Not Even Past. Not If You’re A Writer

William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” I’m sure reams of pages have been written discussing what he may have meant by that, but I know many of the ways it’s true for me.

All the things that ever happened to me? All the things that have ever been said to me and in front of me? Not even past. All the things I’ve done and said and wished I’d done and said and wished I hadn’t done and said? Not even past.

Even if I don’t remember them, they’re there.

Ben Folds Five says to “throw this book away” in this wonderful song.

I used to feel like that about a lot of my past. I don’t mean my past was so horrible or shameful or painful; I just wanted the past to be the past. Then my sense of thrift took over,  and I started pulling threads out of that bag and weaving them into stories.

Here’s this picture of li’l me with my favorite stuffed animal.

Not Even Past

Not Even PastI called him Tigger. My grandfather brought him to me from Stratton & Terstage, where he got him cheap because he was missing an eye. The tiger, I mean, not my grandfather.

MAwnewFriendI was sad about losing track of him (still the tiger) for a while, but then I found a small stuffed tiger that was also missing an eye, and I’ve hung onto him. He is also named Tigger.

Now, look closely at that picture of li’l me. See that brick wall with that silver thing on it? That silver thing is a room heater. It had a ceramic lattice in it that heated up. That brick, wall is just a regular wall with brick-flavored wallpaper on it. I used that wall with the heater in my short story “Mr. Farrel,” one of the stories in my collection LONNIE, ME AND THE HOUND OF HELL.

I could see that the closet wall didn’t fit tight. We had a gas heater like a miniature fireplace in the front room corner; it was set into a little bitty wall that covered the corner where two of the regular walls met. This closet wall would have been right up against that.

I put my fingers into the crack and pulled. The wall was just a thin panel. It warped out a little at the bottom when I pulled on it, and the mice ran in. That was all the hint I needed. I closed the closet door and turned out the light. In the dark, I pulled the panel out a little more. I wiggled in behind it and pulled it back into place as well as I could and just squished myself down, hidden behind that gas heater.

I heard the front door slam open. I heard Mr. Farrel stumbling through the place, roaring for us to come out so he could teach us a lesson we’d never forget.

Mr. Farrel was also based on somebody related to a friend of mine back in the day. When writers start mining the past, not only is it not even past, it’s not off-limits, either. So, you know, beware, right? heh

Contains Dog StarNow, just in case you want to read the rest of this story — or any or all of the other stories in the collection — here are the buy links for LONNIE, ME AND THE HOUND OF HELL. Or click on the My Books and Collections on the menu and see what else is on offer.

Buy it for the Kindle at Amazon.
Buy it from iTunes
Buy it for the Nook
Buy it in other electronic formats at Smashwords.

Thank you kindly.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Something from a character’s past suddenly comes back to them.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Not Even Past. Not If You’re A Writer

  1. Jane

    March 6, 2014 at 8:31am

    Let’s see if I can do this.
    When Mom was having her memory problems, she was still that girl who walked to school along a cliffside beneath human-sized icycles looming overhead. She was still that girl who lived on Hell Creek, whose Dad was called the Kaiser of Hell Creek, who went to Cinncinnati with some mid-teens relatives and friends and lived in an apartment, went to school during the day, and worked in a defense factory at night. That was when three teenage girls could walk around in Cinncinnati safely at night.

    And Mom was still all that when she could no longer recall the details of any of this. Nor a whole lot more. She was still that girl, the sum of all that had made her. She could laugh at “blue” jokes, enjoy a sitdown in the sun with us and all the cats, liked her wine, tooke her pills all in a single gulp… Well. She could still give me her opinion, and it was the opinion of that girl and all that experience. And, man, did I treasure her advice. She’s listne to me, and then sya, “I think you should do that,” and I knew it was solid.

    I miss her like hell. But she’s one of those pieces of me now, that will always make up who I am. Bye.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      March 6, 2014 at 10:05am

      Jane, thank you so much for sharing your mom with me over the years. Thanks to your generosity, she’ll always be part of who I am, too. HUGS

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
      • Jane

        March 8, 2014 at 8:25am

        As your Mom is to me, too.

        Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. TCI

    March 7, 2014 at 7:43am

    Everything we have done so far, every mistake, every turn we took in life are what made us who we are. I cannot put it as well as you but I am with you. You cannot help to remember all the little things that was your life. Even sad moments are remembered fondly.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      March 7, 2014 at 9:47am

      Every so often, a memory will surface and I think, “Where have YOU been all these years?” Sometimes I think I wish I hadn’t remembered, but usually that’s actually because what I really wish is that I had behaved better, been kinder, thought more clearly. Still, bad decisions and behavior are also part of who we are. And part of who the people we hurt are, sadly.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  3. Katherine James

    March 7, 2014 at 12:04pm

    One of my favorite quotes is “The past influences everything and dictates nothing.” Adam Phillips.

    The past shapes the person we are today, that part is inescapable. However it is the future that defines what we become.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      March 7, 2014 at 12:40pm

      Agreed, Katherine! We are what the past has brought us to be, but our choices today help shape our future.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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