Softness of the moss

For every year Martha shrunk a little. It had been sixty years now; Sixty years since her father changed her future. Every day she paid with prayers in the convent. Paid for her disgraceful wishes that would taint the honor of the family.

Every year she had returned; now bending down she touched the moss and for a moment she recalled the softness of her daughter’s silky hair.

They always said that she was stillborn, but Martha knew better. She still recalled the muffled whimpers sixty years ago and the veil of lies that grew before she left their house.

© Copyright – Rachel Bjerke

© Copyright – Rachel Bjerke

For some reason my very first association with the picture was that it was a hiding place for a dead child somewhere under all those mossy rocks. From that I wanted to weave a story about family pride and repentance, and also at the end the lonely mother is the only one that remains to remember.

Friday Fictioneers is a blogging community under management of Rochelle Wissoff-Fields that reaches close and even above 100 contributions of great fiction writing to the same picture. I try to comment as many as possible, but it has been a long time since I managed to comment on every one. I try to return every visit though and I see so much great writing, that also improves my own.

March 18, 2015

153 responses to “Softness of the moss

  1. Dear Björn,

    I think this is one of your best so far. Muffled whimpers. Quite effective. You’ve exchanged ache for ache this week. A novel in a hundred words. Brava!



  2. This is a powerful story Bjorn, as much as for what it leaves unsaid as what it does actually say. The distance is just right. Well done.

  3. Some nice phrases in here. As an aside I wouldn’t explain stories underneath the picture. If people don’t get it then such is life. If they ask then answer. Just feel sometimes we feel duty bound to immediately explain things. Not for me you don’t 🙂

  4. Ohhh…that’s horrible.

    Not horribly written, I mean! Quite the opposite. I mean the reveal at the end.

    This is one of those pieces where I’m impressed at how a writer can convey so much with just 100 words.

  5. The softness of the moss compared to the softness of her daughter’s hair is heartbreaking. All of the pain and mystery in 100 words. Incredible.

  6. Sixty years to mourn… And no one else remembers. How many times has this happened. Too many to count. Lovely lines in this Bjorn.
    Paid for her disgraceful wishes / she recalled the softness of her daughter’s silky hair – just to name two of my favorites.

    • Thank you.. sometimes the way we reveal a secret is the most important in story telling.. we can have the gradual realization or we can have the last line.. but we are observers when told in third person, and I think the full realization should not dawn until the last lines.

  7. Bjorn,
    you paint the picture of long years of mourning with exquisite skill. It’s interesting how everyone sees such different things in the picture. Well done,

    • That is what really surprise me the most… Sometimes the best story comes from going with the first impression, sometimes we have to use our magnifying glasses.. and some pictures are stories that can only tell one story..

  8. Dear Bjorn,

    Loved your story, which was perfect for the prompt and dark and introspective as they come. (They always said that that she was stillborn…) Double ‘that’? Choose your favorite and 86 the other.



  9. Very sad, Bjorn. Hopefully people are much more enlightened now. Reminds me of the movie Philomena…..but at least her baby lived, though it was taken away from her.

  10. A big story delicately told Bjorn. This has been a reality for many people and no doubt still is in many parts of the world. The touch of the moss reminding her of the baby’s silky hair is beautiful

  11. A sad tale, beautifully written. This picture is so evocative. You saw a hiding place. I saw an unearthly scene. I suspect that the family’s shame was no shame at all, but rather a beautiful baby of mixed race.

  12. Beautiful work, Bjorn, with a gentle, lingering sadness. A mother knows. This reminds me in some ways of characters from M.G. Lewis’s The Monk. It was written at the close of the 17th century, but is a wonderful, dark tale of revenge and redemption and horror.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail

  13. I swear that when I read the phrase “disgraceful wishes” I thought she was gay, completely threw me off that it turned out to be a murder. Great job!

  14. Wow! A synopsis for a novel in 100 words. It’s all in ‘muffled whimpers’ and ‘veil of lies’. And it hit a spot. I can reveal this, as my family are all dead, but when I was eight (1959) my (only) sister was stillborn. My mother always said that the hospital consultant had told her he had ‘put the baby to sleep’ in her womb (with an injection) because she would have been grossly physically disfigured and extremely mentally disabled. There was no body, no funeral, no record. There’s more than one method of ‘muffling’.

  15. I have never been able to read every submission Bjorn. So that you have done it even once is awesome. This was a very sad story. So much regret. I would love to see the plotline that inhabits the middle of this one.

  16. What baffled me about that photo was the fresh(!!) logs near the fireplace…buh? Staged for the shot?
    Anyway, I liked your approach here.

  17. Very sad; beautifully written.
    We hear a lot about family honour these days – family love would have accepted that baby. Powerful story.

  18. Björn, this is really special; one of my favorites of yours, for sure! The story has so much more to it, many layers. Like others, “muffled whimpers,” holds so much emotional impact. Beautifully done!

  19. A heartbreaking story of deep love and loss. How many times we wonder was a human being killed to preserve supposed honor. Reall well written, Bjorn.— Suzanne

  20. Such a tragic story, and to think this sort of thing used to happen so often. I’ve not met anyone who was sent to a nunnery, but when I used to work in an old institution with those they once called the mentally subnormal (but, of course, terms have become gentler since), amongst the oldest residents were females labelled as “moral defectives”, many of whom had given birth to children out of wedlock and had ended up being committed to an asylum for the rest of their lives. I’m glad things have changed.
    An exceedingly well written piece, Bjorn.

    • Thank you.. yes society have had various way to deal with this.. I guess in the upper classes the convent was one way to deal with it, whereas when society steps in it would be an asylum instead. In addition here in Sweden they could get out of the asylum if the accepted to be sterilized… a practice that was used much longer than we want to know….

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