Damn the Dorsal

Another superberific Wednesday Writer’s Blog Hop Photo-Prompt Flash Fiction challenge hosted this week by the indomitable Leanne Sype at: Writings and Ruminations!

The rules are simple: The photo below and all five words must be featured in the piece that is to be no longer than 500 words.



Wagon     Shark     Navel     Bulb     Banana

Damn the Dorsal

Laughter, carefree and innocent, brought him back to the present.  Whatever it was that had taken his attention before he couldn’t remember.

He heard Caroline shriek with joy as her brother pushed her around the backyard in the old Red Flyer wagon.

He smiled.

“They’re beautiful.”

Her voice startled him.  He spun around.

She was standing by the window.

He hadn’t expected her.  He swallowed the growing lump in his throat.

She smiled at him.

He couldn’t hold back.  His throat tightened, his eyes misted—he tried to stop it—then his body shook with violent sobs.

“Oh..!” The word escaped like a moan, and he cradled his head in his hands.  Once spent, he wiped his eyes, and looked up.

She was gone.

“Cynthia..?  No … please don’t go.  I miss you.”

He dropped to the floor, overcome by wave after wave of agonizing memories, his own immeasurable love for her bursting his heart again and again until there were no more memories left at all, only pain; all-encompassing anguish, like a pure primordial emotion drawn from the very navel of the Earth.


He raised his teary, mucus-smeared face from the floor.

The twins stood by the door holding hands, as they always did.

“Hey, Bumblebees.” He tried to smile.

“You saw mommy.”

He nodded.  Tears flowed again.

Both children held their grieving father.  They pet his head and rubbed his back with all the pure love that children possess.

“You need to stop this, Daddy.”

“I know, son.” he said, trying to compose himself.

“Michael means it, Daddy.” Caroline affirmed.  “We can’t stay any longer.”

“Stay..?” He raised his head.

They were gone.

” You need to be strong now, Daddy.”


The floor collapsed beneath him, and he screamed as he plummeted down into an abysmal darkness.

He sat up in bed with a shout.  Sheets clung to his sweat-drenched body.  Tears still ran down his careworn face that showed evidence of alcohol abuse.


He rubbed his face, then climbed out of his squeaky bed.  He pulled off his soaked undershirt, throwing it across the room to land on the radiator of his tiny studio.  He thought to move it—could start a fire—then decided he didn’t give a shit.

He went to the fridge.  The flickering bulb revealed two beers, a black, half-eaten banana, and something overrun with mold.  He pushed the science experiment out of sight, then grabbed a beer and the banana.

He sat on the edge of the bed and alternately took bites and swigs.


He hadn’t had a bad one like that in weeks.  It was always there though, like a shark lurking in the dark just below the surface, you never knew when it was going to strike.

Cynthia had died bringing the twins into this world.  They were killed six years later, holding hands and skipping home from school as they always did.

He downed his beer.

That’s what they were doing now, he was sure; holding hands and skipping home.


Word Count: 500

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  1. Mangsgirl.

     /  January 30, 2014

    As a mom who almost lost her everything, this wrecked me.

    • Christopher Shawbell

       /  February 8, 2014

      Yeah, it’s freakin’ rough. I may post the original I wrote before editing down to the required word-count for the challenge… it get a lot more into the background and is a lot more intense.


  2. Congratulations Christopher on being the weekly winner on Blog Hop! A very worthy recipient. I reread your story thinking I’d be immune to the Kleenex this time…nope. I’m just glad I had them in reach 😉

    • Christopher Shawbell

       /  August 7, 2013

      Thanks. Posted this WWBH story a bit ago. Interesting piece. Cya soon!

  3. Unfortunately I couldn’t take part this week but I did look at the picture and words. It is strange how all the stories, although completely unalike, have a dark twist or a sadness about them. I saw the statue as a happy thing.

    • Christopher Shawbell

       /  July 30, 2013

      That’s the beauty of the prompt, you get to see what you do, and it’s valid. Too bad though that, being as you were the lone positive reaction to the prompt, you didn’t get a chance to get something in. We”ll see you next time. my friend.

  4. Hey Chris–another wonderfully written story! And well done on the prompts. I ended up punting on mine…couldn’t weave them in, but you did a fantastic job with them. I agree with Leanne, the thought of losing spouse and especially kids is my worst nightmare, but we’re all glad Chris could pen just such a tale to remind us of the horror… 😉 Actually, the reason we find such events so terrifying is because we love them so much. Great ob, my friend!

    • Christopher Shawbell

       /  July 29, 2013

      Thanks Scott. If I may suggest; get out of your head. The mind, he no good at this…you’ve got to go deeper. That’s the best part is when you feel you CAN’T make it happen, yet you dig deep enough to do it,
      Thanks bother!

  5. Very powerful and emotional writing. Half a box of tissues used – still realing from the emotional after effects. I can’t imagine carrying on but I suppose we do, somehow.

    • Christopher Shawbell

       /  July 29, 2013

      It was almost beyond me to write.

  6. Oh goodness. As a parent myself, this tore my heart out. I cannot imagine losing both my spouse and my children. You captured the grief and devastation with this father so well, Chris. It’s interesting the free-flowing emotion that comes out in the dream versus the more repressed/stifled emotion when he wakes up (hidden behind beer and a black banana–ew).

    My heart clenched at “Hey, Bumblebees.” The sweetest, most endearing nickname.

    Good job with the prompt, Christopher!

    • Christopher Shawbell

       /  July 25, 2013

      “Oh goodness” indeed! My favorite part of writing is the emotion experience of sinking deep into empathy and becoming my characters. It’s a marvelous transition and journey. Sometimes it is a very painful one as well. This piece was the latter–it tore me up. The wife was never supposed to be there–she just “showed up” in the dream–and that’s when it all went its own direction. The dream alone was 700+ words before I edited it–700 agonizing words! I am glad that some of that has come through.
      “Bumblebees” came out of nowhere too. Did the exact same thing to me–just ripped my heart up.
      Thank you for hosting the awesome WWBH again this week. You’re awesome!

  7. oops, hit send before I’d finished.
    You’re supposed to put a Kleenex warning with the introduction BEFORE the story Christopher!!! Oh my gosh! Make sure you do so next time…or else!

    • Christopher Shawbell

       /  July 24, 2013

      I forgot to add the prompt words in the post as well. I suck! I got them in the story, I just didn’t put them under the picture. Corrected and moving forward.

  8. You’re supposed to put a Kleenex warning with the introduction BEFORE

    • Christopher Shawbell

       /  July 24, 2013

      Sorry. WILCO.
      I appreciate your support, Lyn. I’m following your blog now, and got your back. ; )

  9. Christopher Shawbell

     /  July 24, 2013

    Ummm … I hope you brought tissue to this party. Messed me up, this one did!

  1. Blog Hop Photo Reveal! — A Look Back | Writings and Ruminations
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