Called Upstairs

16 Dec

My 100 word story this week is titled Called Upstairs and was inspired by the photo prompt posted by Madison Woods for the #FridayFictioneers. Madison’s story as well as the photo prompt can be found here

Please check out all the stories by following links from authors in the comment section of her submission.

“Where’s Gramps?”

“He said for you to finish up,” called Mother from the kitchen.

“Gramps just now went upstairs, L.J.”, said my sister, Joy, who sat at the dining room table removing tissue wrapped ornaments from an old cardboard box.

For all of my life, almost seven whole years, I’d helped Gramps place everything just so on our Christmas tree. Why hadn’t he waited for me?

I saw my reflection in a shining golden orb, looking back at me from a world of magic and wonderment. It was too quiet. Something was missing. Something was wrong.

“Clock’s stopped,” I said.

38 Responses to “Called Upstairs”

  1. Caely December 16, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Dear D,

    Your story reminds me the last month I spent with my grandfather almost 10 years ago. Very emotional and nostalgic. Great work, as always.


    • dmmacilroy December 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

      Thanks Cae,

      I heard a snippet of My Grandfather’s clock by Henry Clay Work earlier in the day. Story grew from there.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Was moved by yours. More please.



  2. susielindau December 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    I hope Grandpa is okay! Very nice post and slice of life…Excellent use of the prompt too!

    • dmmacilroy December 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

      Dear Susie,

      I hope he’s okay, too! That’s a journey I’m going to put off as long as I can. Off to read your story now.



  3. John Wiswell December 16, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    Nice catch on the clock and incorporating it into your narrative beyond just the tree. Kind of felt that Gramps was doomed, but a dignified way to suggest it.

    • Douglas MacIlroy December 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      Thanks John,

      Gramps has moved on, yet remains in the seven year old hearts of all of us. The clock drew my attention and imagination far more than the tree, though the unfinished look of that hapless fir did help me tie things together.

      I enjoyed your Lumberjack’s story very much. Can’t wait until next Friday.



  4. Craig Towsley December 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    i could feel the lump of dread in the boy’s throat. Great, as always, Doug.

    • dmmacilroy December 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

      Thanks Craig,

      My Grandfather’s Clock by Henry Clay Work was the inspiration, that and the unfinished look of that scrawny tree.

      Working my way through the tales as we speak. looking forward to yours.



  5. elmowrites December 16, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    Fantastic, Doug. You conveyed everything without saying it, such well-chosen phrasing in “just went upstairs” and then the stopped clock. I had a lump in my throat along with LJ. I love the song “my Grandfather’s clock”, haven’t heard it in years. I’m off to youtube now to track it down!

    • dmmacilroy December 16, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

      Dear Elmo,

      I appreciate your comments and the time taken by you to read Called Upstairs and to give me your feedback. The clock and the lonely tree started the ball rolling. I then went where you’ve been, to Google and Wikipedia to study the history of Henry Clay Work’s song.

      Thanks for chiming in.



  6. S.L. Bartlett December 16, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Oh my. That was ….I can’t explain it. I think I’m reflecting on my mother being in her mid eighties, and having joy in being so involved with our family. I love her dearly and I could “feel” the emotions that are bound to be felt…anticipation of sorrow, I suppose. I feel like crying. Wonderful capture of a theme.

    • dmmacilroy December 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

      Dear S.L.,

      Can’t thank you enough for your kind words. Touching someone, anyone, with my writing is the only reward I’ll ever need. I’m glad it resonated with you.



  7. Russell December 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    Well, the good news is that he went upstairs instead of down. I’ve read several of the 100 word Friday Flashes today, and this is one of my favorites. Very good use of the entire picture. I’m blown away. Great job, Doug.

    • Douglas MacIlroy December 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

      Dear Russell,

      You have always been generous in your comments and critique and I can’t adequately express what that means to me. Two words will have to suffice.

      Thank you.

      Off to find your story now.



  8. Robin Hawke December 16, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    Loved. Robin

  9. Lindaura Glamoura December 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    Yup, Pretty serious stuff there, Doug. Interesting that you ended with the clock, as most of us have ignored it – and it was the only thing my daughter noticed in the photo.
    Well written glimpse into childhood when childhood time stops.
    As ever,


    • Douglas MacIlroy December 16, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

      Dear Lindaura,

      The clock was everything to me and I’m glad I figured out how to spin a story around it (and that little tree). Thanks for reading and commenting.



  10. Siobhan Muir December 16, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    Wow, Doug. Great use of metaphor and so bittersweet. I liked how the clock signified the change. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • dmmacilroy December 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

      Dear Siobhan,

      Thanks for your comment, Siobhan. The pendulum of our clocks swings through every second of every day of our lives until at last, it stops. I wish I’d been far more aware of the passage of time in my grandparent’s lives when I was L.J.’s age.

      Off to read your story now. Sorry for the delay. Had to crash after a long night on the mountain.



  11. Madison Woods December 16, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    Tying in the stopping of the clock with Grandpa’s end (his ticker stopped?) was a good technique. Maybe grandpa just thought the hour was entirely too late for him, though, and so he retired too early, not realizing the clock had stopped and that the time was wrong.

    • dmmacilroy December 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

      Dear Madison,

      Gramps knew in the way I think I’m going to know, that he had to finish his part of the tree alone this time, just as L.J. knew something was wrong. I do so love life and I’m so glad this story came to me by way of you and your efforts to organize #FridayFictioneers. Thanks, Mads.



  12. Carlos Repuesto de la Tabla December 16, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    That was a very beautiful story, Doug, perfect in every way. As I said to Madison, I thought all week that I’d write a beautiful story, then I couldn’t see a way. You did.

    • dmmacilroy December 17, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

      Dear Carlos,

      What a wonderful comment to read. Thank you. The way was hard, wasn’t it? I, too, could not find anything in my heart to write about until I heard a tiny section of My Grandfather’s Clock by Henry Clay Work and then, after two hours out in the cold moonlight and snow, Called Upstairs came to life. Strange how the Muses work, isn’t it?

      Off to read yours now.



  13. Susan Wenzel (@SusanWenzel) December 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    Stopped clock = the end of life. I can truly appreciate this comparison as I used it too…

    Your work this week was enjoyable, albeit sad. I think this season, more than any other, we remember those who have gone “upstairs”.

    Good work, Doug!

    • dmmacilroy December 17, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

      Dear Susan,

      Thanks for stopping by and reading. I’ve recovered from my no sleep condition and am now eagerly reading all the stories I missed from yesterday. Cn’t wait to get to yours. The clock was the most fascinating part of the photo for me. I’m curious to see how you incorporated it into your story.



  14. Todd Beal December 17, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Doug, my stomach sank when I read the last sentence. You could turn this into a full-length story featuring Gramps’ understated, and often underappreciated, irreproachable character. Please develop this.

    • dmmacilroy December 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

      Dear Todd,

      Gramps’ character becomes an amalgam of all of our grandparents, doesn’t he. The curse of youth is that we so often don’t get to know our grandparents. If I wrote a fuller version of Called Upstairs it would be freighted with memories. I think that you are right, though. I will keep this story in mind for the future.

      Thank you for reading and commenting and welcome,Todd, to our merry little group.



  15. scribbla December 17, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Heartbreaking and filled with great compassion. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece.

    • dmmacilroy December 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

      Dear Scribbla,

      I got off the mountain 21 hours ago and got to all the early stories before I hit the wall. Will make my way to yours now after many hours of sleep. My apologies for the delay.

      Thanks for your kind comment. Talk to you soon on your comment page.



  16. writingbothsides December 17, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    Four characters, backstory, a dead-on ending all in 100 words, plus a title that works on different levels. Wow. Really nicely done.

    • dmmacilroy December 17, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

      Dear Both Sides,

      You just made my day with that comment. Thanks.

      Much Aloha,


  17. Cara Michaels December 17, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    Lovely moment captured in your tale, Doug. Shows how much we rely on and take comfort from simple familiarities, and how wrong things can seem when just one of them changes without warning.


    • Douglas MacIlroy December 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

      Dear Cara,

      Will scientists ever sort out the sixth sense? Probably not. Strange the connections the mind makes in those moments, isn’t it?

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.



  18. Jeannie March 1, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    I had a special connection with my grandfather and your story sums that connection up perfectly, without saying it outright. I love this story! Well done!!

    • Douglas MacIlroy March 2, 2012 at 2:02 am #

      Hi Jeannie,

      I’m following you around in the library. So pleased you’re reading.

      If I could do one thing in my life over it would be to go back in time and devote all of my attention to my grandparents who were all with me for far too short a time.

      To quote a saying that was on our scotch tape dispenser all through my childhood and still did me little good, “We grow too soon old, and too late smart.”



      • Jeannie March 2, 2012 at 2:08 am #

        that is a true statement my friend! I wish I had done better myself.

  19. rochellewisoff January 18, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    Dear Doug,

    I still want a notebook of your flash fictions. My birthday’s in September so you have time. 😉 This story brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. The analogy of the clock and LJ’s reflection in the orb. Beautiful imagery…with no tongue in cheek.

    Fantastic author…even better friend,



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