Mar 31 2018

A #AtoZChallenge Attie Connolly the American #Fiction #SFF

AtoZChallenge Theme 2018 J Lenni Dorner #SpeculativeFiction
26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner

#AtoZchallenge Letter A on Blog of author @JLenniDorner

I let the upbeat song finish before I shut off my truck. One more deep, stalling breath. I get out, walk to the back, and open the liftgate. Cooler and blanket in hand, I trudge through the frosted, brown leaves. Thirty-seven rows down, two and three stones in, both engraved with “Connolly.”

“Happy birthday, Danny boy.” I lay the blanket out between my son and wife. Reaching into the cooler, I set a small cake by his stone and pull out two bottles of Irish stout.

“I hope you’ve been behaving for your mother.” Leaning over, I kiss my wife’s stone, then set her drink down.

“Fifteen. Big year ahead for you.” That’s as far as I make it before the lie, the facade, fades. Once again, I’m the weeping guy in the graveyard.


Ringing and buzzing in my jean’s pocket wakes me. “Yeah?”

“Is this Attie Connolly?”

“Yes. Who’s this?” I pull my phone away to glance. Just a number, no name attached. I put the phone back to my ear.

“One moment.”

“Dad? Why didn’t you pick me up yet?” Mercedes, my youngest, asks. “I had to use the school office phone to call you. See? Told you I need my own. Are you coming or what?”

“I, uhh,” I rub my eyes as I sit up. Six empty bottles surround me, as well as a half-eaten cake. I glance at my phone again, this time to check the clock. I realize my hand is covered in icing. That same blue icing is on my phone, covering the time. It is also in my ear and stuck to my hair. “Call Mystic. Remind her it’s the twentieth of November. Then tell her to come get you.”

“Fine. Whatever. Thanks for nothing.”

Nothing. I rest my head on my knees.

“This wasn’t the sort of birthday celebration you’d have approved of, is it?” My wife’s stone doesn’t answer me. Just as well. If I had passed out at one of our children’s actual birthday parties, she wouldn’t have spoken to me. Not that it ever happened when she was alive. This is the fourth time I’ve had to celebrate my only son’s birthday in a graveyard.

I stumble to my truck while shaking the layer of frost and leaves from the blanket. I drop the empty bottles into a box with other cans and bottles I’ve meant to haul to the recycling plant. There’s no need for my children to know how much I drink. My wife would say I’m setting a bad example.

Were she here to say that, I probably wouldn’t be drinking near as much. Is that irony? I’m too hungover to tell.

I pull a sandwich and a bottle of water out of the cooler. Baby wipes… baby wipes… Ah ha, I knew I had a box in here. I clean my hands and phone, then grab another for my face and ear.

“Hello there.”

I look in the direction of the heavily accented voice. A man in a heavy winter coat and ushanka smiles at me.

“Hi.” The graveyard seems like a place people wouldn’t make small talk. Guess he doesn’t know that.

“Are you freeze to death, hmm? Join others in this place?” He motions between my black leather jacket and the gravestones beyond the parking area.

“I’m fine.” I crack open the water and chug.

“Yes, yes, of course. You Americans know nothing of cold, eh? Warm bones.”

“Uh huh,” I take a bite of the sandwich.

Graveyard Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

line break

Has anyone ever made small talk with you in an unusual setting?


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  1. This was brilliant. I love how you captured the emotion and the irony of the situation. I can’t wait to find out who the stranger is and what he wants (I’m suspecting it’s going to be more than small talk)
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    1. LOL. Much, much more.
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    • Janet on March 31, 2018 at 9:52 PM

    Nice beginning! I agree with Debbie. Small talk in unusual setting? No, usually it is my husband who starts with the small talk to strangers.
    Janet has this post to share March Meandering – 2018 – The Studio Yearbook, Spring Edition and Tell It CollageMy Profile

    1. Too true.
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  2. Oh I loved that J – it’s my first read of the 2018 A to Z Challenge and it was a damn good one. Can’t wait for more.
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    1. Pleased to have made it to the front of your line.
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    • Namratha on March 31, 2018 at 10:49 PM

    Hey J. I remember your series about a telephathic teenager from last year.

    This was an impactful start to AtoZ. There are a lot of things going on here and looking forward to see how the story unfolds. I like how you make the scenes so visual.

    And weird place not only for small talk but also for cake and sandwich!
    Namratha has this post to share Audacity: Acrostic poem inspired by “Stop Acid Attacks” – #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z #NaPoWriMoMy Profile
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    1. I’m glad you remember my story from last year. I hope you like this year’s as well.
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  3. Interesting! Gonna be back for more! Good luck for the rest of the challenge!
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    1. Good luck to you as well.
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  4. Can’t be a good thing to find a stranger hanging out in a graveyard! Great introduction to the character of Attie. Look forward to the ext instalment.
    Iain Kelly has this post to share A IS FOR AARHUS, DENMARKMy Profile
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    1. Thank you!
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  5. I feel for him but at the same time I wish he’d get it together for the sake of those around him.
    For me all small talk is strange but I guess the weirdest one was at a theatre DURING the play… She was shot down quick! 🙂
    My blogs in the A to Z: Self discovery via travel and a separate Interactive story.
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    1. Ah yes, he needs to get it together. Then again, characters are rarely perfect at the start of the story.
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  6. What???? And it ends there?????????
    JazzFeathers has this post to share Armistice (Weimar Germany #AtoZChallenge)My Profile
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    1. Glad the hook worked on you.
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    • Varad on April 1, 2018 at 4:13 AM

    Attie is such a compelling character. The setting is fantastic and the whole piece is very environmental. Let’s see what the stranger has come with. Looking forward for more.

    A is for Absent Minded
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    1. Thank you.
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    • Ronel on April 1, 2018 at 4:35 AM

    Great start to this year’s story. Can’t wait to read the rest 🙂
    Ronel has this post to share Gather All the Tools You Need with the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #AtoZChallengeMy Profile
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    1. Thank you.
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    • Lakshmi on April 1, 2018 at 4:38 AM

    Interesting! I love the pace of the scene. Lot of suspense.
    Is it a series?

    1. It’s a story told in parts.
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  7. Your writing is always a pleasure to read. Great intro to the challenge and the story.

    Nilanjana Bose has this post to share A is for April…A-Z…and Africa!!My Profile

    1. Thanks
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    • Maryann on April 1, 2018 at 7:22 AM

    I enjoyed your post today. Looking forward to more about this sad character. Visiting from
    If I Only Had A Time Machine
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    1. Thank you!
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  8. Fab story. Will we know more? I talk to anyone, anywhere. I used to be as shy as it is possible to be and duck into the nearest doorway if I saw anyone I knew to hide… but my very outgoing husband, in the end, managed to extract the last shed of embarrassment from my bones, so now I’m just like him in that regard! Hope to see more, ~Liz (an A-Z of the best children’s poets, they’ve all sent a poem)
    Liz Brownlee has this post to share Z is for Young People’s Poet and Performer Benjamin Zephaniah, #AtoZChallenge #ZtoAMy Profile
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    1. I know a few people who wish they were less shy/ embarrassed. Sounds like a good how-to kind of book.
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    • Susanne Matthews on April 1, 2018 at 8:11 AM

    Well done. You sucked me right it and i felt the man’s pain. Looking forward to reading more.

    Susanne Living the Dream

    1. Glad I hit that goal.
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  9. Interesting! I can’t wait to see where this goes.
    Jayden R. Vincente has this post to share A is for Anniversary #AtoZChallengeMy Profile
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    1. Thank you.
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  10. Great writing! Who is the stranger? How will he change Attie’s life?

    I stink at small talk so avoid it whenever I can.

    Emily In Ecuador | Almuerzo – Good Lunch Choice in Puerto Lopez
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    1. Glad my story opening left you with questions.
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    • Kat on April 1, 2018 at 11:41 AM

    Wow, this post already drew me in and left me with so many questions. What happened to his wife and son? How many children does he have, just two? Who is Mercedes? Why would his daughter be unaware of his visit to the graveyard if it’s the fourth year that he’s done that? Great story and I can’t wait for more
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    1. Good questions. Keep reading and you’ll find some answers.
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  11. Great sad and intriguing opening.

    1. Thanks!
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    • Stuart on April 1, 2018 at 12:09 PM

    Yeah, not the place for small talk/strike up conversations. Sad read, but there are so many layers to discover.
    I’ll be back

    Tale Spinning
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    1. Glad you enjoyed it.
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  12. What a great beginning – looking forward to the rest of April.

    I’m not sure I have a lot of experience with small talk in unusual locations, but rather people tend to tell me profound things in rather impersonal places such as the bus stop.

    1. Ohh, that sounds interesting. You’d make a good fictional character!
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    • Suzanne Sapsed on April 1, 2018 at 3:19 PM

    Great beginning, now on to B to read part 2 🙂

    I’m one of those people that will start up a conversation with anyone anywhere!

    1. Awesome!
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  13. Oooh, this is off to a good start! I can’t wait to see tomorrow’s installment.
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    1. I’m glad you liked the start.
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  14. Great post!! Left me wanting more…happy to find another flash fiction writer.

    Donna B McNicol, author & traveler
    Romance & Mystery…writing my life
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    1. Flash fiction is fun.
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    • Jessica on April 2, 2018 at 7:51 PM

    Great start to your story and the challenge!

    1. Thank you.
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  15. Some nice writing here. I’m sure someone has struck up a conversation with me in a strange place or situation though at the moment I can’t think of a specific example.

    Arlee Bird
    Arlee Bird has this post to share Enigmas of Acquisition (#AtoZChallenge)My Profile
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    1. I’m glad the outcome of the conversation hasn’t happened to you.
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  16. What a strong display of the grief he felt, and very vivid.

    I wish I had the ability to make small talk (almost) anywhere – I’m the awkward one who wonders why they’re talking to me in the first place!

  17. I usually have people telling me their life story in plain view of everyone. It’s awkward sometimes but also flattering that they can open up to me. Dropping in on the A to Z Roadtrip
    Katy Trail Creations
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  18. Officially hopping through on the #AtoZChallenge Road Trip to say, What an opening! Great setup an intrigue, and once again you prove to be a great writer.
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    • ggu on July 27, 2018 at 9:25 AM

    This is awesome article that I’ve ever found!

    • Thi on July 27, 2018 at 9:26 AM

    I just found this, and this is very interesting!

    • luya on July 27, 2018 at 9:28 AM

    I don’t know what should I say, cause this is already good.

    • daskdas on July 27, 2018 at 9:30 AM

    This sounds very interesting, but overall good.

    • jon on July 27, 2018 at 12:32 PM

    This is very good post. I appreciate it

    • Muhanji on August 22, 2018 at 8:54 AM

    Jeez. It’s been a long time I actually pulled out a piece of printer paper to take notes on a blog post lol. Thanks for this. You’ve earned yourself a new reader!…
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  19. Wow, a very strong start to the story! I’d love to pause my #AtoZChallenge Road Trip to read a bit further, but I’m running late and gotta make it a ways down the blog-road yet today — but I’ll be back! Can’t wait to see what happens! Take care!

    Jamie Lyn Weigt | Writing Dragons | AtoZ 2018: X is for Xiang the Wise
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    • Erika on November 25, 2018 at 8:53 AM

    Searching for some interesting reads and came across this blog! Got me hooked! Thanks for the time and effort making this for internet bummers like us :p

  20. I dread small talk, so my definition of “unusual” is fairly broad. The one that consistently throws me is chitchat as I check out at the grocery store. I’m good with exchanging pleasantries, but I’m always confused when the checker asks me about my weekend plans. Just seems so odd to me. Not the same as a graveyard, but throws me every time. Stopping by on the #AtoZ Road Trip. Cheers!

    1. Yeah. Some people enjoy small talk more than others. That’s for sure.
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