Boy’s Day

30 Oct

A hundred word story for Friday Fictioneers, a school of writers as varied and colorful as the koi in the photo prompt shown below. Their manifold offerings can be found here. My story is written for my son, Scott and his wife Tamara, who are about to become parents for the first time. I love you.

Doug's Koi

Copyright Douglas M. MacIlroy

New snow fell softly from a cold gray sky on the day I was allowed to return. Here and there amid a sea of debris protruded concrete islands, one of these the preschool of my son Kenji. The wave found him there, and took Kumi, his mother, as she raced across town to reach him in time…


Memories roil the calm surface I struggle to maintain.


On the flagpole next to my empty and quiet new house overlooking a pond filled with a kaleidoscope of fry, I raise a large gold and blue koinobori and offer it to the wind.


Dedicated to all the parents who lost children in the Tsunami of March, 2011, Sendai, Japan.

105 Responses to “Boy’s Day”

  1. Adam Ickes October 30, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    “Memories roil the calm I struggle to maintain.”

    That line alone holds so much meaning it could be a story all on its own.

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      Dear Adam,

      Thank you, sir. I cannot imagine what it would be like (Though I tried.) I appreciate you reading and commenting.



  2. Carol Deminski October 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Very moving Doug. You should consider writing poetry – this piece might be interesting to transform into a poem.

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

      Dear Carol,

      The die was cast and the statue poured, cooled and erected, unpolished. Now a roost for pigeons, it smiles down on the occasional passerby.

      Poetry is discipline and I have little of that save what the artist’s original mold gave to me.

      Thank you for reading and for your encouragement. Congratulations on your latest story being published. You are and remain an inspiration to me.



      • Carol Deminski October 30, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

        Hey Doug, thanks for your reply. I hear you on the poetry writing front, it’s not for everyone. As for discipline, on that point I must disagree with you – you are highly disciplined as a writer, you’ve been participating in the weekly Friday Fictioneers for a long time. You write with much more frequency than I do, and therefore you are an inspiration to me!

        Thanks again,

  3. Ye Pirate October 30, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Great stuff…and I’m proud I understood the cultural terms!

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

      Dear Managua,

      Thank you, sir. Good on you!



  4. elmowrites October 30, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Heartbreaking, Doug. I love the images you create and the heartstrings you pull on. Good luck to your son and daughter-in-law: they are embarking on one of life’s most wonderful and terrifying journeys. So says someone just a year into it!
    A touch of concrit for you.(feel free to edit it and then edit this comment if you wish). The phrase “I found a sea of debris wreathed in new snow falling from a cold gray sky” confused me. What’s falling – the debris or the snow? Presumably the snow, but then the falling snow isn’t the same stuff that’s doing the wreathing. Am I making myself clear? No. Perhaps an example would be clearer. How about: “… new snow, falling from a cold gray sky, wreathed a sea of debris.”

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

      Dear Jennifer,

      I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your concrit. Much appreciated. Tell me what you think of the revisions. Your input helped me to see through the snow…

      Scott and Tamara will be on the road a year behind you, walking in your footsteps. I like that.

      Thanks for reading and being brave.



      • elmowrites October 31, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

        I like the edits, although I miss “wreathed” – that was a beautiful image, so.
        At times the snow on this road is deep, but there are many sets of prints to tread in, many paths on this trail.

  5. kz October 30, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    a very beautiful, heartbreaking story. it’s so impossible not to be moved by this.

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

      Dear Kz,

      Thank you for your kind comments. This one was difficult to extract from the debris.



  6. helenmidgley October 30, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    beautifully sad, 😦

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

      Dear Helen,

      …and it is happening all around us…life…the entry into it, sun and rain and love and pain, and departure from it.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.



  7. JKBradley October 30, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Touching story, Doug.

    And, congratulations!!

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

      Dear JK,

      I’m happy to see you here. Thank for the congrats. I’m glad to be alive to see it happen.



  8. Sandra October 30, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    A lovely story, beautifully told. A fine piece to go with a fine picture.

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

      Dear Sandra,

      Thank you for your thoughts on Boy’s Day. I was in a reflective mood.

      I thoroughly enjoyed your story this week (and every week!)



  9. rgayer55 October 30, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    1st of all, congratulation Grandpa. You’ll find grandchildren to be much more enjoyable that than parents were at the same age.
    Your story rips the heart right out of my chest and tears it into little pieces. It’s difficult to imagine the horror of losing your loved ones in such a way. My thoughts and prayers go out to them. Excellent writing, my friend.

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

      Dear Russell,

      I’m looking forward to dandling the youngster on my knee and telling stories about the good old days.

      Thank you for your kind compliments. As ever, they fuel my tank and keep me pointed in the right direction.



  10. moondustwriter October 30, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    Thanks for the tribute. A lovely and sorrowful picture you have painted.

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

      Dear MDW,

      I appreciate your thought on Boy’s Day. Thanks for thanking me. Seemed appropriate for the prompt.



  11. draliman October 30, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    Sad and moving, beautifully written.

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

      Dear Draliman,

      Thank you for saying so.



  12. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) October 30, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    These are the real stories after disasters. The humans…. still here in Sweden we recall the tsunami in 2004… almost everyone knew somebody that died there. So I can relate to the feeling.. and the boys day yes I have understood that.

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

      Dear Bjorn,

      People never realize, or forget too readily, just what a fine line separates us from life and awareness and the void. You seem to be in touch with the knowledge. Don’t let it go and don’t stop writing.

      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.



  13. lingeringvisions by Dawn October 30, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    Very touching. Thank you Doug.

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

      Dear Dawn,

      My pleasure, to write, and to read your kind comment.

      Mahalo and Aloha,


  14. Jan Brown October 30, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Beautiful, Doug. Just beautiful.

    Also…congratulations, Grandpa!

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

      Dear Jan,

      Thanks and thanks. I appreciate you stopping in to read.



  15. valeriedavies October 30, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    What a gift to encapsulate the dignity and despair of such unimaginable tragedy in those few lines. I loved the simplicity and quietness of the writing, Doug and the deep unspeakable grief went straight to my heart, as it would to all who care about children.
    And yes, the prose was poetic.
    Warmest congratulations on your impending new title… there’s nothing like being a grand parent, and I can imagine how you will fall deeply in love with the brave new soul.

    • dmmacilroy October 30, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

      Dearest Valerie,

      Thank you for your constant encouragement. Your experience and skill give your words added impetus and mean a great deal to me. There are times when I am writing when a single image can cause me to break into tears. This was one such moment. Though I tried, I will never be able to imagine what such an event, such a time and trial, will do the the heart of a man forced to endure it.

      I wanted to tell my son and his wife that I love them and am pulling for them and to stay strong and hold fast to love. I cannot wait to cradle my grandchild and will no doubt shed some tears then, as well.

      Mahalo for your friendship and faith, Valerie. You are one of the favorite colors on my palette. Thinking of you brightens my day and getting a compliment from you is like watching the sun rise.



  16. etiennehanratty October 31, 2013 at 12:42 am #

    Such a moving piece.

    • dmmacilroy October 31, 2013 at 11:08 am #

      Dear Etienne,

      Thank you very much.



  17. talesfromthemotherland October 31, 2013 at 1:22 am #

    You and Rochelle are psychically linked, me thinks. Deeply moving, and beautifully executed. It has such a ghostly feel to it, sad, but beautiful. Well done, Doug, bravo!

    • talesfromthemotherland October 31, 2013 at 1:24 am #

      PS) your response to Valerie, and her comment to you is so touching. Mazel tov on this big event. Valerie encapsulated all the thoughts I had as I read your piece, too.

      • talesfromthemotherland October 31, 2013 at 1:50 am #

        PSS) Loved your photo prompt! Much more interesting than I might have guessed, on first glance. Well chosen, Sensei.

      • dmmacilroy October 31, 2013 at 11:01 am #

        Dear Dawn,

        Give Valerie’s blog a visit If ever there was a writer worth her salt, it is Valerie. She’ll sweep you away.



      • talesfromthemotherland October 31, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

        Thanks Doug; I’ll do that.

    • dmmacilroy October 31, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      Dear Dawn,

      Rochelle and I are psychiatrically linked. Best I can do.

      I appreciate your compliments and comments.



      • talesfromthemotherland October 31, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

        Lol! And I don’t use those three letters lightly. 😉

      • rochellewisoff November 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

        I’ll even share my Valium if you’d like. 😉

  18. mike olley October 31, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    You’ve captured the numb feeling of aftermath perfectly. Seriously powerful.

    • dmmacilroy October 31, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      Dear Mike,

      Thank you, sir, for sharing your thoughts re Boy’s Day.



  19. Karen Whitelaw October 31, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Hi Doug,
    This one moved me to tears. The way you used the word ‘new’ makes the story even more heartbreaking.

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:38 am #

      Dear Karen,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I know what you mean. i don’t think I could weather that storm.



  20. rochellewisoff October 31, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Dear Doug,
    With great tenderness, you’ve plumbed the depth of human emotion. I feel the author’s tears mingled with the father’s and add to them my own.

    Your writing is inspirational.

    Mazel tov on the upcoming blessed event. Your grandchild is the lucky one. You have a lifetime of stories to tell.



    • dmmacilroy October 31, 2013 at 11:04 am #

      Dear Rochelle,

      Thank you.

      Thank you.

      And thank you.




  21. Lindaura Glamoura October 31, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    A beautiful story and again, you have captured the timeless enchantment of the best Japanese prose.

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:34 am #

      Dear Lindaura,

      Domo arigato! There is a lot to learn from reading their classics. I’ll need another life.



  22. Lisa Yow-Williams October 31, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    What a lovely and moving story. Congratulations to your son and his wife and congratulations to you. Your story makes a wonderful dedication to new life. Thank you for sharing such emotion.

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:33 am #

      Dear Lisa,

      Thanks for the comments and the congratulations. I appreciate you taking the time to read and share your thoughts.



  23. bridgesareforburning October 31, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    Hi Doug,
    Beautifully written tribute to the victims of this tragic event. And thanks for an interesting, colorful and gorgeous photo. Ron

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:23 am #

      Dear Ron,

      You’re welcome for the photo. My pleasure. And for the kind comments. Fuel for my tank.



  24. waitingforaname October 31, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Eloquently sad. Very well done.

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:22 am #

      Dear Lisa,

      Thank you very much.



  25. Linda Vernon October 31, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    “On the flagpole next to my empty and quiet new house overlooking a pond filled with a kaleidoscope of fry, I raise a large gold and blue koinobori and offer it to the wind.” A beautiful line, Doug, our fate is really in the hands of the wind. Our safety is such an illusion. This was a sad and beautiful story

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:19 am #

      Dear Linda,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. You are right about the illusion. It is often a beautiful illusion, but dangerous and uncompromising beneath the beauty.



  26. Helena Hann-Basquiat October 31, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    A beautiful tribute, darling, and a pleasure to read — crisp, concise, but sweet and sentimental as well.

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:13 am #

      Dear Helena,

      Thank you for such a nice comment. My pleasure.



  27. vbholmes October 31, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    A beautiful picture for our prompt, Doug–and a sensitively worded memorial for the tsunami victims. Lovely.

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:05 am #

      Dear VB,

      Thanks for saying so.



  28. hugmamma November 1, 2013 at 6:47 am #

    After the tsunami, I read many stories online and in the newspapers of survivor experiences. Your piece reminded me of the heartache that ran like a thread through all those stories. Tears welled in my eyes as I learned how families were torn apart. And yet the strength of all involved, bears witness to our resiliency…to pick up the pieces and live on.

    Mahalo for sharing… 🙂

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:04 am #

      Dear Hugmamma,

      Thank you for taking the time to write such a nice comment. Terrible times. I cannot imagine having to endure what they did.



  29. elappleby November 1, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    So sad! I love the ‘calm surface I struggle to maintain.’ A heartbreaking story.

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:03 am #

      Dear El,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate you taking the time.


  30. unspywriter November 1, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    Beautiful and poignant, and a wonderful tribute. Well done, and a great picture for wonderful inspiration.

    Here’s mine:

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:01 am #

      Dear Maggie,

      I loved your story this week. Very good use of the prompt. Thanks for reading mine and commenting so nicely.



  31. singleworkingmomswm November 1, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    Very moving post that’s so lovely, yet almost difficult for me to read. As a mother, I’ve always wondered how I’d go on if something happened to my daughter…but people find ways, I know, such as the blue koinobori offered to the wind. Thanks, Doug. Beautiful. And, congrats on becoming a grandpa! XOXO-SWM

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 4:44 am #

      Dear SWM,

      There are events and experiences we hope our children never experience. This would be one of them. We give our children life and then offer them to the wind, along the way trying to give them the strength and spirit of the Koi. The rest is up to the fates.

      Thank for the congrats. Cannot wait to be a grandfather.

      Mahalo and Aloha,


  32. The Bumble Files November 1, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    I enjoyed learning about the tradition of the Koinobori in celebration of Children’s Day, and then to dedicate to the tsunami, a day I certainly will never forget. Your word choices make for vivid and strong imagery. I especially liked, “Here and there amid a sea of debris protruded concrete islands…” You capture so much here. This is a powerful, poetic piece.

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 4:36 am #

      Dear Amy,

      Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment on my story. Whenever I imagine that I might be having a bad day or that I am unfairly burdened in life, I think back to that day and chastise myself. I have been blessed and am only beginning to understand the meaning of the word ‘endurance’.

      Mahalo and Aloha,


  33. sandraconner November 2, 2013 at 3:53 am #

    To say I was deeply touched by the story is an understatement. That very first line, Doug – “… the day I was allowed to return” – made my breath catch and my heart skip a beat, because I knew he was returning to the scene of a tragedy – his own tragedy. From there, you layered one emotion on top of another perfectly.

    The imagery in amazing:
    The description of memories “roiling the calm surface” so exactly mirrors the boiling up of the sea beneath its deceptively calm surface.

    The picture of the koinobori sent me into research mode, because I wasn’t familiar with them, but when I read that they are used because the carp represents strength and courage due to the fact that it swims UP a waterfall, that really did put the capstone on this sad tale. Again, that sea imagery: the determination of this father to move forward – against the current of this tsunami of tragedy.

    You know, of course, that very few writers invest the time and the care to create such layers of imagery that make the theme of the story last in the reader’s mind even longer than it normally would. Congratulations on being one of the few. And congratulations on your move up to Grandfatherhood!

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 4:32 am #

      Dear Sandra,

      Your kind comments leave me speechless. I try to imbue my stories with emotion, imagery and layers to wring every drop of feeling from their hundred word fabric. That you saw this and were moved by it and then took the time to say so is a gift I will never take for granted. Readers like you are the reason I write. Looking/reading does not necessarily lead to ‘seeing’ despite the author’s best intentions. I am grateful to you for telling me that you ‘saw’.

      Mahalo nui loa,



  34. wmqcolby November 2, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    Wonderful tribute, Doug. Lyrical, brief (as life can be), it captured the essence of the event and the people it affected. Great! A-1.

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2013 at 6:42 am #

      Dear Kent,

      Life is often like flash fiction. Pays to learn to ‘see’ it as it passes so quickly. Thank you for your kind comments.



  35. anmol(alias HA) November 2, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    The emotions are so well expressed in your words. Pain has no meaning. It is just pain.
    I loved the little touch in the ending where he lets the koinobori fly in the wind.

    • dmmacilroy November 4, 2013 at 9:37 am #

      Dear HA,

      Thank you, sir. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.



  36. David Stewart November 2, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    your writing has a poetry all its own. I love the way you always weave the mood so completely around the story. By the way, the phrase “a kaleidoscope of fry” is awesome.

    • dmmacilroy November 4, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      Dear David,

      Coming from you, that first comment makes my day and I thank you very much. I try hard to make sure the stories I come up with are worth putting out there. A hundred words? Tough task master. But then, you know that already.



  37. Bumba November 2, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    What an excellent piece.

    • dmmacilroy November 4, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      Dear Bumba,

      Thank you very much for saying so. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.



  38. MythRider November 2, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    Lovely and touching, Doug.
    Blessings to you,

    • dmmacilroy November 4, 2013 at 9:44 am #

      Dear Phyllis,

      Thank you for the blessings and the compliment. Means a lot.



  39. dreaminofobx November 3, 2013 at 2:49 am #

    In just 100 words you brought back all of the emotions that assaulted me back in March of 2011. I was in Japan during that time, and was thrown constantly between overwhelming sorrow at what my Japanese friends were enduring and intense respect for the nation’s commitment to picking up the pieces and moving forward. Your protagonist is at once an object of sympathy and of admiration, and embodies the stoic spirit of the Japanese people. He lovingly honors the past, yet bravely looks to the future. Oh, to have half his strength.

    • dmmacilroy November 4, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      Dear Michelle,

      I will say the only thing I know that you’ll understand….

      Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

      Had I been in Japan I would have gone to the site and volunteered for as long as it took to help put things right. The scars will always remain, but I think the Japanese people have shown the world what humans can be when faced with the ultimate adversity.

      Mahalo and Aloha,


  40. Steve Lakey November 3, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    At times, we are helpless before Nature. This is a sad reminder of the lives taken so tragically.

    • dmmacilroy November 4, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      Dear Steve,

      So true. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.



  41. patrickprinsloo November 3, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Very moving and beautifully done.

    • dmmacilroy November 4, 2013 at 9:50 am #

      Dear Patrick,

      Thank you, sir.



  42. Bastet November 3, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    Such a poingantly sad write with such an economy of words. Your story rings so true that I’m moved to offer condolences for your loss. And renewed happiness for the arrival of your grandchild! Life and death are so terribly close together yet it’s easy to forget that they walk hand in hand. I haven’t read much of your writing to date, I’d say you have a poets soul…this has all the qualities of a prose poem, beautiful imagery.

    • dmmacilroy November 4, 2013 at 9:56 am #

      Dear Bastet,

      To share with me that you think I have a poet’s soul is one of the best compliments I’ve ever been given. Thank you. Life is indeed a miracle and a gift and a challenge. Friends like you make the journey easier to make.



  43. Jeffrey Hollar November 3, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    I never cease to be amazed by how differently so many creative minds view the same photographic inspiration. Your tale was heart-rending and sorrowful in a way I can scarcely imagine being able to convey in so short a space. This is truly masterful work and drew me back in time to a catastrophe of such great proportions as to beggar description of the loss it meant to so many. Outstanding work, good sir!

    • dmmacilroy November 4, 2013 at 9:58 am #

      Dear Jeffrey,

      You’ve got me chopping in tall cotton by gracing my story with a comment. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.



  44. CherryPickens November 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    I’m haunted by this story, particularly the last line: “I raise a large gold and blue koinobori and offer it to the wind.” The wind is like a stream; it does not end.

  45. MissTiffany November 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    Wow. This was powerful and heart-wrenching. I can’t even imagine the horror this man must have gone through, and continues to go through. Well done.

  46. H. Ken Abell November 4, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    This was a very moving story, Doug. The last lines are dripping with sadness.

  47. tedstrutz November 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    I was thinking Hiroshima at first… you fooled me with the tsunami… either way, it is a nice piece. I liked your use of the word ‘fry’. Aloha, my friend.

  48. pattisj November 5, 2013 at 4:21 am #

    Well-done piece, Doug, the dedication at the end drove the reality home.

  49. tonyroberts64 November 5, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    Very poetic. Well done.

  50. Indira November 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Very moving story. I thought it to be true. I could not understand the use of word ‘fry’. Dimwit as I am. was looking for your story but it came late this time hence my late reaction. You write very well.


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