in general, but it had a beautiful and forlorn imagry. Sad in a tired sort of way? It piqued my interest in a genre I know nothing about. I will have to read more of your past writing to find a story in your "zone"

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00:42 Nov 17, 2020

I would recommend “Train to Kachungjunga” or “Will of the Wind”—those two are my best works in my opinion. 😊 Glad you liked it, and thanks for taking the time to read!

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Amany Sayed
02:43 Nov 18, 2020

Hello! I've never read your stories before, and considering you've joined our little Reedsy Friend group (lol) I'd like to, so any suggestions or favorites, or should I pick at random?

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03:37 Nov 18, 2020

So, the two works I'm most of proud of are "The Train to Kachungjunga" and "The Will of the Wind" Those are the ones that I like the most--not too sure how I feel about some of the others. :P

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Amany Sayed
03:39 Nov 18, 2020

I'll give them a read and drop some feedback! Lol, I totally get how you feel. Have a great day/night/evening/whatever!

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13:42 Nov 18, 2020

Lol, Reeders from around the world makes it tricky to keep track of who's in what timezone. :P

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Kate Ashton
21:33 Dec 09, 2020

I understand the sentiment; sometimes, I look back at old stories of mine and have no clue what I was thinking when I wrote them! Those stories should've remained a random thought of mine instead of being released :D

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21:40 Dec 09, 2020

I think it’s still a good idea to turn in your work—who knows, maybe you’ll learn something from a critique! At least, that’s my thought process.

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Kate Ashton
22:13 Dec 09, 2020

I don't know. You haven't read how kinky some of it is! I would link in an example, but those are some of my greatest facepalms that I do not wish to relive. Regardless, I see your point. You live and you (hopefully) learn! :P

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Zea Bowman
23:28 Dec 02, 2020

Hello, hello! Zea Bowman here, reporting to you from Eden Variss' comment sections! I was reading through them and I saw how kind and supportive you were...thought I'd come check out some of your stories because you gave Eden some great advice. Can't really read anything right now, but I will be sure to check out some of your stories later. Happy writing!

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00:29 Dec 03, 2020

Awesome! Sounds cool. 😊

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Rhondalise Mitza
18:39 Nov 27, 2020

Hi!

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18:50 Nov 27, 2020

Heyo!

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Rhondalise Mitza
20:05 Nov 27, 2020

First of all, how are you? Second of all, wanna beta read something for me? Third of all, check out the link in my bio for a contest you may be interested in.

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20:10 Nov 27, 2020

How am I? Pretty good! A little annoyed at Reedsy, but I’m just fine—Reedsy doesn’t matter to my life. 😜 For the second item—yes, of course I’ll beta read! I’ll go check out that contest as well...

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Sophia Thorne
13:28 Nov 21, 2020

I found this story leaving me feeling a little sad, but in a good way! I like how when I read it, I could almost see Mary Jane's memories unfolding before her eyes as if I were Mary Jane. The descriptions were good, not too much but not too little either, the perfect balance. The only thing I did not particuliarly like: the ending, when Mary Jane died, I thought it was a little abrupt (even tho I know that it kinda reflects the finality of death), and maybe it would have been better to show how she finally felt peace 𝘣𝘦𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦 she died, not af...

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17:21 Nov 21, 2020

Thanks so much for reading this! Yeah, this was my first attempt at a plotless story (or at least one without a clearly defined plot structure, to be technical :P) I'm not quite sure how I feel about it, but maybe I'll do more. We'll see. ;)

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22:29 Dec 08, 2020

Yay! What a FANTASTIC story! You really used the prompt well!

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22:33 Dec 08, 2020

Thanks. 🙂

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Anna Mosqueda
14:20 Dec 05, 2020

Hey Leo! Awesome story as always:) And thanks for the bio mention! It means A LOT:)

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18:53 Dec 05, 2020

No problem. 😉

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Tom .
13:07 Dec 02, 2020

Thank you for the bio mention, really touched.

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14:17 Dec 02, 2020

No problem. You deserve it. 🙂

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B. W.
00:13 Nov 28, 2020

Heyyyy

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Julian Xander
19:27 Nov 21, 2020

I have read so many sad plotless stories with similar structure to this one, I have lost count. And this is one of the really good ones. I was there with Mary Jane as she moved through the story. It's sad, it's engaging, it's moderately descriptive and I really liked it!

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20:58 Nov 21, 2020

So glad you enjoyed this!

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Incredible story. The descriptions were spectacular and even though there wasn't much of a plot, per se, it kept me to the very end. Would not be surprised to see this win or get on the shortlist next week. One grammatical error: "and then tearing through kitchen." I'm thinking the missing "the" was just an oversight. Would love to hear your thoughts on my newest story!

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02:18 Nov 21, 2020

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this! I'll fix that typo. I don't know when I'll be able to get to your story, but I'll add it to my list. If I don't leave a review in a few days, just remind me. ;)

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Radhika Diksha
16:36 Nov 20, 2020

Thankyou for unfollowing me.

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Hi, Nice story, I loved the descriptions and memories of Mary Jane. Great work!

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17:54 Nov 19, 2020

Thanks for reading. :)

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16:50 Nov 19, 2020

I loved this piece. This was so refreshing for several reasons. First, it was a bit shorter, which made it a quick and pleasant read. It didn't make me think too hard to figure out context or plot - rather I was able to simply enjoy the story, and immerse myself into your impeccable detail. Second, the lack of traditional "conflict" was beautifully done. I think it's terribly difficult to write a compelling piece that draws in the reader without some sort of conflict or manifested antagonist. But your antagonist in this piece was time it...

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17:18 Nov 19, 2020

Awesome! Glad ya liked this! As a side note, when writing this I actually took inspiration off your stories. Since this was a very different kind of story than I'm used to, I did what I always do when writing new stuff: I go read the same kind of stuff! Getting right to work fixing those grammar issues...

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23:20 Nov 19, 2020

I'm all warm and fuzzy! I'm honored you found my writing style compelling enough to glean some sort of inspiration from it. Cheers!

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Leilani Lane
15:10 Nov 19, 2020

Hi Leo, beautiful work! This was descriptive, detailed, and balanced. "wedded under the protective branches of a massive pecan that had been there for longer than anyone could remember." Just lovely language. My one small critique is that I felt there were too many commas. "The old woman adjusted her knitted red sweater, and turned the brass knob." This doesn't need the comma, for example. Also noticed: "A final grave, was set off to the side, much smaller than the rest." --> should be: "A final grave was set off to the side, mu...

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15:43 Nov 19, 2020

On it!

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17:53 Nov 18, 2020

so, i'm glad you were able to rewrite this into something better and more relevant haha :) i like the way it turned out! just a few critiques from your resident grammar and punctuation freak: - "reality would stretch out its hard" i think you mean "hand" - "But she wiped her eyes with a Kleenex," this just kind of caught me off guard because like... where's the tissue box lol? does she just carry one around in her pocket or like carry around a spare disposable tissue? considering as she's old a handkerchief or something might work better. ...

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20:35 Nov 18, 2020

I’ll work on fixing these! Thanks so much for taking the time to look through and critique this! I thought I’d already fixed some of those grammar issues, but apparently I mixed them up with something else...

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Radhika Diksha
08:35 Nov 18, 2020

Spectacular story and an awesome plot. Loved it very much. You exploited the prompt very well. The storyline was also amazing. I would love your feedback on my story. Keep writing.

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08:44 Nov 17, 2020

Hi Leo, besides some minor grammer mistakes and mixed up words that have been mentioned by those who commented. I would say for your first plotless piece, it was really good. It railed me in and had me travel with Mary Jane too. I really enjoyed your descriptions as well, they felt so homely and warm :) Thanks for Sharing Leo! If you have some time to spare in the near future I would love fo hear your thoughts on my story as well. Have a good day :)

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13:21 Nov 17, 2020

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and review this Don! I would love to read your story as soon as possible. I can probably get to it within a day or two, but if I don't, just shoot me a comment as a reminder. ;)

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14:11 Nov 17, 2020

You are welcome Leo. Thanks Leo, I appreciate it.

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Avani G
18:18 Nov 16, 2020

"[...] until reality would stretch out its hard and pull her back ... " That doesn't make sense. The story was good, but confusing to some degree. You should try explaining the memories in order, from when she was a teenager to the day she was getting married. This was nice, and definitely new for Leo Greer. But you're really not good at plotless stories. They just don't suit you! You should try something like Drunk of Coffee again - that was awesome! Otherwise, nice first try. ;)

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00:39 Nov 17, 2020

Yeah, I’m not feeling the plotless vibe. 😉 It’s supposed to be “hand” instead of “hard”—typos! Yeah, another humor piece would be cool—maybe I’ll do one next week! 😉

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Raven Achlys
18:05 Nov 16, 2020

The only thing I saw incorrect with the story was "with it’s blue paint and whitewashed railings". It should be its, not it's. Otherwise a spectacular story!

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00:20 Nov 17, 2020

Oof, I still make that mistake from time to time. Thanks for the catch!😃

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