Shank’s Mare to Summer

7 Jan

100 words for Friday Fictioneers based on the photo prompt below (courtesy of a brilliant stained glass artist named Jean L. Hays). Every road, just like most stories, has a beginning, a middle and an end. Most of us know where ours began, many have seen the middle and a very few know where theirs will end. No matter where yours takes you, remember to enjoy the journey. Aloha, D.


Begin the Route

(Copyright Jean L. Hays)

Headed southwest through bitter cold and spindrift snow towards a distant home, he found a battered sheet of drywall near an overpass and dragged it up to where the span met sloped berm, hoping to use it as a windbreak or makeshift mattress.

On the concrete abutment above the ashes of an old campfire someone had written in charcoal, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

He stared at the words for a long time, thinking of her, then shivered and returned to the highway to search the windblown verge for something to wrap himself in besides Tolkien and memories.



Down on your luck

End of the Trail

88 Responses to “Shank’s Mare to Summer”

  1. rochellewisoff January 7, 2015 at 10:46 am #

    Dear Doug,

    Your descriptions are so vivid they’ve left me shivering. Your last line, “something to wrap…besides Tolkien and memories” took my breath away. As always, multi-layered. I hope he one day finds her again.

    Is it any wonder yours are the stories I anxiously wait for every week?



    • dmmacilroy January 7, 2015 at 10:48 am #

      Dear Rochelle,

      He will.

      Mahalo and Aloha,


  2. Claire Fuller January 7, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    Wow, this is so visceral. You’ve dropped us right in that very spot, and I feel like I know exactly what it is like to be there, but then you’ve done an even cleverer thing and left us with so many questions. Just lovely.

    • dmmacilroy January 7, 2015 at 11:44 am #

      Dear Claire,

      Thank you for taking the time to immerse yourself in Shank’s Mare to Summer and for sharing your thoughts. I think about you reading my work when I’m writing. It is nice to know that my muse enjoyed the journey.



  3. Suzanne Joshi January 7, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    Once again, a good story Doug; one worth waiting for. As Rochelle said, your descriptions are so vivid they pull us right into the story. I could almost feel the sting of blown snow on my face and feel my fingers growing stiff. It’s brutal to be out in weather like that. You took one of my, probably nearly everyone’s, favorite quotes from Tolkien to bring meaning to the story. It’s good to know he’ll finally find his lost love. Well done as always. 🙂 — Suzanne

    • Björn Rudberg (brudberg) January 7, 2015 at 11:48 am #

      What a great story. and of course I went in search of that poem by Tolkien.. what a treat to read.. though sometimes you are lost in your wandering… I hope he can find his bearings.

      • dmmacilroy January 7, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

        Dear Bjorn,

        Thank you, sir, for reading and commenting. I envy you reading Tolkien in any fashion for the first time.



      • Björn Rudberg (brudberg) January 7, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

        I have read it many many times.. yet I didn’t catch the quote immediately and had to reread the poem.. 🙂

    • dmmacilroy January 7, 2015 at 11:49 am #

      Dear Suzanne,

      Tolkien had a gift I can only stand back and glory at. I thank you for reading and taking the time to let me know that Shank’s Mare to Summer struck a nerve with you. Perhaps the ice storm on Mauna Kea this past week influenced my story this week.

      Mahalo and Aloha,


  4. rogershipp January 7, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    So vivid. The winds blew right through me!

    • dmmacilroy January 8, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

      Dear Roger,

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  5. AnElephantCant January 7, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    Bleak spot, bleak tale, excellent writing.

    • dmmacilroy January 8, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

      Dear AEC,

      Thanks, thanks and more thanks.



  6. Allan G. Smorra January 7, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    You have conjured up some great images with this post. I didn’t care who she was, or where he was—I was totally invested in his search for warmth. Great job.

    • dmmacilroy January 8, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

      Dear Allan,

      I’m glad to hear you got caught up in the story. I appreciate that feedback.



  7. sustainabilitea January 7, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    Top o’ the morning to you, Doug, and what a joy to come back and fall into your vivid story. It chilled me in many ways…although it might just be the zero temperature and -22 below windchill this morning. 🙂 You packed so much into your hundred words (as usual.)

    Keep warm, my friend.


    • dmmacilroy January 8, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

      Dear Janet,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts on my tale. It sounds as though your neck of the woods is in the grip of winter. I can drive down out of my winter’s cold but you can’t (unless you drive a long way). You stay warm, too, okay? Cuddle up to the new love in your wonderful story.



  8. Sandra January 7, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

    You would love to cruise through the centre of Toulouse for inspiration about finding shelter beneath the overpass and to see that ‘the old that is strong does not wither’. Beautifully drawn, a portrait of a wandering soul.

    • dmmacilroy January 8, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

      Dear Sandra,

      With you as my guide, I would look forward to a tour of Toulouse’s underbelly. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  9. Helena Hann-Basquiat January 7, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

    Doug, you’ve created a mysterious character here, with your nameless “her” and his knowledge of Tolkien — creating so much with so little. Another fine read.

    • dmmacilroy January 8, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

      Dear Helena,

      Too long has it been since your kind words graced my comment section. Thanks for reading and for sharing.



  10. penshift January 7, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

    Damn, I was won over by Tolkien again. It was rather poignant as a piece though. 🙂

    • dmmacilroy January 8, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

      Dear Penshift,

      Thank you, sir.



  11. patrickprinsloo January 7, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    Great poetry here. And some rather esoteric vocabulary. Interesting landscape, maybe reflecting his situation.

    • dmmacilroy January 8, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

      Dear Patrick,

      Thanks for the comments/compliments. Keen eye. Perceptive mind.



  12. emmylgant January 7, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

    So much sketched in so few words… makes me wonder and let’s my imagination fill in the blanks while I wait on the writer to lead me where he wants to go. Nice.

    • dmmacilroy January 8, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

      Dear Emmy,

      A kind comment. Thank you. I appreciate the feedback.



  13. elmowrites January 7, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

    Your writing is a lesson in packing story into brevity, and also in stepping away from the picture prompt without losing it completely. Good stuff, Doug, I feel like maybe this wanderer will find his destiny soon.

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 10:44 am #

      Dear Jennifer,

      Thanks for pointing out the lesson. Knowing that you will be reading (I always tell myself that you will be) keeps me focused on getting the most out of the hundred words. You are a tough task-master.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  14. storydivamg January 7, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    Aloha, my friend, and happy New Year!

    Your story this week is poignant and deftly crafted. As I sit here in my spacious apartment, curled up around a cup of hot tea, I am reminded of the days when life was less secure and such luxuries harder to find. May we never forget those less fortunate and always keep the welcome mat out for those needing shelter from the bitter winds of fate.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 10:46 am #

      Dear Marie,

      Nothing like a warm home and hot tea to keep us oblivious of the contrasts in life. Your sentiments are honest, heartfelt and true. Thanks for sharing them.



  15. Sandra Conner January 7, 2015 at 6:15 pm #

    Wow! I’m sorry, but all I can say is that I wish I could take a mere 100 words and create such graphic descriptions, tell so much real story, yet conjure up so many questions that the imagination is left panting for more. Darn it, you set the bar so high one must use a trampoline to jump high enough to reach it!

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 10:49 am #

      Dear Sandra,

      Your comments were written whilst you were on a trampoline, I’m thinking. Thank you for being so effusive with your praise. I’ll keep trying to jump high. What I realized later was that my story was three paragraphs and three sentences long. I’ve never done that before. Feels nice.



  16. Priceless Joy January 7, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    Alone in the bitter winds of the cold and shivering.. makes me want to pluck him right out of the story and set him in front of a nice warm fireplace (which I don’t have but can dream of it. 🙂 ) Nice story! “Not all the wanders are lost.” Love it!

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 10:51 am #

      Dear PJ,

      There was snow and ice on the ground outside as I wrote this story. perhaps I was influenced somewhat by that. Thank you for reading and commenting.



  17. wolfsrosebud January 7, 2015 at 8:57 pm #

    this was intriguing

  18. misskzebra January 7, 2015 at 9:09 pm #


    This is, as everyone else has pointed out, a brilliant story. Almost cruelly vivid, but the fact he still has hope makes the story much less depressing than it could be.

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 10:54 am #

      Dear Misskzebra,

      I believe you’re right. Without his hope, my protagonist would long ago have been covered by the snow…

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  19. David Stewart January 7, 2015 at 9:26 pm #

    You’ve infused your story with a touch of fantasy, Doug. Now I’m overlapping this man in my mind with Aragorn wandering in the wilderness, looking for shelter, thinking of Arwen. There is a lot in this under the surface. Wonderful story.

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 10:56 am #

      Dear David,

      Nice to reach out and make contact with someone who obviously love TLOTR. Thanks for reading and mentioning me in the same paragraph with Aragorn and Arwen.



      • David Stewart January 10, 2015 at 7:01 am #

        I’m a huge fan of all things Tolkien, so it’s always nice to meet another fan. 🙂

  20. aliciajamtaas January 7, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    A nice collection of words that build a stellar story. Thanks.

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 10:57 am #

      Dear Alicia,

      I appreciate you stopping by to look at my collection.



  21. lingeringvisions by Dawn January 8, 2015 at 3:21 am #

    A beautiful love story. I felt a tear start to well up. Good thing this is only 100 words, mighta messed up my makeup 😉

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:00 am #

      Dear Dawn,

      Interesting that you called this a love story… It is actually about two love stories, one ending and one beginning, but I left it open ended and open to interpretation. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.



  22. Margaret January 8, 2015 at 3:28 am #

    Wonderfully told. Lyrical and engaging. He seems emptied of everything – how sad.

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:00 am #

      Dear Margaret,

      Thanks for dropping by to read and comment.



  23. Indira January 8, 2015 at 9:36 am #

    Loved this story. What a beautiful thing to say “Not all those who wander are lost.”

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:01 am #

      Dear Indira,

      That’s the Tolkien quote. Wish I could take credit for it. Thanks for reading and commenting.



      • Indira January 10, 2015 at 9:00 am #

        Thanks, I searched and read that poem.

  24. draliman January 8, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    Great descriptions and I loved the last line. I’m wondering if the “distant home” is somewhere specific, or just somewhere he hopes to find (if he makes it to warmer climes).

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:03 am #

      Dear Draliman,

      He knows exactly where he’s headed and how far it is or I don’t think he’d have the strength to survive until summer. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  25. rgayer55 January 8, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    Beautifully written, my friend. Last September, Connie and I were standing near that bridge in Santa Monica. It broke our hearts to see the number of homeless folks in that area. I wonder how many of them wrap up each night in lines of poetry and memories of love lost?

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:05 am #

      Dear Russell,

      What a poignant thought from you. You run deep, you know what I mean? I think that somewhere, deep down, we all want to wrap up in poetry and memories. it’s what makes us human.

      Thanks for your kind comments. My best to you and Connie this start of a new year.



  26. Oh Danny Boy January 8, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

    It’s always a pleasure to read your stories.


    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:15 am #

      Dear DJ,

      That’s is a nice thing to say and nicer to hear. I appreciate it very much.



  27. talesfromthemotherland January 8, 2015 at 11:47 pm #

    Doug, this one is exquisite. Truly. The descriptive action that you open with sent chills down me; I could feel the cold and isolation. “Not all who wander are lost,” a line that I’ve always loved, makes this piece that much stronger, without any hint of cliché. The final line, “to search the windblown verge for something to wrap himself in besides Tolkien and memories–” is stunning. This is one of my favorites. That changes, of course, but this one I’ll remember for some time. Wonderful!

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:18 am #

      Dear Dawn,

      Your comments are always uplifting and genuine and I appreciate every word. Thank you from that deep place within my heart where the writer dwells.



  28. Amy Reese January 9, 2015 at 2:04 am #

    I love the accompanying photos, Doug. Ah, what a difference, and such a long road it is. I enjoyed your journey and the quote. Wandering is sometimes good for the soul. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have Tolkien’s stories. I had to look up “berm.” Thanks for the new word.

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:20 am #

      Dear Amy,

      You’re welcome for the word. May it support and protect you in your journey. Thank you for the kind comments and encouragement.



  29. Sarah "SacaKat" Fairbairn January 9, 2015 at 2:48 am #

    I loved it. you’ve drawn me in and now I want more 🙂

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:21 am #

      Dear Sarah,

      I’ll try to deliver. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  30. pattisj January 9, 2015 at 3:39 am #

    There are so many treasures tucked into everything you write. I, too, was caught up in the moment. Must be our recent cold snap!

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:22 am #

      Dear Pattisj,

      Thanks for saying so. I’ll try to keep the treasure chest full for your pleasure. Stay warm.



  31. Ellespeth January 9, 2015 at 7:49 am #

    Hi Doug ~
    Who is the wanderer in this tale? Something to reflect. Hopefully he’ll find another warm layer to add to the ones he has.

    I certainly hope she’s not living in Santa Monica – he doesn’t seem the type who’d like it there. I wonder if she does?

    Yep – both our pieces are headed to summer and winter’s just begun.

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:24 am #

      Dear Ellespeth,

      Mysteries abound. I know who he is and where she is. (it’s not Santa Monica.) Lovely writing with you.



    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:26 am #

      Dear Ellespeth,

      I know who he is and where she is. (It’s not Santa Monica.) Pleasure writing with you.



  32. siobhanmcnamara January 9, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    So evocative – both bleak and beautiful at the same time. I felt the bite of the cold and can only hope his search for warmth is fruitful. Somehow I think it will be …
    Great story Doug, one that will linger.

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:28 am #

      Dear Siobhan,

      Bleak and beautiful..One of the nicest comments I’ve gotten. Thanks for conjuring it up. I like your positive attitude where the quest of my protagonist is concerned. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  33. Alice Audrey January 9, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    On a cold day like today, this is entirely too realistic.

  34. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist January 9, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    Loved it from the title to the fabulous last line/paragraph. You certainly evoked the physical and metaphorical winter well. I did stumble over two words. One, berm, I had to look up. It isn’t a word in common usage here but it added to the mystery of the man – an educated tramp. The other word span I still don’t quite get. It could just be me being thick but I kept wanting to know what it was a span of. Perhaps another expression local to your world region. Those apart though I was wrapped in the story, was left wanting more and hoping his walk to summer was both metaphorically and physically fruitful.

    • dmmacilroy January 9, 2015 at 11:59 pm #

      Dear Irene,

      The span referred to is the span of the bridge that necessarily forms the major structural form of the ‘overpass’ he finds the drywall near. It is a bridge crossing the highway upon which he is walking and the span is what he intends to shelter under provided he can find something to wrap himself in that will give him the warmth required to survive that night.

      Thank you for such a detailed and complimentary comment and for allowing yourself to be drawn in to my story.



      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist January 10, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

        Thanks for clarification. I had assumed it was a bridge. I’m still in awe at everything you managed to convey in three sentences/paragraphs. 🙂

  35. johnmarkmiller January 9, 2015 at 11:11 pm #

    Really loved the wisdom found in those words scrawled on the wall…great job!

    • dmmacilroy January 10, 2015 at 12:00 am #

      Dear John,

      Thank you, sir. Tolkien was a man of much wisdom. I’m glad you stopped by to read and comment.



  36. joseph elon lillie January 10, 2015 at 3:07 am #

    I love the line “where span met sloped berm.”

    • dmmacilroy January 14, 2015 at 4:30 am #

      Dear Joseph,

      Thanks for saying so. It is unconventional but flows well. I appreciate you reading and commenting.



  37. Dee January 10, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    Dear Doug

    I think you surpassed yourself this time. I love the idea of someone wrapping themselves in memories and the Tolkien quote is perfect for the circumstances.


    • dmmacilroy January 14, 2015 at 4:33 am #

      Dear Dee,

      Sometimes memories are all that you have. Thank you for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts.



  38. Snow's Fissures and Fractures January 12, 2015 at 5:55 am #

    What a poignant story with so many layers. It reminded me of my favorite Tolkien quote: “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

    • dmmacilroy January 14, 2015 at 4:35 am #

      Dear Lore,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts about my story. I’m at a point in my life where the quote you included is very pertinent. I appreciate it.



      • Snow's Fissures and Fractures January 14, 2015 at 8:41 am #

        I think that quote should be pertinent in any point of our lives. But recognizing the need for that is the first step.

  39. wildbilbo January 12, 2015 at 5:57 am #

    Great descriptions, and I’ll chime in with everyone else – that last line is a killer. Nicely written.

    • dmmacilroy January 14, 2015 at 4:36 am #

      Dear KT,

      Thank you, sir. I appreciate the input. See you tonight.



  40. Nan Falkner January 12, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

    Dear Doug, I am so out of your writing ability – you are truly talented and I’m glad I get to read you each week. Have a good year! Nan 🙂

    • dmmacilroy January 14, 2015 at 4:38 am #

      Dear Nan,

      And you are sweet to be so kind to me. You are no different than I, Nan. Write down what your heart says. You’ll be amazed how eloquent it can be.

      Happy New Year to you, too.



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