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Fiction Contemporary

There were some questions that you just didn't ask, even at home. But sometimes Niamh's curiosity got the better of her.

“Dad? Why is there still a solid yellow line painted down the middle of the street outside?” she asked her father one Tuesday.

Her father laid his newspaper aside. “You should already know the answer to that, Niamh. It marks the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland in our town. It's been that way since before any of us were born.”

“But if East and West Germany can be reunited, why can't Ireland and Northern Ireland?” Niamh persisted.

Her father sighed heavily. “It's not the same here. Unless you'd rather go back to the bad old days when there was constant fighting between the Orangemen and the Irish Republican Army.”

Niamh shook her head. “I'd rather have the peace we have now.”

“Don't rock the boat, then,” he said.

---------

After dinner, she looked out of her upstairs bedroom window, at the yellow line in the middle of the street. It wasn't a wall like the concrete one that used to divide Berlin into East and West. This “wall” was invisible. If only it wasn't needed.

She opened her laptop and clicked on her favorite web browser. Which website first? Like using the TV's remote control, she just skimmed her way from website to website. Nothing looked interesting until she found a website that allowed its users to submit poems to it.

There were plenty of both writers and poems to read. Without any hesitation, she registered a username and a password, and then browsed through the selection of poems. The oldest were several years back, but there were a few that had been submitted more recently.

One caught her attention. Its title was “Crossing the Border” and it had been written by someone named Devon O'Sullivan:

There is no unity in division,

Whether you build a concrete wall,

Put up a barbed-wire fence,

Or paint a yellow line on a street

Americans used to have a saying,

Separate but equal”. In South Africa,

They used the term apartheid.

Here we say that's just how it has to be.

Why can't we cross the border

And bring two halves together?

Why do they have to remain apart

When they'd be happier as one?

Perhaps one day you'll see me

Crossing the border, risking it all

To be on the other side, until

They drag me back home again

She liked it a lot. She clicked on the thumbs-up symbol below the poem and typed her reaction in the comment field: Thank you for writing this. It speaks about the things that I wish people could talk about openly, whether inside our homes or out on the pavement. Have you submitted other poems on this website? If so, I'd like to read them, too. --Niamh Gallagher

Niamh closed the browser window. Time for homework. Her British Literature class was studying Shakespeare and they could choose any of his plays, pick a scene in it, and then write about it.

She opened her bedroom window, to let in some fresh air. Then she put on her headphones, turned on her iPod and touched the on-screen “randomizer” button. Maybe there was a song she hadn't heard in a long time. Moments later, she heard the opening notes of “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2. Perfect.

She took the book of Shakespeare plays out of her backpack and scanned the list of plays. Her forefinger paused on “Romeo and Juliet”. Why not? She turned to the play and wondered which scene would prove the most interesting. Maybe the balcony scene?

A moment later something white flew through the window and landed in her lap.

Niamh stared at it. A paper aeroplane? She looked out of the window. There wasn't anyone in view. Maybe it had come through her bedroom by chance? But where had it come from?

Curious, she unfolded the paper aeroplane and read the note written on it: I hope I've reached you safe and sound. You said you liked my poem. Yes, I've written more. Perhaps we could meet and I could read them to you? What about the park up the street. There's an old oak tree. Meet me there tomorrow after school. --Devon O'Sullivan

Cheeky bugger. Expecting her to agree without even a face-to-face first. And how would he know it was her at the park? Did he even know what she looked like? Maybe he did. After all, he'd done his best to aim his paper aeroplane at her bedroom window. Not brave enough to stand where she could see him, though.

Fine. I'll meet him. He'd better be there.

----------

When school ended, instead of walking straight home, Niamh headed for the park.

She even knew which oak tree he'd referred to. It was one of her favorites.

There was a teenaged boy, about her own age, sitting on the ground in front of the tree. He was looking down at the book in his lap.

Niamh cleared her throat audibly. “Ahem!”

Suddenly he looked up, saw her, and then smiled. “You must be Niamh.”

She nodded. “And you must be Devon.”

“Quite right,” he said. “I wasn't sure about my aim last night. There was a cross-breeze for a moment and I was afraid that my paper aeroplane would fly off-course.”

“It reached me or I wouldn't be here,” Niamh said. “Mind if I sit down?”

“Be my guest,” Devon said.

She sat down and laid her backpack aside. “Why haven't I seen you at school? Are you being home-schooled?”

He shook his head. “I go to a Catholic school and live with my parents across the street from your house.”

Niamh froze and tried not to stare. “You're Catholic?”

Devon nodded. “Is that a problem?”

“Sort of,” she said. “You see, I'm Protestant.”

“Oh my,” he said and looked around them. But there wasn't anyone closer than about fifty feet away. No one seemed to notice them and probably couldn't hear what they said.

“That's putting it mildly,” Niamh said. “Do you know how much trouble you could be in if anyone knew that you were in this park?”

Devon nodded and looked down at his book again. “I don't have many friends. I thought maybe you could be the kind of friend I've always wanted. Someone who likes to read poetry as much as I like to write it. You did say you liked that one poem.”

“And you were willing to cross the street just to meet me,” she said.

“My dad says that sometimes you have to bend a rule to make things turn out well,” he said.

She stood up.

Devon looked up at her. “Please don't leave.”

“I'm not the one on the wrong side of the street,” Niamh said. “You are.” She sighed. “How in the world are you going to get back to your side without being seen?”

“I got over here without any problems,” he said. “I should be able to get back just as easily.”

She couldn't help smiling. “You really are a cheeky bugger, you know.”

Devon laughed softly. “Mum says that I take after Dad. It's one of the reasons why she originally fell in love with him. She liked that he was willing to take chances.”

Her face turned serious. “You really should head home now. I need to do the same. If you promise not to tell anyone that we met here, I'll do the same. Deal?”

He nodded. “Deal.” He paused. “Does this mean we can't meet again someday?”

“If we do, it'll have to be somewhere safer than here,” Niamh said. “Somewhere we don't have to worry about eyes and ears that don't want us together.”

Devon looked thoughtful. “Do you know where the Thruppence Pub is?”

She nodded. It was a place that prided itself on allowing anyone from Ireland and Northern Ireland to meet, drink, and talk in peace. “I've never been inside it.”

He gave her a puzzled look. “Why not?”

“I don't drink alcohol,” Niamh said.

“They probably have kids' drinks available,” Devon said. “When should we meet there?”

She looked away from him as she thought, just in case someone was watching them now. There didn't seem to be anyone looking.

“Friday evening,” she said. “After dinner.”

“Your parents won't get suspicious?” he asked.

“I'll ask Mum,” Niamh said. “She'll probably permit it. Besides, she's good at keeping secrets. What about your parents?”

“I've been to the pub before,” Devon said. “They'll probably let me go there again. As long as I promise to avoid any alcohol.” He smiled again. “It was nice meeting you, Niamh.”

She smiled back. “It was nice meeting you, too, Devon.”

Reaching down, she grabbed her backpack and ran for home.

----------

Friday finally arrived and thankfully Niamh had permission from her mother to meet some of her school friends at the pub. Her father wasn't home yet. He still had some work to take care of.

Niamh didn't usually dress up, but she thought she ought to at least a little this time. Technically, this could be called her first date with Devon. She put on a pale pink blouse, a knee-length white skirt, white stockings, and a pair of her newest trainers. There was no way she was going to walk all the way to the pub in high-heeled shoes. Her ankles and insteps would be in pain most of the way. Hence, the trainers.

“Try to be home before midnight,” Mum told Niamh.

“I will.” Niamh hugged her mother. “Thank you, Mum.”

“Call if you need a ride home,” she told Niamh.

The latter nodded and ran out the front door, closing it behind her.

---------

The pub was crowded and noisy when Niamh entered. So many people. They only stopped talking when they drank from their glasses of local beer. There didn't seem to be any other teenagers in sight.

She made her way through the crowd, trying to see where Devon was. Sometimes she coughed from the cigarette smoke, something she was grateful she didn't have to deal with at home or at school.

No sign of Devon.

Niamh sighed. Why did I even bother coming here?

But then someone tapped her on the shoulder.

She turned around to see Devon, smiling at her. He was wearing a white sleeveless turtleneck, dark pants, and dark shoes.

He handed her a glass of Coca-Cola. “Enjoy.”

They touched glasses and drank.

“I'm glad you came,” Devon said. “You weren't here when I came. I thought maybe you'd gotten cold feet.”

“I thought maybe you had,” Niamh said.

“Not a chance,” he said. “There isn't a girl at school who could hold a candle to you.”

She smiled and shook her head. “With a line like that, I'm surprised you don't have a girlfriend already.”

“Maybe the right girl wasn't there,” Devon said. “I had to go to a park to meet her.”

“Did you get home all right?” Niamh asked.

“A police officer spoke to me when I reached the Catholic side of the street,” he said. “Asking what I was up to. He probably thought I was dealing dope or something. I told him I'd met a girl but we had to meet in secret. Could he keep it a secret? He smiled and nodded. He told me that that was how he'd met his wife-to-be.”

“Was she Catholic too?” she asked.

Devon shook his head. “She was Protestant. Which was much more dangerous back then than it is today.”

“I'm surprised their parents didn't try to keep them apart,” Niamh said.

“They did, but it didn't do any good,” he said. “They eloped.”

“Good for them,” she said.

“Definitely,” he said.

She drank more of her Coca-Cola. “You said you had more poems to share with me?”

Devon blinked at first. “Oh, right. I did say I'd do that, didn't I?”

Niamh nodded. “You're not the absentminded sort, I hope.”

“Only sometimes,” he said. “Should I just pick one at random?”

“Go for it,” she said.

Devon was about to speak when a squad of police officers entered the pub. The inside of the pub was suddenly silent.

“Anything we can do for you, officers?” the owner asked from behind the bar. “A pint of Guinness Stout maybe?”

“We're looking for a line-crosser,” the police sergeant said. “Teenager. He was spotted at a park on the other side of the street a few days ago, talking with a girl.”

“Nothing wrong with that, sir,” the owner said. “Relax and join us for a drink or two.”

Devon and Niamh crouched down and hid behind the bar. The owner reached under the bar, grabbed a large white tablecloth and dropped it over them. Then he acted as if he hadn't seen anything unusual.

“You're welcome to look around, of course,” the owner went on. “We've nothing to hide.”

The officers went from table to table.

As they did so, the owner nudged Devon and Niamh until they were behind him. “Stay there and, for God's sake, stay silent,” the owner whispered.

Their tablecloth-covered heads nodded. There wasn't a sound from either of them.

“Everything all right, officers?” the owner asked the police officers.

“They were spotted coming in here,” the police sergeant said. “They must've left by the back door.”

“And probably ran all the way home,” the owner said.

“Probably,” the police sergeant said, looking doubtful and then suspicious. “You shouldn't harbor fugitives here.”

“I have never done so,” the owner said.

“And you'd better not in the future,” the police sergeant said and took one more look around the pub's interior. Then he gestured to his men and they left the pub.

Once they were outside, the noise inside the pub rose, but not quite back to its previous volume.

The owner sighed in relief. He took the tablecloth off of Niamh and Devon, folded it, and put it back on a shelf behind the bar. “You'd better get out of here and soon,” he told them. “There's no telling whether they'll come back if they do think you're here.”

They almost stood up, but the owner shook his head. They kept crouching, even though their knees didn't enjoy it.

“We'll need a ride,” Devon said softly. “I can pay for it.”

“No need,” the owner said. “I've always thought of my pub as an oasis where Protestants and Catholics can gather without any fear. But maybe things are getting bad again. I'll have Gareth drive you home.” He gestured to a man at the other end of the bar. The man glanced in their direction, nodded once, but said nothing as he came over to them.

----------

When Niamh arrived at home, her parents were still awake and looking very concerned.

“Your mother told me where you were,” her father said. “I'm glad that you at least asked her for permission. I might not have allowed it. Don't you know how touchy the police can get? Even at a pub that allows for mixing of Protestants and Catholics?”

“No one got hurt, Dad,” Niamh said. “The owner's brother gave us a ride home.”

“Us?” he asked. “You were meeting someone there?”

“A friend from school,” she said and nodded at her mother. “Devon. You know about him, Mum.”

“Nice boy,” her mother lied to Niamh's father. “He comes from a nice family. You'd like him, Eoin.”

“Devon?” her father repeated as if trying to remember where he'd heard the name. “Devon O'Sullivan?”

“That's right,” Niamh said. “He writes poetry and submits it online at a poetry website.” She looked at her father, then at her mother, and then back at her father. “What's wrong about it? Or do you know something you've never told Mum or me?”

“Niall O'Sullivan and his Catholic gang murdered my brother when we were teenagers,” her father said quietly. “If I'd gone to the library with my brother that afternoon, I wouldn't be alive today.”

Her mother covered her mouth and tried not to stare at him. “They were part of the I.R.A.?”

Niamh's father shook his head. “They were a separate group, but they supported what the I.R.A. stood for.”

“How is Niall related to Devon?” Niamh asked. Her voice didn't sound like it usually did. It sounded like it belonged to someone else.

“His uncle,” her father said. “Didn't he tell you about all that?”

Niamh shook her head. She found a chair and sat down on it. “We barely had any time to talk before the police arrived at the pub.”

“Did you talk with Devon before that?” her father asked.

Niamh nodded. “In the park up the street.”

“On our side of the street,” her father said.

Niamh nodded again.

Her father looked at her mother and sighed. “We're going to have to speak to the police. They'd better hear it from us instead of from someone else.” He didn't add “from the other side of the street”. He didn't really have to.

Her mother nodded in agreement.

“But I don't want the fighting to start up again,” Niamh said. “I want both sides to live in peace.”

“Not everyone shares that desire,” her father said. “This is why you have to be so careful, even today.”

“Are we going to get into trouble?” Niamh asked. “Just for meeting twice and talking with each other?”

“I don't know,” her father said. “If you're going to fight for peace, there are consequences sometimes.”

March 13, 2021 02:27

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88 comments

Philip Clayberg
02:30 Mar 13, 2021

I hope I didn't go outside the "lines" of the story prompt too much. Because it takes place in a town, not in a city.  And I'm not sure that you could say that the main character (Niamh) is fighting.  She just wants things to be better than they are.

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Bob The Cool Guy
16:48 Apr 18, 2021

Most of the time, I start reading other people's stories and it doesn't catch my attention - it doesn't ask its own questions, but this one did. I loved it. There's a lot of things that don't catch my attention, since I have an attention disorder. But this ran so smoothly and beautifully, I stayed till the end of the show. Thanks for writing this!

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Philip Clayberg
20:39 Apr 18, 2021

Glad you liked reading it. There is a sequel to it (just one, so far; I'm still brainstorming ideas on possible future sequels): "For the Good of All". I'm hopeful that I'll be able to add a third story (or more stories) someday. At least, before the current situation in Northern Ireland gets any worse. My stories were supposed to be speculation based on past events (and a little "Romeo and Juliet" thrown in), but the real world decided to rear its ugly head. It's happened to me before. Back in June 1991, I wanted to write a suspense ...

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Anita Neal
21:27 Mar 22, 2021

Interesting read. It is a shame that peace is still this elusive, everyone thinking they have the right answer.

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Philip Clayberg
22:00 Mar 22, 2021

I'm not sure that it *is* like this right now. But it was back in the 1970s and 1980s (and possibly for decades before I was born; there certainly was a lot of bloody fighting not just between royal houses but also between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th and 17th Centuries in England). I figured that things go in cycles. What's happened before is likely to happen again ... and again. Just because it doesn't appear on news outside of Europe doesn't mean nothing's happening. Some of the bloodiest wars have either been between groups...

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Cathryn V
00:13 Mar 22, 2021

Hi Phillip, I enjoyed this story a lot. The flow and dialogue are great as is the setting. Thanks for writing!

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Philip Clayberg
00:58 Mar 22, 2021

You're welcome. Glad you enjoyed reading it. I hope you also like the sequel, "For the Good of All". But if not, it won't hurt my feelings (my skin isn't as thin as it used to be).

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08:25 Mar 21, 2021

A lovely story about a heartbreaking situation. Noted the nod to Romeo and Juliet and their 'forbidden' relationship too.

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Philip Clayberg
15:14 Mar 21, 2021

Glad you liked reading it. I'm hoping it gets a little easier writing it, the more familiar I get with the location, culture, language, and cultures. I'm also hoping it doesn't end tragically like in the play. I guess I'll find out when I get to the end of the overall story. I try not to think too far ahead or I tend to lose interest in what I'm writing about. I want to be surprised along the way. And, so far, I'm getting surprised. If you'd asked me at the beginning of the first story whether I thought the second story would end the ...

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07:12 Mar 22, 2021

Philip, I’m a pantser rather than a planner too. Most people are one or the other. I write once a week at the Queensland Writers’ Centre (in Brisbane, Australia) and I will sometimes see a writer pull out a piece of butcher’s paper or a sheet of fabric with post-it notes stuck or pinned with significant parts of the story written on them. That’s too much like hard work to me. No, I’m a pantser for sure. The story falls onto the page and if the characters don’t speak to me; I leave the story for a while. That’s easy to do because I have artic...

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Philip Clayberg
17:57 Mar 22, 2021

I do a little of both, but more on-the-fly (as I call it) than structured. Like with Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings", the structure gets built as I go along (plus tweaking in the editing process). I think whichever way works best for a writer is the best way. Terry Brooks (who wrote "The Sword of Shannara") prefers outlining. He says it minimizes the rewrites. I'm glad it works for him; wish it worked for me. I know what you mean when you say characters "speak" to you. That's usually when I know I'm ready to type another story. I "hear...

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R. B. Leyland
18:00 Mar 20, 2021

Enjoyed reading this. The bit of a subtle link where she studies Shakespeare plays and chooses Romeo and Juliet, then pretty much falls in to her own version of that. I love how you've shown how stupid she thinks it is that they have to be separate, if everybody thought this way the world would be a better place for sure. Will definitely read the sequel.

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Philip Clayberg
18:15 Mar 20, 2021

Glad you liked reading it. There's a connection not just to Shakespeare's play but also to U2's song, "Where the Streets Have No Name" (I originally chose Coldplay's song, "Clocks", for Niamh to listen to, but then changed my mind). After all, streets can aid us and they can divide us (and the same is true for walls, whether solid or invisible). Niamh can be a bit naive sometimes (but mostly out of ignorance; for instance, she didn't experience what her parents and grandparents experienced, just as Devon didn't experience what his parents...

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R. B. Leyland
18:20 Mar 20, 2021

Ah yeah, couple of good references mate. I think that's the world these days, especially when it comes to military of some kind. Very hard to get rid of those prejudices I'd imagine. For her father not to let the fact his family was killed by IRA sympathisers affect his daughters views or even his own shows his character in this too, I enjoyed seeing him lose his temper in the sequel. I get you with that! Gotta have the right prompts for it. I'm currently trying to use prompts to explore characters in a book I'm writing, only had one so far...

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Philip Clayberg
18:43 Mar 20, 2021

In case it doesn't sound like it, I'm American and writing a story that takes place in a town that's half-Ireland, half-Northern-Ireland (the reverse of what Neil Gaiman did when he wrote the script for his "Sandman" comic books; he was living in England at the time and set the series in America). That's why I'm trying to keep the idioms and slang straight (I've had to research some of them online via Google). I don't want the stories to be *too* realistic (or someone will think I'm not American, but actually Irish or Northern Irish instea...

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R. B. Leyland
19:11 Mar 20, 2021

This is setting out to be a real good story mate,can't wait to read more! Love that you've thought so far ahead. It's really good. Thank you. Dont worry about it, that's what comments are for :)

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Philip Clayberg
19:27 Mar 20, 2021

I try not to think *too* far ahead. I still want to be surprised, rather than bored because I've figured out too much of what happens next. So far, the surprises are still coming, which is good news (for me, anyway). Btw, plotting isn't one of my strong points. It's why I'm glad I'm only writing one short story at a time rather than one long novel. With one story at a time, I don't have to worry about what happens in the next 100 or 200 or 300 pages. I just have to make sure I don't contradict anything that was in an earlier story. Yo...

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Boakye D Alpha
13:48 Mar 20, 2021

Hi

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Philip Clayberg
14:50 Mar 20, 2021

Hi. Nice to meet you. How are you doing? Did you enjoy the story?

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B. W.
01:47 Mar 20, 2021

Hey, how are ya doing today?

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Philip Clayberg
14:55 Mar 20, 2021

Sorry for not great news at the beginning of this message: I had a miserable night's ... I can't call it sleep. It wasn't good sleep. I didn't buy more naproxen sodium to block the pain in my lower left leg, so the pain kept me awake most of the night. I think it only ebbed enough to let me get some sleep around 5 this morning. If I could afford medical care, I'd see a doctor and/or go to a hospital. But even the emergency room seems to charge for its services (or at least the hospital near my mother's house charged one of my nephews f...

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B. W.
15:36 Mar 20, 2021

Oh, I'm sorry to hear about all of that. I'm sure that it'll all get a bit better soon though. I guess I've been doing fine recently, on my novel I'm actually on chapter 3 at the moment, and I got a new story out at some point yesterday after the new prompts came out. Music has still actually been helping me with all of this.

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Philip Clayberg
16:12 Mar 20, 2021

Unfortunately, the source of the leg pain (two sores; one is about the size of a quarter and the other is about twice that big) has been there for almost two years now. I've heard that it can take up to five years to heal, and I hope that isn't the case with me. I haven't written anything since "For the Good of All". I've brainstormed ideas for sequels, but they don't seem to fit the current list of prompts. I'm also going to have to try again to order two things I'm having trouble ordering: Naproxen sodium (for lower leg pain) and turk...

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B. W.
16:36 Mar 20, 2021

Even if it can take up to five years to completely heal and stuff, maybe yours will heal sooner? It could happen in a few months for all we know, or some other time in the future, but maybe it won't take five whole years or longer.

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Philip Clayberg
16:43 Mar 20, 2021

True. But, if you saw the sores, you probably would be far more worried than I am (they definitely don't look any photos I've seen online; the ones online look like large blisters, which my leg sores don't look like). I've been using it as a warning to people, that they should never leave even a tiny sore alone. Please go see a doctor a.s.a.p. (even if the doctor wonders why you're fussing so much) because it could get worse before you know it. Better to be safe than sorry. Anyway ... sudden change of topic ... you said you had some mo...

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Amany Sayed
15:57 Mar 16, 2021

The start pulled me in because Niamh's questioning reminds me of me when I was younger. I asked so many questions, it bothered my parents! Anyway, this was a cool story. There are some parts that leave you questioning. How did Devon know where Niamh lives? And, of course, what are the odds of the connections? Nonetheless, it's a story, and things can be unrealistic sometimes. I adore the names. Keep writing!

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Philip Clayberg
16:32 Mar 16, 2021

I thought that the revised beginning (when I edited the rough draft, there was a paragraph before it that I decided to get rid of) was a bit weak. Niamh can't be *that* naive. Especially if she's supposed to be something like 14, 15, or 16 years old. But, maybe, in her Protestant school, they chose not to discuss the yellow line that divides the town in half. When I took US History in 11th grade, I thought that the textbook was fairly accurate. Um. "Fairly" is an exaggeration. There was quite a bit missing. Much of which I read about...

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Amany Sayed
17:01 Mar 16, 2021

True, I will admit I thought her much younger when I was reading. I had it in my head that that was the past and then we started in the present. History is almost a useless class with what is omitted. I completely agree, whys are very important. Questions are always floating in my head, and I wish I could speak to someone with all the answers. I might have to read "Wuthering Heights" then. And yes, female characters can often be portrayed quite...badly, to say the least. Yes, names are hard to find. One of the hardest parts of writing, ...

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Philip Clayberg
19:22 Mar 16, 2021

(Update to this message: I've been telling those who have said they liked reading "Two Sides of the Street" that I've submitted the sequel to it (keeping the rough draft's title, "For the Good of All"). This isn't the end of the overall story, yet. That'll be rather obvious when you reach the end of the sequel. Hope you like it. ------ Maybe Niamh *is* younger than 14-16. Maybe more like 12-13 years old instead. I don't always assign an exact age to characters; usually, it's more of a possible age range. For Niamh, I thought maybe e...

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Black Raven
12:38 Mar 15, 2021

This story is one of the best stories I have read today. How the desire to bring peace and unity brought two people together. It was also very interesting how you made Devon have family that didn't support peace and had even killed someone for that reason. I feel that too t gives the characters more depth and if you were to make a part two you would also have a lot of ground to walk on. For example, they confessing to the police or Niamh refusing to because she doesn't want Devon to get in trouble even though she doesn't know him well. Overa...

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Philip Clayberg
17:07 Mar 15, 2021

I'm glad you liked reading it. It definitely had its problems while writing and editing it. I thought it was a little overly predictable at times, but then it would surprise me, and I'd think, "You know? I think it's pretty good after all." I had no idea how the scene at the pub would transpire (I certainly wasn't expecting the police to arrive and Niamh and Devon having to hide and then escape). As long as the overall story keeps surprising me, I definitely want to keep writing it and seeing where it takes me. Just because Devon's un...

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Black Raven
17:30 Mar 15, 2021

I totally understand. There are stories I don't like to read either and it's not about the author just the main genre or something that it talks about and I don't like it. Also, you are right about Devon's parents not having to be anti protestant and just want peace. That would add a lot more to the plot. I'll make sure to comeback for the sequel.

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Philip Clayberg
17:56 Mar 15, 2021

(Update to this message: I'm telling any readers who liked my story "Two Sides of the Street" that I've submitted the sequel to it (keeping the rough draft's title, "For the Good of All"). I hope you like reading it. There will be more stories since it'll be rather obvious when you reach the end of the sequel that this isn't the end of the overall story. ----- I read one of your stories (the one about Alexander and Hephaestion). It wasn't easy to read it because it brought up memories of things that have happened in my own life. But I...

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Regina Perry
04:19 Mar 15, 2021

Great story, Philip! I loved the way you snuck Romeo and Juliet in there. (I noticed you said in a comment that this story is supposed to be Romeo and Juliet, and I definately see that.) You left me wanting more.

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Philip Clayberg
16:37 Mar 15, 2021

(Update to this message: I submitted the sequel to "Two Sides of the Street". I kept the rough draft's title, "For the Good of All". Yes, there will be more sequels (once I get around to writing them). When you reach the end of the sequel, you'll know that the overall story isn't finished yet. ----- Glad you liked it. Actually, I didn't sneak R&J into the story. It's one of the inspirations for the story. Whether the overall story will end like R&J did, I don't know yet. I hope not. It would be nice to have a hopeful ending rather...

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Valerie June
18:32 Mar 13, 2021

I was hooked from the start. The story had a really nice pacing to it, and I thought that Devon's poem at the beginning is so true. In every time period all over the world there are always invisible and physical walls in history, no matter where you look. You really captured that aspect of the story really well. Then, the blooming friendship between Niamh and Devon over poetry was really sweet, but society interfered with it just because of their religion. It's really sad how history continues to repeat itself. When will the cycle end?

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Philip Clayberg
19:42 Mar 13, 2021

Glad the story grabbed your interest. And glad that you didn't see the original beginning (I had to rewrite it when I was editing the rough draft). I confess that I don't usually have a poem in my short stories, but this one seemed happier with the poem in it. I made it up on-the-fly with just a little editing. The idea of a street separating two halves of a town actually came from a town in Vermont (I think?), where the international border (Canada/USA) not only goes down the main street but is also marked-off inside buildings (like the...

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Valerie June
22:16 Mar 13, 2021

Now that you pointed it out, I can definitely see the Romeo and Juliet aspect in Niamh and Devon’s forming friendship but with a modern twist. Even if you don’t write a sequel for this, I believe that this would make a good stand alone as well. Like you said, it all depends on the prompts.

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Philip Clayberg
01:10 Mar 14, 2021

I wanted to do a variant on "Romeo and Juliet" or maybe a variant on Cathy and Heathcliff ("Wuthering Heights"). Where it goes next after the end of the story, I'm not entirely sure. I have some ideas, but hopefully, after that, the sequel will surprise me and go somewhere I wasn't expecting. I wasn't planning on leaving it as a standalone story, because it feels incomplete to me. There's more that hasn't been written about yet. I'm just brainstorming here, but I can see some other parallels with "Romeo and Juliet": the owner of the pu...

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Valerie June
02:11 Mar 14, 2021

I like how each name you chose has a story behind it. Most of the times, I just choose a name at random or I spend thoughtful research to have a deeper meaning behind the name. At the moment, I’m working on my first novel so this time I spent much more time deciding on names for my characters. I’m sure that wherever your ideas may take you, the end result will be amazing. I’ll be waiting patiently to read more of your beautiful and inspiring stories.

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Philip Clayberg
03:32 Mar 14, 2021

I don't normally go to that much trouble. Either a name comes to me and fits a character or I try and try and try to find a name that fits. But every so often I feel like I should have a name that fits a character and then I'll use Google to search for possible names (often from other countries). In this case, I wanted one main character to have a Northern Irish name and the other character to have an Irish name, so I searched and search and searched and searched through lists of 100+ names. Not fun and trying to decide which name (and i...

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Asha Pillay
13:11 Mar 13, 2021

I wasn't aware that catholics and Protestants dislike each other so much. I always had the feeling that both are similar in some way or the other.

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Philip Clayberg
15:32 Mar 13, 2021

It's not as bad now as it used to be when I was a kid. I remember newspaper stories about car bombings, political marches (Protestants marching in Catholic neighborhoods and vice versa), etc. I was trying to imagine what if the fragile peace today were to start falling apart and things started getting bad again. I'm not sure when my story takes place. It could be this year or it could be twenty or thirty years from now or anywhere in between. But at least it seems to be after the 1980s. Some things were changed as I wrote the story: f...

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Asha Pillay
16:40 Mar 13, 2021

That was so informative..thanks

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Philip Clayberg
18:22 Mar 13, 2021

You're welcome. There will be a sequel (or sequels), but I don't know how soon. As usual, it depends on the available story prompts each week and how much they inspire me. ----- Update to the message: I submitted the sequel to "Two Sides of the Street". I kept the rough draft's title, "For the Good of All". You might still dislike most of it, but I hope you'll keep reading until you reach the third scene (you might like it best out of the three scenes in the story). I'll definitely be adding more sequels to the overall story as soon ...

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