GONE • by Christopher P. Garlington

Once there was a storyteller who came every day like the ice cream man. He pedaled a little cart with tinkling bells and kids would come leaping out of their houses and crowd around and he would tell them stories.

Only as he told his tales, some of the children would disappear. By disappear, I mean they ceased to have been.

But inside the storyteller’s head, these children crowded every roost. Their chatter and wailing drove the guy crazy and one day he pedaled the jangling cart over the edge of a parking garage and impaled himself on a fence post. His head cracked open and children poured out like mice from a barn on fire.

Soon a whole school’s worth of boys and girls stood around rubbing their eyes and cracking their knuckles and farting and staring at the buildings and cars. Nobody knew who they were.

They didn’t know who they were either. Sent to orphanages and foster homes, they grew up, got educations, jobs, married, gave birth, got old. They ended up fat, happy, and indistinct.

But eventually, one by one, while taking a walk after supper, while having a drink at a bar, while making love one last creaking time, they winked out of existence. Suddenly they never were. Their companions dropped their spectral hands without a thought, their memory fading like a frost, their lover roiling alone in her sheets, the guy at the bar asking “Did I order two?”

Christopher P. Garlington is a writer living in Chicago.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Two absurdist/surrealist stories in a row here at EDF, eh? Interesting. Unfortunately this one can’t compare to the last. The short declarative sentences are too jarring and I can’t seem to grasp any imagery from this one. It doesn’t really seem to have a very well developed story arc–no definition to it from beginning to end. Can’t say that I like it myself but that just might be personal taste. We’ll see what others have to say.

  • Gerard Demayne

    TWO too many in my opinion. I think I’d actually have liked THIS one more if it hadn’t come hot on the heels of yesterday’s pre-school nonsense.

    I’d have preferred it if the disappeared/reappeared children had grown up and instead of eventually disappearing again, they’d gone out and become storytellers in turn. I am hidebound by genre convention though.

  • Gerard Demayne

    An Abbreviated Diary:


    Woke up and got out of bed. I headed straight to my kitchen for a cup of coffee but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get the lid off the coffee jar. I twisted it and twisted it but the jar just skirled noisy circles on the marble counter top. Went back to bed.

    Day Two.

    Woke up and got out of bed. I was gasping for a cup of coffee so I went straight to my kitchen. The coffee jar was where I’d left it. Nothing I tried would get the lid off. Went back to bed.

    Day Three.

    Woke up and got out of bed. Hopped to the kitchen and glared at the coffee jar for a while. Went back to bed.

    Day Four.

    Stayed in bed.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    To me, and I mean no disrespect, the best thing about this story is the final paragraph. It has a poetry and wistfulness that is missing in the main story. …the guy at the bar asking “Did I order two?”, is pure magic. I was left asking how we got to that great paragraph from the preceding ones. Shame about the rest. Sorry.


  • This story began well. I think a longer version with more fable like images would work beter. Just my tuppence. I liked the narrative tone. The ending works beautifully.

  • I love this story. This is one of my favorite EDF stories, in fact. The ideas are brilliant – stories being devoured by children like ice cream (because they do devour them that eagerly if the stories are good and if the children are too young to be jaded), the children ending up “fat, happy and indistinct” when they become adults (so many do). The last line echoes – “Did I order two?” Wonderful piece.

  • Bob

    I liked this one, and I’m not sure why. Like Shelle, I really liked “fat, happy and indistinct” – a nicely turned phrase, that.

    I’m still puzzling over the role of the Story Vendor, why these children disappeared into his head, and why the disappeared again. But the fact that I’m still puzzling means the story got into MY head, which is a good thing.

    I’m humble enough to know I won’t always “get it”, and smart enough to know I don’t need to get ALL of it, in order to appreciate the writing. Well done.

    (However, the intrusion of the narrator in the second paragraph was uncalled-for, and should never happen again).

  • I just don’t get it. This one makes little or no sense to me. (And I agree that the second paragraph is a problem, the second sentence there should GO AWAY!)

  • Jen

    I quite liked it actually. I enjoyed the imagery of the children going in and than out of the man’s head.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    The underlying emotion to this well written fable is hatred and resentment.
    Thats what people do – they tell and listen to stories. But this pied piper, annoyed by the children, led them like mice. I only wish those deprived children had stories like those from Everyday Fiction which helped them remember who they were, not forget. I guess the guy at the bar remembered because he didn’t order a round, only justly his.

  • Paul Freeman

    A Pied Piper ice cream man appeared in an episode of ‘Charmed’, I do believe – far more entertaining!

  • I really liked the poignancy of this story’s ending, but I wish I could have understood the whys and hows just a little more. I like a good fable, but I didn’t really get why the children had to disappear in the end. Just because they had been reduced to only a memory before? But then why would they no longer cease to be even a memory?

    The last imagery was great, though. Really made the story.

  • Alex

    Let me reapeat myself, What?

    Todays’ was bettter though, if not by much, gave it 3 stars for the effort

  • I liked this, the tone was good and the ending. I liked a whole school’s worth of children, and other lines that other people have pointed out. I don’t normally like this kind of thing – too whimsical – but this won me over.

  • Hi Christopher,

    This is an excellent surreal narrative that leaves you wndering – what? – why?. I think the current sub 3 star rating undervalues the obvious thought, effort and craftmanship of this piece.



  • There was something about this story that spoke to me, but I was left more puzzled than anything else. I interpreted it almost as the children were characters who were formed/written, lived in the pages of a book/story, and then when the story was over/the book was finished, they disappeared.

    That may be way out there and not at all what the author meant. Just my opinion.

  • I thought it explored the boundaries of existence – where do we come from? who are we? what happens to us when we get to the end of the story? do we go into another story? do we leave nothing behind but confusion?

    It made me think.

  • J

    Simply perfect. Five stars.

  • Staci

    I agree with Gerard (#2 above)…..I really liked this story but the ending didn’t satisfy the interest that the beginning created; I think having the children grow up to become storytellers themselves would’ve been perfect. I also agree with Rumjhum (#5 above) that a longer version with more fable imagery would’ve made this an even better story. Overall, though, this is a great story!

  • Thank you Staci, J, Oonah, Alan and everyone else who read this story and commented. It’s really great to get immediate feedback on a story and even more to know that it was read. By anyone. You don’t get that in print pubs. Thanks, everyone!

  • Stan Sloane

    There’s enough to appreciate here.
    “Narrator intrusion” (#7 & #8) is a common problem. Best to keep it ALL (Holden, or Sal Paradise, saying all of the “I”) or NONE. As for #1, were Hemingway’s “short declarative sentences … too jarring” ?

  • Liked the premise and loved the last line.


  • Angela

    I agree with Oonah. I think the story asked the big questions and had a deeper meaning. Thanks C!

  • Brenner

    What was said above: Ditch that narrator intrusion
    and you’ve got a terrific small piece here.

    Also concurrence on the last line: Perfect, really.


  • Gerard Demayne

    Madeline Mora-Summonte Says:
    “I interpreted it almost as the children were characters who were formed/written, lived in the pages of a book/story, and then when the story was over/the book was finished, they disappeared.”

    I like that analogy. It gives me a context to hold onto. To be honest, I was probably too harsh in my original comments. Still would have preferred my proposed ending though.

  • Gerard Demayne

    “Suddenly they never were. Their companions dropped their spectral hands without a thought, their memory fading like a frost, their lover roiling alone in her sheets, the guy at the bar asking “Did I order two?””

    That’s a good closing paragraph, just not to the story that was told up to that point.

    Let it go, G, let it go….

  • @ Stan (#21) Yes, they were. I absolutely detest Hemingway. I think he may be one of the most overrated writers in history.

  • Written By Tim

    Every bit as enjoyable as the first bite of buttered pancakes.

    “fading like a frost”

    “mice from a barn on fire”

    “Did I order two?”

    Wonderfully rich to the last punctuation mark.

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