Collecting Sarah

The prompt for the Manomet Writers’ Group this month was “those who stayed behind.” I started on a story about space travel and abandoned that. There was another about time travel which just didn’t work out. Then there was this one. Everyone collects stuff at one time or another in their lives, and we all have someone we love or are loved by someone. It’s an easy story to related to.

Unfortunately, I could not attend the writers’ group this month so you get this one untested. Enjoy.

I’m meeting Sarah after work. She parks her car in the lot up by the historic Jenny Grist Mill. Why she chooses to park there instead of at the Inn where she works is something of a mystery to me. Maybe she thinks she needs the exercise.

Maybe the exercise is another reason I find her so attractive. So when I first started meeting her, I chose to do a bit of my own walking. I start from the pergola entrance of Brewster Gardens which might seem a bit over the top. I have a lot of catching up to do. Besides, once you get started on something like this it escalates—takes on a life of its own.

I make a point to study the stainless steel sculpture as I enter the gardens. It probably has a plaque explaining some mundane reason why it was erected, but I‘ve never read it. For me, it’s enough that it seems to represent all the tortured souls who died in every horror flick ever made.

Art is about interpretation.

Someday, Sarah and I might just tie the knot. If that eventuality comes to pass, there are a couple of photo ops at Brewster Gardens I would take advantage of. There’s the pergola at the entry of course. And then there’s the wonderful foot bridge spanning the Town Brook. I can’t remember ever walking over it without pausing at its apex to look for herring swimming in the waters below. From mid-April to sometime in May, they’re just dying to reach the pond beyond the Jenny Grist Mill where they go to lay their eggs. The indians taught the pilgrims to scoop the herring from the waterway and use them for fertilizer. Nowadays, the act is illegal.

Making something illegal is our government’s way of telling us to be discreet.

The walk from Brewster Gardens to the Jenny Grist Mill takes place on a paved footpath that passes under the roadways leading south and west from the center of Plymouth. At night it is lit by lamp-posts, yet still offers pedestrians the opportunity to have a contemplative walk—away from motorized traffic.

I like to think of Sarah on these walks. She is a beauty. It’s a shame she wears her long dark hair in a ponytail all the time, but it’s probably a requirement of her job. When I first started meeting Sarah after work, I remember being attracted to her smile. She turned to hear something someone was saying to her as she exited the inn; when she continued out the door, she had a wonderful smile on her face that I can still picture.

The memory makes me light on my feet and I do that little shuffle-step Dorothy did, arm-in-arm with Scarecrow and Tin-man as they declare where it is they’re off to.

Her mere presence brightens my day and makes me happy to be alive. I long to hold her in my arms, look into her eyes or maybe nuzzle her neck and whisper little loving thoughts.

At the mill I stop in the shadows provided by an early sunset and only have to wait a minute or two. Sarah’s timing is impeccable as always and I fall in behind her as we go out to where her car is parked.

As she fobs her lock and opens the car door, I loop a very large zip-tie over her head and cinch it tight around her neck. Her scream comes off as little more than a gurgle and she swoons into my arms. I whisper in her ear how beautiful she is and she flutters her eyelashes.


When she finally relaxes, I take it as a sign she’s comfortable in my loving embrace so I pull her closer to kiss her neck. It amazes me how peaceful she looks cradled in my arms and I brush the hair from her face to enjoy the fullness of her radiant beauty.

The plan for this evening was to cross the upper pond and follow the Town Brook away from the mill. Carrying her like a bride over the threshold, I pause at the center of the footbridge and set her down. The smooth oblong stone, I collected only days earlier, fits snugly under her coat and I zip her back up. She wears the added weight well. I scoop her up once more, give her a peck on the forehead, heave her over the rail opposite last month’s Sarah and drop her into the water below.

Collecting Sarahs has become quite a hobby; once you get started on something like this it escalates—takes on a life of its own. For those who stayed behind there is some regret I could not collect them as well. But I must move on. You can only fit so many Sarahs in one pond.


14 thoughts on “Collecting Sarah

  1. Louise Broadbent

    I didn’t see that coming. Normally I predict endings – especially twists – but I must have been too involved in the story. Beautifully written – flowed so well. Good work.

  2. J. M. Strother

    I have to admit I saw it coming, or something close to it, but only because I’m used to how your devious mind works. As usual, it was very well written, though you could have used a name other than that of one of my daughters’.

    1. donaldconrad Post author

      Sorry about hitting so close to home, Jon. I didn’t really think about the name, it was just there—knowaddamean?

      Rest assured there isn’t any fact built into this fiction; except maybe the shuffle-step thing. I do that every now and then.

    1. donaldconrad Post author

      Heh, the memorial was actually erected for immigrants to the area from 1700-2000. It was put in Brewster Gardens shortly after I moved into Plymouth, but I didn’t read the plaque for years.
      Fiction imitates the reality of this author more often than I usually let on; at least in the details of a story. Worry not, for I have no murderous tendencies of my own. I’m just a lowly writer.

  3. Deanna Schrayer

    Very chilling story Donald, though I too must admit I did see it coming, the clues weren’t (to me) very subtle, but maybe simply moving them around could hide them better? Just a suggestion and I hope I’m not overstepping my bounds here.

    I love the way you circle the ending back to the begnning, and that last line is perfect.

    1. donaldconrad Post author

      Deanna, I’ve never had anyone overstep their bounds on FlashTold regarding what is posted by me. There are no bounds. I would rather brutal honesty over flowery praise because I learn from the former and the latter is a lot like balloon animals which are fun to look at, but ultimately just a lot of air.
      As far as hiding the fact my MC here is psychologically damaged and a blossoming serial killer, well, it wouldn’t work. Not in a thousand words or less. In larger works, there’s time to spread the hints out so you wonder how—as a reader—you missed them. Believability in something like this comes from letting the reader know certain things: such as the MC being a whacko. Flash is much faster and more furious and I expect that some readers may know that something sinister is just around the bend when they come read stuff on FlashTold, but not the newly initiated.
      And no one could have seen the modus operandi—the zip-tie. Could they? (peers behind…)

      1. Deanna Schrayer

        Donald, I love it when I find someone who posts their flash on the same basis as I do – no bounds! For without discussing the work how could we possibly improve it, or even know we need to? The opinions and honest critiques of the #fridayflash crowd has helped to improve my work immensely, (or at least I feel it’s improving), and I appreciate all of you very much!

        You’re right of course, it’s nearly impossible to hide clues in such a short piece, and especially when the MC is a whacko – you have to show that somewhere. And yes, the zip-tie was a complete surprise, even given your title, so it could be said that in itself, (the title), is the foreshadowing here, which is excellently done!

        I’ve been fascinated by, and working on, that particular skill since reading Shutter Island, the absolute best example of foreshadowing I’ve ever read. Larry Brooks of StoryFix did a deconstruction of Shutter Island last year. Have you read Shutter Island? Larry’s series taught me so much – here’s the link in case anyone is interested: Be sure to read the book and Then watch the movie before reading Larry’s series.

        Thanks for allowing me the liberty of that shout-out Donald, and for a great read! 😉

  4. laradunning

    I’ve been watching alot of Dexter’s lately so this piece fit right in with my current mood. I like how you suspended the end, not letting the reader now what was really going on until it happened. It created a nice ‘awh’ moment.

    1. donaldconrad Post author

      Thanks for the comments, Lara.

      I like the character (who is) Dexter. That show rocks. The first season is the whole first novel. Did you know Michael Hall played the gay brother on “Six Feet Under?” The guy’s a chameleon—a great actor.


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