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
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
Now, 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.
Thank you kindly.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Something from a character’s past suddenly comes back to them.