This short story, “The Fence,” was submitted by a young writer who requested feedback. I will not be correcting grammar and spelling, just the telling of the story. My comments are in coloured text. – Laura
- great title
Some days are grey. It might be the rain, or the fog, or maybe it’s the clouds. It doesn’t really matter, though, because the day is gloomy. It’s days like this that are perfect for remembering and pulling out old pictures and flipping through that old diary from middle school.
Nice transition - It’s days like this that I remember that old wooden fence. The first time I saw it, it was a shining white, brighter than the clouds in the summertime. – “old” fence shining bright? does not work in my imagination - Last time I saw it, just a few years ago, all the posts were crooked and the boards were rotted and grey, even though the grass was just as tall, the sky just as wide, and the lake just as inviting. – the meaning and purpose of this sentence is not clear
I used to sit up on that fence for hours with my best friend, Becky. We’d sit and talk about anything and everything, each afternoon for the whole summer. The rolling hills would stretch on for miles, the golden sunsets would glow in the summer sky, and the forest would loom on the other side. - the imagery is a discordant mix of positive and negative – is this intentional?
The grownups always used to tell us that the fence wasn’t built to keep strangers out, but to keep us kids in. - tell us more about their warnings to foreshadow what’s to come, specific warnings – There was something about the way they used to warn us to stay inside. It was as if the world outside of that fence was taboo, a bit like kissing a boy. It just wasn’t something that Becky or I would ever be allowed to do.
But, when I was fourteen, I kissed a boy for the first time. That’s when everything changed; I learned that the adults didn’t have the answers to all the questions anymore. When I went to my grandparents’ that summer and saw Becky, I knew she had learned, too. It was late that summer – I think it was in August – that Becky said we should jump the fence. She wanted to see the forest. - go deeper, tell us more
We almost did it. I don’t remember what stopped us, but we just sat on that fence instead, talking about friends and family and boys and kisses.
The next summer, we sat on that fence and talked about heartbreak. It was August again when Becky told me she wanted to go over to the other side of the fence. Not like the year before, when we had chickened out, but for real.
So, we did.
I wish I could remember exactly what was different about that side of the fence. It didn’t feel as safe or as warm as our side did, but there was something else about it, something almost sinister. It was the chill in the dry summer air, and the way the sun didn’t quite shine through the thick, leafy treetops. But it didn’t matter; we were over, and we were going into the forest, and we’d be back before supper.
And that was the night that Becky died. - cut this sentence and just go to the next paragraph
I remember her screaming, and I remember that man. I don’t remember what happened, or how it happened - hard to believe she does not know – , but I ran like hell to get out of that forest. I always thought it would be Becky’s scream that would live with me, but it wasn’t. It was the sudden silence that choked off her voice as I sprinted back to the fence; that’s what has always haunted me.
For the first time, that fence wasn’t safe, it wasn’t warm. It was just an obstacle. I climbed over as fast as I could, and didn’t stop until I was inside my grandparents’ house, collapsed on the living room floor. I didn’t even cry until someone asked what happened.
They never found Becky’s body, but they found the blood. Too much blood. The police told us that she couldn’t have survived, but they never could tell us what had happened. I don’t remember the funeral, - that is hard to believe unless character is under age 6 - but I remember lots of lonely summers and sleepless nights. I didn’t see my grandparents for years - why? was it their fault?- . Even ten years after that night, I couldn’t bear it; any reminder of Becky was enough to give me nightmares for weeks.
I did finally pull myself together, but only after I was married and gave birth to my first child, fifteen years later. It was nearly thirty years before I actually went back to my grandparents’ farm and saw that old fence falling apart.
All I could do was smile, because all the best things in my life these days are grey. The rotting fence, the stormy days for remembering, the monochrome pictures of Becky and me, and that little granite monument that stands as a proud tribute to Becky and the fourteen summers we spent together on that fence.
More Feedback: I like this story idea and the execution is fair. I think there are parts, such as the day Becky was murdered that could be described more, reflected upon more deeply, to give the story a higher degree of believability. The telling of such a horrific episode in a teen’s life could have more depth and less emotional distance.
Thank you so much for the feedback! This is such a wonderful opportunity and the comments are immensely helpful!