the Author

Social Distancing Journal 08: Short Fiction: What She Won’t Remember

Posted in self-publishing, Short Stories, writing.

It’s Monday again. Today’s short story is What She Won’t Remember.

As usual, the .pdf, linked above, can be down­loaded for free (you might have to “save as” after you’ve clicked on the link). The book page is here. B&N and iTunes have not gone live yet; the former is prop­a­gated through Smash­words. I’ll add links as they go live.

This was written for Mike Resnick’s Alter­nate Outlaws just over a quarter century ago. It was only a little bit longer than what was requested. I was still far more comfort­able with novel writing than with short story writing. And in some ways, this has continued, which will prob­ably be a surprise to no one.


I am still writing. I can’t remember if I mentioned that I’ve sold the next Cast novel, but if I haven’t, I did. It’s on of the two books I’m working on now, the other being the first book in The Burning Crown series, which is the last of the West novel arcs.

Yesterday, I spent way too long reading covid-19 news stories and various reports. My aunt died last week – or maybe two weeks ago; I find I really lose track of the passage of time these days – and I’m reminded that funerals are such an impor­tant part of grieving and closure, not for my own sake, but for my moth­er’s. Because of course there is no funeral. Almost all of the cases of covid-19 in one of our provinces can be traced back to a funeral.

We’re all still working from home; we leave to buy groceries and prescrip­tion medica­tion. We’ve been making use of Face­Time for the dinners – Sunday and Thursday – that we no longer have with the other half of our family.

The kids — who are not kids, but, well Mom here — have been fine, but they miss that other half of the family, and they miss my mother. My mother comes to our house two days a week. In theory, and when things were normal. But I had a friend come to stay for several weeks, and he asked me what, exactly “I won’t be here tomorrow” means as he pointed out that she pretty much drops by every. Single. Day. I told him it means “she’s not staying for the entire day”.

She’s been part of the kids lives since they were born; they’ve seen her “two days a week” for the entirety of their lives. When she dropped groceries off last week, my older son came down­stairs and stood at the back of the kitchen, chat­ting with her. She said, “I thought you’d all be happier without me to inter­rupt everything.”

He looked at her, and finally said, “Bachan, if you stare at the sun for a long time you hurt your eyes. But no one wants to live without sunlight.”

I thought this was a terrific analogy, and so I’m sharing.


Edit: typos. Again. T_T

15 Responses to Social Distancing Journal 08: Short Fiction: What She Won’t Remember

  1. Marcia in TX says:

    Wow. Your son is awesome.

  2. Tchula says:

    Aww…that comment your son made to his grand­mother just made me teary and I haven’t even had my coffee yet. ;-)

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your Aunt. The inability to gather and grieve together with friends and family during this time is the absolute worst! My heart goes out to fami­lies who have had/are having this expe­ri­ence. I’ve always felt that the burden of grief is less­ened when it’s shared, and while it’s great to have Face­Time and Zoom, they are just not the same as a warm and loving hug.

    Be well and stay safe!

  3. That was a seri­ously beau­tiful and terribly poignant comment. And true. Oh so true. I’m an elemen­tary school librarian. I miss the students, the hugs, my co-workers, complaining about every­thing, but I really miss the love my babies gave me. No one loves like a kid who really trusts someone who believes in them and sees them for 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week (I work after school care as well). Be the one who does that but also is in charge of buying their favorite graphic novels, books, and the Scholastic book fair, and who is just weird enough to wear a cape around school because why not?! Yeah, I miss my babies. And wow! Did not expect that mini-rant. 

    I am deeply sorry to hear about the passing of your Aunt.

  4. michelle says:

    @Tchula: It’s the lack of funeral, the lack of closure, the lack of people who share the burden of grief — but who also share enough history that there can be some joy in the recall. 

    I know weddings have been cancelled, and I feel for the couples — but it’s the funerals and the deaths and the isola­tion after a loss that really cuts me. Prob­ably not surprising — but then again, if I had had to cancel my wedding by the time it rolled around, I would prob­ably have felt nothing but relief (I found the wedding part hugely stressful).

    @MrsFabulous: Yes, that. I didn’t actu­ally find that ranty at all :)

  5. Jeanine says:

    My sincere condo­lences. I am sorry that the lack of a funeral is making a hard loss harder. Perhaps a Face­time or Zoom service and/or memo­rial would help if you have not already held one?

  6. Thomas Wiegand says:

    My deepest condolences.

  7. Daniel Catudal says:

    I loved the comment from your son to your mother. We never received enough loving words from our chil­dren in our life time, this was such a great way to express his feeling.
    My thoughts are with you and your family in this time of loss.

  8. David Youngs says:

    Will Mrs. West be writing anything after The Burning Crown?

    We lost a friend last month, just to old age. But no funeral or visiting with his widow.

  9. Deirdre Roeser says:

    Grief never ends — but it changes.
    It’s a passage, not a place to stay.
    Grief is not a sign of weak­ness, nor a lack of faith.
    It is the price of love.

  10. michelle says:

    @Jeanine: My mother is not entirely techno­phobic — but she dislikes change, and it stresses her out enor­mously. On a good day, we might be able to set up zoom and have her use it. A very, very good day. T_T

    @Daniel: What I liked most about the comment was that it was true; she can be quite over­pow­ering and quite over-focused, and some­times it is disrup­tive, so it acknowl­edges that, but also makes it clear that she is neces­sary. And missed.

    I think it’s human nature to get caught on the things that are frus­trating, and to focus more on those things than the things that are good. We all do it, from time to time; things that are good don’t demand atten­tion or action. And my mother knows what she’s like, so — if he had denied that she was or could be diffi­cult, I’m not sure that would have worked for her, either. This was kind of … perfect.

  11. Joey says:

    Your aunt! I hope you and your family will be able to find ways to grieve together.

    What a great quote by your son! Oh, wait. Is this the same one who exclaimed, “Dad’s a robot!”?

  12. michelle says:

    Yes — exactly the same son, half of his life­time later :).

  13. Joey says:


  14. michelle says:

    @Joey: As far as teenage rebel­lion goes, we were very, very lucky — but he was frus­trated that his father had no temper. He knew what mine, and his, were like. I think he was thir­teen at the time. And it was hard for him to perceive anger or frus­tra­tion that wasn’t fully upfront. 

    He sees it far more clearly now, but chil­dren often think that if people don’t blow a gasket, they’re not frus­trated or angry, and they can’t see the self-control mech­a­nism or effort because they haven’t devel­oped it them­selves, if that makes sense.

  15. Joey says:

    It defi­nitely makes sense. If more chil­dren were able to perceive what you described in the second para­graph, I think that would be a good thing. I’d like to think it would result in more thoughtful (or at least conscious) adults.

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