In my blog, I’ve covered various ideas and suggestions for coming up with short story ideas. One fun and excellent way, is to have a list of items and those items have to fit in somewhere in your story. Here’s five items for you:
Give and it an go and see what you come up with. Here’s my offering:
I stare at my hands, watching as the soil sifts through them. I smile. This is my garden. Well, not all of it, but this bit anyway. It’s not the best part of the garden. Mummy would never let me have the best part of the garden, though it does have a pretty rose bush in the middle. The buds are red. I don’t like red. I like yellow. I would love a yellow rose bush, but Mummy says I can’t have one. Mummy is always saying I can’t have things.
‘It’s this sodding war,’ she says.
I pull at a weed and rip it from the earth. I pull at another. It feels good. I look back to the house. I can see Mummy. She is sitting at the table, her head in her hands. Her shoulders are shaking and I know she is crying again. She thinks I don’t know what’s going on. I do. I know everything. She only lets me have my own garden to get me out of the way.
She always said the house and garden was her domain. She took care of everything, Daddy and me, too. But she doesn’t take care of anything now.
I look around at the rest of the garden. The old apple tree beckons to me, his branches waving in the gentle breeze. He used to be full of apples. I would climb him and reach out for his delicious fruit. He hasn’t brought us anything this year.
I turn to the hedgerow, once shaped and shorn, now overgrown like Daddy’s hair in the mornings. My eyes fill with tears at the thought of Daddy.
Daddy is really handsome. He has blond hair like the teddy bear he bought me for my fifth birthday. Mummy says his hair is sandy. I don’t think it’s like sand, but I’ve never been to the seaside. Daddy has big brown eyes, like my dolly, but she looks a bit scary at times and my Daddy isn’t scary at all. He smiles all the time and he’s funny.
I can see my seat in the corner of my eye. Well, it’s Mummy and Daddy’s seat. They used to walk up the garden, hand in hand and sit on the seat overlooking the river. Mummy says it’s a stream, not a river. Daddy says it’s no more than a trickle of water. I think river sounds better. I used to join them, climbing onto Daddy’s knee. Daddy and me would laugh at something silly. Mummy would frown at us and we would tickle her until she was laughing, too. All of us would laugh and laugh until our stomachs hurt. We stayed there for what seemed like hours. It was our special place, just the three of us.
We haven’t sat in our special place for a long time. I walk over to it and sit down, trying to ignore the cobwebs and rust. I wish Daddy was here, but he isn’t. He’s miles and miles away. Mummy won’t tell me where he is. He is a pilot. He flies the biggest planes and he’s the best.
I close my eyes and I can see the three of us. We are in the garden. It is sunny with bright rays shining their light on my yellow rose bushes. The garden is beautiful and blooming with colour. We are smiling. We make for the seat and our bodies sink down. Daddy whispers something in my ear. I didn’t like what he said. He’s not supposed to say nasty things. I am crying as I look up at Daddy. His face is twisted and his eyes are slits growing wider and wider.
I open my eyes and I am alone. I blink the tears away and get down from the seat. I shiver, even though it’s June. I pull my cardigan around my shoulders and go back to my garden.
‘Millie!’ Mummy’s voice cuts through me.
I run to the house. Something has happened. I wonder if it’s Daddy. Mummy won’t tell me anything about him. But I know it’s Daddy. The telegram came months ago. I thought Mummy was going mad. She cried and cried and cried. Then she fell to the floor and she didn’t wake up for a long time.
I had to go and stay with Mrs. Barker from number 30 for a few weeks until Mummy was better. But she isn’t really better. When she came home I waited for her to tell me about Daddy, but she didn’t. She thinks I’m too young. But I’m going to be eight next week.
I asked Mrs. Barker, but she wouldn’t tell me either. But I know. I know my Daddy is dead. Whenever I talked about him in front of Mummy, she just shook her head and started crying again, so I stopped talking about him.
Another telegram came last week. Mummy tried to hide it, but I knew what it was. Now Mummy keeps crying again.
‘Millie, hurry up. Go and fetch the doctor. Quick!’ Mummy shouts.
‘Are you ill?’ I ask. Mummy doesn’t look very well. I hope she isn’t going to leave me again.
‘It’s Mr. Barker. He’s had another of his turns. Hurry, Millie,’ Mummy urges.
Doctor King lives in the next street. I hope he can help Mr. Barker. Mr. Barker was a carpenter. He used to make lovely toys. He made a big, black truck for his son, Michael. Michael was really nice and let me play with it. Mr. Barker made a cart, too. Michael used to push me down the hill in it.
That was before the war. Now Mr. Barker doesn’t make anything. He sits in his chair by the fire all day with a blanket round his knees. He doesn’t look at anyone and he doesn’t speak anymore. Michael says it’s because war is horrible and does horrible things to people.
I bang on Doctor King’s door. Mrs. King answers it, a blue apron tied round her waist and smudges of flour in her hair. She lets me in and we find the doctor. He grabs his bag and scurries away. I hang back, savouring the smell of fresh baking. My stomach grumbles, longing for a cake from the baking tray. Mrs. King is always making cakes. Mummy hasn’t made cakes for a long time.
‘There’s a war on,’ she snaps, ‘we’re lucky to eat at all.’
Mummy didn’t used to snap. She was always happy and smiled all the time. I can’t remember the last time she smiled.
‘I heard your mother had news of your father,’ Mrs. King says, passing me a scolding hot scone. I almost drop it as I listen to her words.
‘Mrs. Barker was saying your father is coming home,’ Mrs. King continues.
I cough, choking on a crumb. I am crying, though it is nothing to do with the scone.
‘Are you all right, dear?’ Mrs. King whacks me on the back and I cough even more.
She fetches me a glass of water and I gulp it down.
‘Sips are best, dear,’ Mrs. King takes my hand, ‘that’s better.’
I want to run away and forget her words. Daddy can’t be coming home. She’s got it wrong. The room starts spinning. I have to go, but my feet won’t move. Neither of us speaks. We stare at one another. Mrs. King’s big belly surges each time she draws breath. I’m not sure I’m breathing at all.
‘I’m sorry, love. You didn’t know, did you?’ Mrs. King says. She is still holding my hand.
‘My Daddy is dead. Mummy had a telegram ages ago.’
‘He was missing, Millie. I’m afraid they thought he was dead. I thought you knew. But he’s been found. He was in a prison camp in Italy, but he’s coming home,’ Mrs. King says gently.
I smile. ‘My Daddy is coming home? My Daddy’s coming home! Why has Mummy been crying? She looks so sad. Doesn’t she want him to come home?’
‘Of course she does. It’s just that she’s scared.’
Scared of Daddy? No one can be scared of my Daddy. Then Mr. Barker’s image fills my head. Mummy knows. Daddy is going to be exactly like him. He won’t be my handsome Daddy anymore. His face is going to be twisted and his eyes will be like slits growing wider and wider. He won’t want to sit in the garden in our special place. He will sit in the corner of the sitting room, rocking back and forth. He won’t tell me he loves me like he used to. He will look through me instead of reaching to kiss my head and hug me close. He won’t be my Daddy anymore.
I break free from Mrs. King and I make for the door, sprinting through it. I run through the fields, the long grasses swiping at my legs. I reach the old oak tree. I fall against it, trying to catch my breath. I wonder where I will go. To London? No, it isn’t safe there. Perhaps I will go and stay with Aunt Daph by the sea. Mummy always promised me I could go there one day. I can’t stay here, not with Daddy.
I lie by the oak tree and listen to the birds. They sound so happy. I wish I was a bird. I would fly far, far away to the seaside and to Aunt Daph. Mummy says her sister is eccentick or some big word like that. I don’t think they like each other very much, but I’d like to see if the sand is the same colour as Daddy’s hair.
I open my eyes to dusk. I must have fallen asleep. It’s getting cold now and I can see something moving in the bushes. I hope it’s not a monster. Mummy will be scared, too. She will wonder where I am.
I run back home. I don’t know what to do, but I know I don’t want Daddy to come home. I wish my Daddy was dead.
I am in my garden. I let the wind wrap itself around me. My hands are cold as I dig into the ground. Summer is staying away this year. I wish I had some seeds to plant.
‘You don’t plant seeds in June,’ Mummy said.
If I had seeds I would plant them. I flinch as a thorn stabs me. I stare at the blood oozing down my finger. It doesn’t hurt that much, but I am crying.
My Daddy is coming home today. My chest feels like it is going to explode and I am sure I am going to be sick. Mummy wouldn’t speak to me this morning. She looked so pale and her hands were shaking. I thought she was going to fall to the ground again. I didn’t like it when she did that, so I came outside. I feel better in the garden, but I keep seeing the seat in the corner of my eye. Daddy is sitting on it, but each time I look round, he’s gone. Perhaps he isn’t really coming home. Maybe they lied. Maybe he is dead.
Daddy is sitting on the seat again. I shan’t look round this time.
I swing round at his voice. He’s gone again.
‘Stop it!’ I shout, clenching my fists as I look back at my garden. My eyes are blurred with so many tears.
I swallow, feeling the large lump in my throat. I slowly turn round. Daddy is sitting on the seat. I look at his face, still handsome and his brown eyes are warm. He smiles his big, wide smile. I run to him and feel his strong arms around me.
‘Is there room for one more?’
I free myself from Daddy’s embrace and Mummy is standing by us, her eyes full with tears, but she is smiling, too.
We sit there for a long time, just the three of us. I close my eyes and summer has come. We are sitting here on the seat and the garden is glorious, especially my garden. It’s the one with the yellow rose bushes.