Childhoods of Confinement

Submitted into Contest #209 in response to: Set your entire story in a car.... view prompt

19 comments

Fiction Suspense Kids

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

“We’re locked in,” said Karen, sullenly.

“What’s new?” asked Phil, picking at the bobbles on the fabric of the seat. It'd had a speckled texture to it when it was new, but it hadn’t aged well.

“Something exciting might happen, you never know.”

“Does anything exciting ever happen?”

Karen peered out the window. There was no one around them, except a few vacant cars with no other passengers locked in the back seats. Driving to the pub wasn’t unusual then, neither was driving home.

“What do they do in there for so long?” Karen asked.

“Drink themselves silly and talk about everything we aren’t allowed to hear.”

Karen picked up her battered comic. She’d been reading the same one for several months and the print was starting to fade in places, but she knew it off by heart anyway. Her comics were her best friends. Despite the fact that she and her brother were stuck in the same confinement, they were enemies more often than they were friends.

She felt her tummy rumble and wondered what time dinner would be on the table at that day. They’d been promised a trip to the beach that weekend, but Dad had had a rough week in work, so here they were, at his usual resting place.

They’d come to loathe the look of The Winfield pub. It was in one of those old red brick buildings with a wooden sign – one that had never been changed and the letters were fading away. It didn’t need to be labelled; the regulars knew where they were going, drunk or sober. There wasn’t much happening in that area: no kids, no life, just a lone pub. Now and again, they’d see an old drunk stumble out of it and make their weary way down the road. Their minds would make up stories about the person, like minds tend to do in their deepest state of boredom. Unremarkable people suddenly became interesting characters in their mind’s creations.

Philip held onto his tin car. He drove it over his knee and up the back of the empty driver’s seat. He drove it across the window, weaving around the waterdrops that fell every day in Belfast; at least, it felt like they did. It was a suitable accompaniment to the mood of their lives. Everything was grey, dreary and uninspiring. It felt like they would never escape their imprisonment in that cell of a car. If it wasn’t the car, it was their bedroom. Most of the time, they just went back and forth between the two places. The most excitement they got was whenever the neighbourhood kids got together in the street and made a rope swing on the lamppost. That kept them busy for hours. They were very civilised about it, taking it in turns and waiting patiently. Time was meaningless in days as lengthy as that and none of them were spoilt. Nobody could afford to spoil their kids – at least not anybody that they knew personally.

Karen traced her finger around the raindrops on the window, making pictures with her imagination. She chased a few with her index finger as they slid down the glass, meeting them at the end of their path.

“What time do you think they’ll come out at today?”

“What’s the point in asking me that? If you count every second it’ll feel like forever.”

He was getting irritable with her. She could sense it like hounds hear change in the air. He reminded her of her dad when he got like that: short-tempered and snappy. Everyone deals with stress differently. Karen buried her head in her magazine again, getting lost in the safe worlds of her favourite cartoons. She often wished she could climb inside the pages and stay tucked in there, becoming part of a better story. The kids in her comics had a voice. They got to be cheeky to adults and push the boundaries. She’d never dared do that. Even when she was faultlessly polite and respectful, she still always ended up in trouble.

It was the era of “children should be seen and not heard,” and making any sort of fuss only attracted unpleasant attention. She willed her parents to come back, but simultaneously, treasured the peace while it lasted. Either way, she felt unbalanced, like something dangerous could happen at any moment.

The pub door opened. It stayed open for a minute without exposing the person behind it. They sat, feeling anxious and hopeful, mixed together in one big ball they carried in their little stomachs. That ball was always there and they never got a chance to forget it, unless they got lost in a child’s game to the point that they forgot reality. Karen and Philip had more in common than they knew how to express. They were too young and emotionally ill-equipped to express it, to learn that the other one was having the same waves of emotion at the same time. They weren’t alone, but they couldn’t have felt more alone, sitting side by side. Being unable to communicate with a sibling isn’t much different to being an only child.

After their long moment of anticipation, a man appeared through the door. They knew him by face but not by name. He must have frequented the pub as much as their parents did. There were only ever locals at that time. Everyone stayed in their own pockets of Belfast, safe with what they knew. The Troubles were in full force, and everything was always tumultuous. You weren’t even safe in your home, never mind in the other side’s business or in their area. That added a thread of tension to everything. Even whenever things were settled at home, they were still anxious about the next thing that would kick off. Inside their small terrace, or outside in their carefully contained world – it was all equally stifling and terrifying.

For five minutes, there was silence in the car and silence outside. Not a person passed. Not a single sound came from the roads. And then the blast came – the unfathomable blast that blew out the pub front. They couldn’t make sense of it. The shock kept them strapped in their seats, even without seatbelts. No one bothered with them then. Their parents were inside that building. Bad people or good, their guides in life were right at the heart of the blast.

July 28, 2023 21:09

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19 comments

Nathaniel Miller
14:17 Aug 07, 2023

Nicely done, Keelan. I enjoyed the counterintuitive sense of loneliness you've created here. These two kids aren't alone, they shouldn't feel alone. And yet they do. You explain why quite nicely, in great detail. Also, the foreshadowing in the beginning is excellent. It feels very childish of them, to dismiss any possibility of anything exciting ever happening. It's just a part of the gloominess of it all. But, then, something very exciting does happen, and it startles the reader just as much as it does the children. Anyways, I enjoyed ...

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Keelan LaForge
14:08 Aug 08, 2023

Thanks Nathaniel, I really appreciate you taking the time to leave feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

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Shahzad Ahmad
10:40 Aug 08, 2023

Keelan you have managed to connect the political reality of Belfast with your beautiful tale. I really liked the dialogue 'become part of a better story'. The characters play their parts well and the emotional content is overwhelming at times. Well done!

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Keelan LaForge
14:06 Aug 08, 2023

Aw thank you Shahzad. I appreciate you taking the time to read it and leave feedback :)

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Kay Smith
15:25 Aug 07, 2023

Powerful story! Great character development... I could feel that sense of bored neglect. And then.... Explosive ending! Fantastic job!

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Keelan LaForge
14:06 Aug 08, 2023

Thank you so much Kay. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

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Helen A Smith
13:05 Aug 06, 2023

Hi Keelan Your story started off innocently enough with two siblings feeling isolated and expressing tension in their different ways while waiting in the car. There was a good build-up of tension, then literally a shocking and powerful explosion at the end. Unexpected and powerful. A world of sadness and pain there which was unlikely to ease up. Well written.

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Keelan LaForge
08:43 Aug 07, 2023

Aw thank you Helen, I’m glad you found it powerful even though it is quite dark lol. Thanks for taking the time to read it and to leave me feedback.

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Martin Harp
01:38 Aug 06, 2023

I love a dark ending!

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Keelan LaForge
08:43 Aug 07, 2023

Aw thanks Martin, I’m glad you appreciate it!

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Kevin Logue
17:33 Aug 05, 2023

An interesting take on the prompt. We are left wondering who the brother and sister survive after that. Hopefully brought together, but no doubt damaged. I don't think I'll ever forget seeing the Lee Factory bombing in Derry, my sister worked nearby and me ma sent me on my BMX to find out what was going on. Different times. Thankfully behind us, even if some ejjits try there best to drag us back. Great entry as always Keelan, best of luck this week.

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Tom Skye
14:39 Jul 30, 2023

A strong sinking feeling as that story entered the final stages. Induced real dread out of no way. Really impressive as I think it was quite short. Enjoyed it. Nice job

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Keelan LaForge
20:12 Jul 30, 2023

Thanks Chris. I think that was what I was trying to achieve :) I'm glad you enjoyed it and thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment.

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Delbert Griffith
12:05 Jul 29, 2023

Wow. A reference to The Troubles. That's a new one on this site. All religious conflicts cause massive casualties and countless tragedies. It was no different in Northern Ireland. The veritable civil war claimed a lot of lives and a lot of innocence. Quite a dark tale, Keelan, and one that speaks of man's inhumanity to man. Nicely done, my friend. Nicely done indeed. Cheers!

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Delbert Griffith
12:05 Jul 29, 2023

Wow. A reference to The Troubles. That's a new one on this site. All religious conflicts cause massive casualties and countless tragedies. It was no different in Northern Ireland. The veritable civil war claimed a lot of lives and a lot of innocence. Quite a dark tale, Keelan, and one that speaks of man's inhumanity to man. Nicely done, my friend. Nicely done indeed. Cheers!

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Keelan LaForge
20:30 Jul 29, 2023

Thanks Delbert, it ended up being darker than I planned too! It’s the first time I’ve written about the Troubles even though I’m from Belfast and its appearance surprised me too!

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Mary Bendickson
21:27 Jul 28, 2023

Whoa, Keelan, way to turn a seemingly innocent family problem into a world event. Tragic for all involved.

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Keelan LaForge
06:52 Jul 29, 2023

Thanks Mary! It didn’t start off that way but sometimes it just ends up going in its own direction!

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Mary Bendickson
14:15 Jul 29, 2023

Know what you mean

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