This post written by Mike Staton.
Look around you. There are tales waiting to be told.
Maybe you’re inside a Walmart and you see two heavyweight women quarreling by the fresh fruit section. Before you know it their hands are reaching for hair and the fight is underway.
Or you’re at a Lowe’s store for a shed project and you see shelving nearly fall on an employee. He barely jumps out of the way as merchandise crashes to the floor.
Or you’re inside a Starbucks and you notice a young man and a young woman sitting together yet they spend all their time on their cellphones hardly looking at each other.
They’re all seedlings for short-story plots.
Years ago when I lived in North Carolina I met a friend for lunch at a Firehouse Subs restaurant in Wilmington, North Carolina. I expected it to be a typical visit with my friend, except this time something was bothering her. This woman (I’m going to call her Laura, although that’s not really her name) told me a story about her troubled childhood. She had suppressed the memory, but it finally bubbled to the surface more than five decades later.
I don’t remember what prompted her to talk about her nascent memory. Maybe it had been a popular movie making big box office money. Or perhaps a best-seller novel on everyone’s lips at the water cooler. Or a song topping the charts. Whatever the reason Laura wanted to talk about it.
Laura wasn’t sure if it was a true memory or a false one. When she spoke to her sister, a year older than her, her sister said she had a similar terrifying memory. Here’s the background.
Their mother married a womanizer and abuser. Laura’s father routinely had affairs, and one got him into major trouble, or so Laura believes based on her revealed memory. Their father took the girls with him on a rendezvous with his lover. He and his lover gave them toys to play with while the two adults did their thing in her bedroom. The husband returned home and found the lovers heating up his marriage bed. Laura thinks the husband was a relative of her father, perhaps a cousin.
My friend says the two men fought, and her father – who had been a law enforcement officer – shot and killed his paramour’s husband. He put his children into his car and dumped the body into the trunk, and with the woman in the passenger seat drove away. Laura thinks the two adults buried the body in some godforsaken spot out in the boonies. The sisters believe their father threatened them, telling them never to say anything to anyone or he’d be forced to hurt them.
Laura says the awful experience traumatized her. To cope, she buried the memories for half a century. At the Firehouse Sub shop, she did tell me she could recall a weeklong episode of amnesia where she didn’t know the family she lived with. Years later, she brought the amnesia up to her mother, and her mother said she didn’t recall Laura ever suffering that episode. Laura thought maybe she kept it to herself. Remember, she was just four years old.
When Laura was seven, her mother, tired of the spousal abuse and the affairs, left her father,. The father disowned the girls, never seeking to be part of their lives. Not that they wanted him in their lives. He’s dead now, and Laura still hates him.
I do think this could make a fascinating plot for a short story or even a novel. I’d have to make lots of changes to protect Laura and her sister, but I think the memories, horrifying as they are, make for a suspenseful tale. Illicit love affair, murder, subsequent temporary amnesia. It would definitely be a page-turner – even if it turns out these are false memories.
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I’m an author with four published novels that include a sword-and-sorcery fantasy trilogy – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The fourth novel is a historical romance set during the Civil War. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.