We hear heart-wrenching stories and live stories we don’t want to repeat. We see tragedy on the streets and wonder at the stories that led to cardboard boxes, car camping, couch surfing. We see stories that make us wonder in the classroom. We overhear stories at work.
But the story doesn’t end there. Instead of a final punctuation, we insert a semi-colon and make it a story of renewal. In honor of those who have decided to live beyond stories of self-harm or suicide, we stand in solidarity with Project Semicolon to declare a continuation. These are stories of renewal.
Writers explored all kinds of turning points this week based on the April 8, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a renewal story that proclaims, “This isn’t the end; I will go on.”
Gambatte by Jeanne Lombardo
“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” ~Samuel Beckett
She woke, a doll thrown on the grass, a shutter in hand.
The earthquake. The fire! She’d run, wrenched the shutter from a teahouse to ward off the rain of sparks. Outside the park gate, she’d paused, a rock in the surging human stream. Then, an updraft. She’d felt herself plucked, borne away from the flaming whirlwind hurtling down amidst a typhoon of screams.
She buried her face in the earth.
Much later she staggered up a hill. Shitamachi, Edo’s heart, writhed below. Fires yet danced on the black Sumida.
Gambatte, they’d always said. Endure.
The red sun rose.
Author’s Note: Edo is the old name for Tokyo. The Sumida is the river that runs through it. Gambatte is the imperative of the verb gambaru–to persevere, endure, not give up. (The Japanese have an endearing way of adding “kudasai–please–to their expressions, and often say “Gambatte kudasai!”–“Please hang in there!” ) The idea of the shutter is from an actual recorded incident in the great fire of 1923.
Baggage Claim by C. Jai Ferry
She chewed the last ice cube, letting the crunching fill the bubble of silence segregating her from the homecomings. God, she hated airport arrivals. They were like expensive candies: decadent, savory, gluttonous. She swallowed the shards of ice, pushing them past her rising indigestion as a smooth voice announced the last arrival from the coast. She scanned the faces. His was not among them. She tossed her empty cup in the trashcan and headed for the exit. Neiman Marcus was still open. She’d fill up his space with some new Oscar de la Rentas, Jimmy Choos, and indulgent candies.
Infertile Isn’t Forever by Sacha Black
He shifted in his oversized office chair, neatened his white coat and adjusted his stethoscope.
“The thing is Mrs. Black, if you wait longer than 18 months it’s very unlikely you will be able to have children.”
My vision greyed. Nausea cut at my insides.
“But, we can’t afford treatment,” I whispered barely able to splutter a word.
“Sorry but, I can’t help you.”
I left, weak, broken and desperate. But my wife picked me up, carried me and dried my tears.
We fought together.
We sat, held hands and watched as two pink lines appeared on our stick.
Beginnings by Ula Humienik
The drought lasted over a decade. Scientists predicted this was our new reality. We did it to ourselves; our grandparents’ generation hadn’t heeded the warnings. Only the strongest survived. Somehow, Daniel and I made it through, although not without great costs.
“Susan, don’t look back. We must look forward,” Daniel told me when he caught me looking through my box of dried rose petals, a reminder of the life we left behind.
“Actually, I was thinking of using these petals in our ceremony tomorrow.”
Daniel’s face lit up.
“To new beginnings,” he said as he rubbed my rounded belly.
Whispers by Pete Fanning
Dylan slashed through defenders and blasted the ball into the net. Mark cheered him on, ignoring the whispers in the crowd.
There had always been whispers, since the moment he held the boy in his arms.
Mark’s friends whispered advice during the separation. After their reconciliation, Jen whispered a confession that shattered their lives forever.
He’d driven through the night, only a whisper from death, waking up in the sun with only a whisper to his name. He whispered a prayer as he dragged himself home, where he hugged his crying wife as the neighbors whispered from their windows.
New Life by Rebecca Patajac
She lay there cold, with legs exposed, as they spoke. Backs turned to her; she caught few words.
“A mess. . .”
“No more feeling. . .”
They looked over at her and she held their gaze, wanting answers. The doctor approached, mouth moving in silent speech as he searched for the right words.
“Ma’am, there have been…some tears. You will need stiches to help the healing. I’ll…do my best, but you may never-.”
Her stomach turned, she knew.
She pulled a blanket over her chest as she looked down, heart swelling as her baby suckled.
Flash Fiction by Norah Colvin
She paused. The muddy brown extended beyond the paper virtually cementing it to the desktop. The palette too was brown with little trace of the beautiful primary colours she had prepared. Looking from desk to child she observed two large smears adorning the shirt. A bruise-like smudge on the cheek showed where an intruding hair had been brushed away. “Oh!”
She breathed; she counted to ten; and back again; “Breathe,” she told herself. “Why?”
She moved on, observing the assortment of smiling suns, houses and garden paths, but her mind was on the mud; the child . . .
A Rose and a New Life by Ruchira Khanna
MaryAnn pulled her curtain for the night while eyeing the bud in her yard. A New day with the hope that all her swelling will be gone thus, allowing her to get back her mobility, flexibility, and her routine back.
Alas! She woke up and found her inflamed joints to be around while the rose had bloomed, and eventually withered away in a couple of days leaving her in that sad state.
With tears flowing, she eyed her infant.
Wiped them off; took a deep breath and spotted another bud in her garden, prior to retiring for that evening.
The Comeback Kid by Larry LaForge
“Sit,” Ed said to his distraught granddaughter.
Ellen approached the sofa, wiping away tears. Not making the tennis team was by far the biggest disappointment of her nine years.
Ed placed the ragged scrapbook on her lap, and began his story.
“I was fourteen when it happened to me,” he said. Ed described being cut from his junior varsity basketball team. He almost quit playing, but chose instead to practice harder and try again the following year.
“Persistence paid off,“ he said.
Ellen perked up as she carefully leafed through the browned, fragile pages. “Wow, Grandpa, did it ever!”
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.
Listing Towards the Future by Geoff Le Pard
Mary didn’t like lists; her father’s endless lists dominated her childhood.
Today they were the only way to manage her tumultuous life. Penny’s schooling, book-keeping for Paul, the police, her father’s estate. Even Rupert her irritating half brother. She gave each a heading, listing their needs.
She took her pad and pencil outside to enjoy the sunshine; she ignored the despoliation of her parents’s garden. The police had been thorough; every inch was dug.
She turned the pencil over and rubbed out the full stop after ‘Rupert’; she added a semicolon.
On a new line she wrote ‘Me’.
The Letter by Luccia Gray
‘It’s arrived.’ He said grimly.
My unsteady fingers ripped the envelope. I held the folded letter in my hands and looked up at his furrowed brow, ‘I want to stay with you.’
He nodded and forced a smile, ‘It’s your decision, but your mother wants you to know the truth. He may be your father.’
‘The truth is that you will always be my father, whatever it says.’
‘Aren’t you going to read it, son?’
‘She chose to leave us for him, but I’m staying with you, dad.’
‘We’ll have to move away, another school, new friends…’
New Love by Ruth Irwin
“You should be with people who love you” he said.
Inside she was screaming with anguish “I want to stay here with the one I love!”
The torment and torture, hopeless heartache of what might have, should have, been. Shattered dreams and lost love.
Days slowly pass, weeks, then months. “You have control over your feelings” they say. “Get over it” they say. Outward smiles hide secret cries, silent tears, heavy heart. Will this pain ever fade?
Dawn; a new day brings fresh hope. “Breathe, breathe”. More pain and cries bringing new life, a new beginning…
Overwhelming unconditional love!
Beyond Zilch by Pat Cummings
I was too late to drop out of my classes for the semester, and too sick to attend them. My next report card would be all Fs. My scholarship was revoked. In Mines jargon, I was a Zilch.
I took a job managing a technical lab, but otherwise, I just drifted. Two years later, I was searching for something new at the local library, and found a set of engineering textbooks. Flipping through them, I realized I was incomplete. I began studying them at night, then petitioned Mines to come back on probation.
Four years later, I finally graduated.
Gold Nuggets by Lacy C
Believe it or not, I once had a job picking up rocks!
One rock, two rocks,
Three rocks, four;
Five rocks, six rocks,
Seven rocks, more.
A little over twenty years ago, under a blazing tropical sun, I picked up rocks on farmer Joe’s sugarcane plantation for three months. Knowing that someday the future would bring a better harvest, I soldiered on.
I’m now happy to say that today I’m the guardian of four gold nuggets – a wife and three lovely daughters.
I now spend my days weeding my time where the rocks have long since disappeared from memory.
Drop the Lemons & Run by Marigold Deidre Dicer
I had a plan. It was a plan that I kept to, even when it was messing me up.
The plan was failing. I was failing.
It took a lot to admit I couldn’t handle it anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I did something brave or unique. I, essentially, gave up.
Giving up can be good.
I’m not exactly proud of it, but I don’t regret the decision; I have nothing to regret. I’m relieved, and I’m hopeful for the future. Giving up was the best thing I ever did.
I am excited about life again.
Never Give In by Susan Zutautas
On the drive to the Doctor’s appointment my blood pressure must have been sky high. I looked over at Al and said, “My cousin Sandy was diagnosed at the about the same age as I am right now and well … You know. “
“Stop worrying, it’s probably not that bad. But if it’s cancer they’ll be able to operate. Come on you beat it twice before and you can do it again.”
The doctor walked in, introduced himself, shook our hands and said, “You have inoperable stage IV lung cancer in both lungs.”
No I’m gonna fight this.
Cutting Words by Sarah Brentyn
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Tara swiped peach gloss over her bottom lip again.
Allie thrust the crumpled paper at Tara.
“What is that?” Tara laughed.
“I know you wrote this. About Cindy.”
“Who?” Tara checked the mirror one last time, smoothed a hair into place, and started to walk away. Allie grabbed her wrist.
“What is your issue? Take your crazy out on someone else.”
“It’s your fault if she goes through with it,” Allie called after her.
Allie’s phone buzzed. A text from Cindy:
I’m alive. Plan 2 stay that way. C U 2nite.
The Making of a Class Act by Paula Moyer
Jean sat limply in her car. Her desperate attempt to win Chuck back? A bust.
When she drove back to the house, she wore the skimpiest clothes. Chuck showed his appreciation by bedding her down.
Afterward, they sat in the kitchen, munched on the KFC she had brought.
“Bruce Springsteen’s performing in Tulsa next week,” Chuck said.
Her favorite! “Let’s go!” she crowed.
That’s when he told her.
“I have a date.”
Later, there in the dark, Jean metamorphosed.
She saw a vision of herself: queenly, even haughty.
From now on, she held herself high. Too high for trash.
Last Train Home by Sherri Matthews
Settling in for the train journey, Jamie plugged in, metal guitar riffs screaming. An hour in, he turned and saw her.
Dark eyes met his, frozen in disbelief. Turning to her new man, she giggled as they sat down in the seats in front of Jamie.
She smirked, then swapped tongues with her man.
Jamie exploded out of his seat, leaping off at the next stop. He caught a glimpse of her staring blankly out of the train window, chewing her nails, looking ugly.
He kept walking, thinking of her boyfriend. Jamie smiled then.
Poor bastard, he’ll be next.
Ristra by Sarah Unsicker
The divorce was finalized the day after Elisabeth left, leaving Gloria childless and homeless.
“The house is certainly big enough,” Cecilia had said, “for two old biddies to rattle around.”
That was all it took for Gloria to leave the house where she had raised her children.
Gloria closed the door for the last time, leaving the key on the mat. She squashed unchristian thoughts about her ex as she walked to the yellow Chevy with a chili ristra hanging from the rearview mirror. As she drove off, she deliberated where to put the ristra in her new kitchen.
Betrayed by Charli Mills
Aubrey couldn’t believe this was happening.
“Your honor, the defendant grows nightshade on her property. We have signed affidavits by neighbors.” The lawyer, squat as a toad, handed papers to the bailiff.
All evidence was against her. In the back of the courtroom Rhonda sat, her hand hiding a smile. It was her mother-in-law who died of poisoning. That night Aubrey decided to take the nightshade Rhonda had discovered in her yard. She walked barefoot and weeping under a full moon. Two nighthawks crossed the orb like ballerinas on stage.
No. She’d find a way to overcome Rhonda’s betrayal.
Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin
“Ooh, it’s a dinky house!”
Janice had learnt to expect the unexpected in social work. “You mean a Wendy house?”
Matty fixed her gaze on the ceiling rose. Was it the voice that insisted she was a princess, the voice only she could hear?
“I know it’s small, but could you imagine living here?”
Matty giggled. Janice sighed. Perhaps the psychiatrists were right, perhaps Matty was too old, too institutionalised to move on.
“It’ll feel more homely with a few ornaments and pictures,” Janice persisted.
Matty’s eyes brimmed with tears. “You mean it? I could have my own home?”
Renewal by Irene Waters
head on ground
Abandoned by the state
Shunned by those who used to care
Once, they were sons and daughters, mothers and fathers
Days end, these sons and daughters, mothers and fathers
Head home to their tiny public cardboard rooms
Public verandahs protect from rain
grimy, slimy sleeping bags
A homeless girl Giving renewal
A scholarship she won Empowering homeless
Yet still she knows She trains
Cold kills She employs
Coats needed is not a fix.
So she sews this bandaid
Yet she knows
Author’s Note: My poem is written with the third stanza a V. V for victory as this is what I think this young girl has achieved.