Exercising the craft—September 30, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: The One-Minute Writer Flash Fiction Friday [from this past Friday,] in which writers receive a prompt and must complete it within 1000 words.  The line in italics comprises the prompt, and the story I wrote follows it.  The title of today’s prompt: “The Photo”


All you have left is this torn photograph…

…and a broken family.   How do you start the rest of your life with these things?

I had spent the last month scouring the house for information.  In my kind of situation, information becomes paramount.  But information was the one thing I couldn’t find, and without finding it I couldn’t move forward.

In the last four weeks I had only found old birthday cards with checks I never got to see.  I never knew my aunt and uncle had given me those checks.  My parents never told me.

Or, more accurately, my mother never told me.  But then that didn’t surprise me.  She had made it her personal mission to keep the family apart.  And us kids paid the price for it.

I could never figure out exactly what problem she had, though, with everyone else.  I mean, we heard plenty about why our aunt and uncle were terrible people.  She made sure to tear them down at every opportunity.  When they first got married and moved to the same town, my dad tried to defend them but my mom gave him so much flak for it that he eventually gave up.  I don’t know if he started seeing things her way or if he just got sick of the fighting.

I didn’t want to consider the fact that he stopped caring altogether, but my gut told me otherwise.  When he became senior partner in the law firm—something I had heard about ever since I was little—he stopped caring about a lot of other things too.  He said all the right words, but those words just floated around the room on a lot of hot air.

Of course, I didn’t have to worry about the words now.  They were gone, along with everything else.  Everything except for my aunt and uncle.  But I didn’t know how to find them.

That’s why I had spent the last month looking through everything in the house to find any scrap of information that might lead me to them.  After my mother made their lives miserable, they moved out of state and didn’t give us their new address.  No surprises there.  Why would anyone want to stay in touch with my mother and her two-faced, backstabbing lies?

Does that sound like a terrible thing to say about my own mother?  Well, the fact that she hid all those birthday checks only reinforced what I had suspected for years: my mother had spent the majority of her life keeping us away from people who could have played a positive effect on my life as well as my brother’s.

But I couldn’t let my anger mount as it had so many times in the past.  I had a responsibility to fulfill, and I also wanted to get through this as fast as possible so I didn’t have to spend more time than necessary in my parents’ former home.  Finding the picture, though, meant that I might have missed something.  Maybe my father really had cared about his brother and sister-in-law.  Maybe one shred of his humanity had remained.

I would never know, however.  When my parents died a month earlier, they took any and all information about their fractious relationships with them.  And I only had a torn photograph left.

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