AS WE GROW OLDER • by Robert Dawson

Doll in hand, Sophie dances along the flagstone path into the garden, and pulls herself up onto the lichen-spotted wooden bench. “Are you there?” she calls, and waits for an answer.

She sits, wordless, knees pulled up in front of her, trying not to fidget.  Nothing moves behind the Michaelmas daisies and goldenrod; nothing flickers among the straggling blackberries, or where the low September sun glows ruby through the Virginia creeper gowning the balsam fir tree. She hugs the doll against the late-afternoon chill. At last the waiting grows unbearable. “Are any of you there?” she asks again.

Slow adult steps behind her, her grandfather’s.  “There you are, pumpkin! Been looking for you all over the house! Supper’s almost ready.”

She turns around to face him. “They aren’t here anymore, Grampy.” Her lip trembles.

“Sorry, you’ll have to say that a little more clearly. You know I don’t hear as well as I used to.” He taps his hearing aid. Its once-discreet flesh-colored plastic matches the grubby pink of the doll’s arm.

“Why not?”

“Just because I’m getting older.”

She thinks for a few heartbeats. “Will that happen to me too?”

“Maybe someday, honey. Not for a long, long time. Now come on before your spaghetti gets cold.”  He rumples her hair, turns, and starts back along the path towards the door of the cozy kitchen.

Her feet scuffing at the first fallen leaves, Sophie follows him out of the garden.


Robert Dawson teaches mathematics at Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia. When not doing math or writing, he enjoys fencing, music, hiking and cycling.


If you want to keep EDF around, Patreon is the answer.

Rate this story:
 average 4 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Dustin Adams

    A melancholy story about a girl who is growing up, but isn’t old. She’s on the first step of in-between. I like how quick and poignant this is, and full of literary “shows”.

  • A melancholy story about a girl who is growing up, but isn’t old. She’s on the first step of in-between. I like how quick and poignant this is, and full of literary “shows”.

  • Packing a lot into a few words. Good stuff.

  • Packing a lot into a few words. Good stuff.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    We’ve all been there. Nicely told.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    We’ve all been there. Nicely told.

  • And…?

    What is there is written with beautiful words but I needed something to develop, to happen. More could have been written about what she didnt see, or what she used to see…

    An opportunity lost.

    • Beginning, middle ... and. I agree. Although, a beautiful start to a story, I would liked to have been teased more about the ethereal thingy-do's or -who's. Then follow that up with a punch. If the author doesn't give us enough to build on, we are just imagining the whole story, not just the iddy-bits that make it magic. Otherwise, we could just write poetry.
      • MPmcgurty
        What you said about poetry...exactly.
  • And…?

    What is there is written with beautiful words but I needed something to develop, to happen. More could have been written about what she didnt see, or what she used to see…

    An opportunity lost.

    • Beginning, middle ... and. I agree. Although, a beautiful start to a story, I would liked to have been teased more about the ethereal thingy-do's or -who's. Then follow that up with a punch. If the author doesn't give us enough to build on, we are just imagining the whole story, not just the iddy-bits that make it magic. Otherwise, we could just write poetry.
      • MPmcgurty
        What you said about poetry...exactly.
  • S Conroy

    Enjoyed this story. Wistful and there’s a kind of lyrical quality to it which I can’t articulate better..

  • S Conroy

    Enjoyed this story. Wistful and there’s a kind of lyrical quality to it which I can’t articulate better..

  • Diane Cresswell

    A small snippet of a story that carries a lot of possibilities. I like this because it allows your imagination to fill in the blanks. And mine is taking off with a number of those possibilities. Well written.

  • Diane Cresswell

    A small snippet of a story that carries a lot of possibilities. I like this because it allows your imagination to fill in the blanks. And mine is taking off with a number of those possibilities. Well written.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I felt like a guest at a party, with the host winking at me significantly and me clueless in trying to figure out what he means…

    That particular emphasis in the grandfather’s first utterance made my ears prick up. And then the author says in effect, “lie down again, girl…”

    Fairies or ghosts? The bittersweetness of growing up or the pain of bereftness? Just a teeny hint–am I warmer, or colder? Three stars.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I felt like a guest at a party, with the host winking at me significantly and me clueless in trying to figure out what he means…

    That particular emphasis in the grandfather’s first utterance made my ears prick up. And then the author says in effect, “lie down again, girl…”

    Fairies or ghosts? The bittersweetness of growing up or the pain of bereftness? Just a teeny hint–am I warmer, or colder? Three stars.

  • Samantha

    Robert, they say that mathematics is a language in itself (which I never was able to become proficient…). You gave us a ?…. Too many Xs in the equation to get a result. Maybe because ? is an irrational number so by definition can’t be rationalized.
    I certainly couldn’t… In physics, this would be a AxA vector…all magnitude …but no direction.

  • Samantha

    Robert, they say that mathematics is a language in itself (which I never was able to become proficient…). You gave us a ?…. Too many Xs in the equation to get a result. Maybe because ? is an irrational number so by definition can’t be rationalized.
    I certainly couldn’t… In physics, this would be a AxA vector…all magnitude …but no direction.

  • Genghis Bob

    This is sweet, and nicely written, but a little too much New Yorker for me. I prefer it when something happens.

    • This got a chuckle out of me. The New Yorker, a rich man's Reader's Digest should stick to illustrations
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        Just finished rereading "Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow" ed. Bradbury--and mostly, it was "what was he thinking?" A few exceptional and honestly timeless ones, and a lot of first-in-the-New Yorker "I'm sitting here feeling angsty" by the titans of mid-20th century self-absorption. It's not only bread that doesn't age well...
        • You shouldn't worry. It is none of our faults. The giants spread themselves around so thick (and why not, who was to stop them) though I did enjoy the pulps.
  • Genghis Bob

    This is sweet, and nicely written, but a little too much New Yorker for me. I prefer it when something happens.

    • This got a chuckle out of me. The New Yorker, a rich man's Reader's Digest should stick to illustrations
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        Just finished rereading "Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow" ed. Bradbury--and mostly, it was "what was he thinking?" A few exceptional and honestly timeless ones, and a lot of first-in-the-New Yorker "I'm sitting here feeling angsty" by the titans of mid-20th century self-absorption. It's not only bread that doesn't age well...
        • You shouldn't worry. It is none of our faults. The giants spread themselves around so thick (and why not, who was to stop them) though I did enjoy the pulps.
  • joanna b.

    sorry. the characters didn’t become real enough for me. and i didn’t know what the story was about. i didn’t know what the stakes were for either Sophie or her grandfather. i wanted some sense of the family history, of why exactly it’s the grandfather cooking dinner for Sophie? not that a grandfather shouldn’t cook for a grandchild, but is this a one time thing, a new thing because there were some significant deaths in the family, something else entirely? all those questions come up for me.

    i’d like to see you develop this one further, giving it a plot, clarifying the subtext, and arriving at a stronger outcome. as a writing exercise perhaps, but who knows? you might find some nuggets of gold appearing and a much longer story blossoming where you least expect it. 2 stars.

  • joanna b.

    sorry. the characters didn’t become real enough for me. and i didn’t know what the story was about. i didn’t know what the stakes were for either Sophie or her grandfather. i wanted some sense of the family history, of why exactly it’s the grandfather cooking dinner for Sophie? not that a grandfather shouldn’t cook for a grandchild, but is this a one time thing, a new thing because there were some significant deaths in the family, something else entirely? all those questions come up for me.

    i’d like to see you develop this one further, giving it a plot, clarifying the subtext, and arriving at a stronger outcome. as a writing exercise perhaps, but who knows? you might find some nuggets of gold appearing and a much longer story blossoming where you least expect it. 2 stars.

  • I have to agree with the general evaluations and what the story lacks, although is is pretty. The possibilities of who “They aren’t” is such a waste.

  • I have to agree with the general evaluations and what the story lacks, although is is pretty. The possibilities of who “They aren’t” is such a waste.

  • MPmcgurty

    It’s one thing to leave some negative space for a reader to use his or her imagination, but it’s quite another to expect the reader to make up an entire story from the vague pieces provided. I first thought it would be about faeries or monsters. Grampy’s emphasizing “all” when he first talks to her seemed to be a pay-attention moment, but then it was gone. The talk about aging could take place in any home in the world. So I’m left wondering.

    This felt a bit to me like a writing exercise, with which I have no problem, but it needs a little expansion.

    Going to the comments where I am sure someone is smarter than I.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      "Going to the comments where I am sure someone is smarter than I." No--you said it perfectly.
  • MPmcgurty

    It’s one thing to leave some negative space for a reader to use his or her imagination, but it’s quite another to expect the reader to make up an entire story from the vague pieces provided. I first thought it would be about faeries or monsters. Grampy’s emphasizing “all” when he first talks to her seemed to be a pay-attention moment, but then it was gone. The talk about aging could take place in any home in the world. So I’m left wondering.

    This felt a bit to me like a writing exercise, with which I have no problem, but it needs a little expansion.

    Going to the comments where I am sure someone is smarter than I.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      "Going to the comments where I am sure someone is smarter than I." No--you said it perfectly.
  • Jane Humen

    I really wanted to like this, but I just…couldn’t. I felt like there was very little character development, no real stakes, and no resolution. It was more of a snapshot than anything else, and there is a fine line between letting a reader fill in the blanks and not giving them even the slightest hint of what the story is supposed to be about. 2 stars.

  • Jane Humen

    I really wanted to like this, but I just…couldn’t. I felt like there was very little character development, no real stakes, and no resolution. It was more of a snapshot than anything else, and there is a fine line between letting a reader fill in the blanks and not giving them even the slightest hint of what the story is supposed to be about. 2 stars.

  • Kevin ONeill

    That was lovely. Not too much, just a perfect little flash snippet. The tactile details were right on and very grounding for what could otherwise have been a really ethereal story, just excellent. Good job.

  • Kevin ONeill

    That was lovely. Not too much, just a perfect little flash snippet. The tactile details were right on and very grounding for what could otherwise have been a really ethereal story, just excellent. Good job.

  • Jen

    I’m a sucker for stories about little girls and grampa’s.

  • Jen

    I’m a sucker for stories about little girls and grampa’s.