PASTORALE No. 2: THE MILL • by Gerald Warfield

Through a window of the mill Kayla saw a figure approaching on the path by the river. Dried blood caked one side of his face and streaked his homespun shirt. Looking down, he stepped hesitantly as if unsure of his balance. When he reached the sluice gate that diverted a swift channel to the mill he grabbed hold of one of the upright posts to steady himself.

Kayla backed into the shadows of the room. She had failed to stop him. Defiantly, she yanked on the bow beneath her chin, loosening her white, starched cap and tossing it onto the wooden table.

Around her the room vibrated to the great wheel that turned beyond the wall. Inside, only the axle moved, but the millstone did not. The knobby gear wheel that drove the connecting shaft had been disengaged, pulled back by a wooden lever on the side. Several sacks of millet and barley corn rested against the wall waiting their turn beneath the stone.

When the figure reached the porch Kayla heard the squeak of boards yielding to his weight even above the low rumble of the wheel. He passed the window without looking in and lifted the bar latch. The door squeaked as he pushed it open.

“Hello, Able,” she said.

The man, stocky and strong, jerked his head up when he saw her, his eyes wide.

“I can’t say I’m glad to see you.” She folded her arms.

He steadied himself, one hand on the wall, and took a deep breath. “Is that any way to greet your brother?”

“Adopted brother,” Kayla said.

“I guess there’s no point in trying to make you see reason, now,” he said.

“This mill has been in my family for more than a hundred years,” she said.

He looked about the room as if seeing it for the first time. Powder from years of grinding chalked every crack between the weathered boards. Scoops, shovels and brushes covered one wall. The millstones, worn from long use, still bore dust from the last grinding. “Stephens will be here this evening for his barley flour,” he said, absently.

“How could you do this to me?”

“Kayla, from the day Father adopted me and brought me here I sensed your obsession with me, and at first I was grateful, it made me feel — wanted.”

“Evidently, father wanted you more than he wanted me.”

Able wiped some of the blood from his eyebrow and then his hand on his trousers. “Father told you himself, he thought that running a mill was a man’s job.”

“Why? I run it as well as you do.”

Able nodded. “You do, but we both expected you to marry, to move to another household before he died. Even after he died, I would have provided you a dowry.”

“I could never leave the mill. Besides, without it who would take notice of me?

“You are fiercely loyal and a hard worker. Any man would be proud to have you.”

“But not you?” And then in a shrill voice she asked the question she had never spoken aloud. “Why wouldn’t you marry me?”

The wheel stopped.

The mill shuddered and the axle groaned. Silence fell as if the mill held its breath in the wake of Kayla’s question. Tears of anger and frustration came to her eyes.

Able looked past her at the stilled axle. “We have to block the sluice before the wheel loses a fin.”

Kayla turned and looked out the window toward the sluice gate.

“I’ll do it.”

He went back through the open door, and Kayla followed. They walked along the path, weeds high on either side, sunlight glittering from the surface of the river.

At the sluice, Able untied the rope that lowered the gate but had to reach up and shake the wide plank before it slid down in the grooves and blocked the water. Immediately, the level in the mill race began to drop. Rivulets from around the edge of the sluice seeped through but the trickle could not keep up with the flow toward the wheel.

“I saw you putting the stones in your apron.” He smiled grimly. The blood on his face belied the pity in his eyes.

“Able, it’s not too late.”

He looked at her in astonishment. “No, it is too late,” he said with sudden resolution and started back down the path. “Come, I think I know what’s clogged the wheel.”

“You must forgive me. It was the shock of hearing that you would marry Catherine.”

They reached the point where the mill race dipped to the bottom of the wheel. There, wedged in the undershot, lay a pale, white body, her grey, homespun dress obscenely washed around her arms and head.

“Do you know what that is?” he said, turning to Kayla.

Her eyes were wide. “I couldn’t live without you, without the mill,” she gasped.

“When I came to, I saw you. I crawled to the bank, but I couldn’t stand, much less swim. If you’d have only looked back you’d have seen me.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered. I couldn’t have struck you again. You don’t know how hard it was — the first time.”

“There is some justice in that you drowned yourself with your own murder weapon. Now I need to go down and pull your body out, and it will be over.” He sat, hung his legs over the edge, and then lowered himself into the narrow channel, his feet splashing in the shallow water.

“We could have had a good life here on the river,” she said with a plaintive cry, “just the two of us.”

“But Kayla, you should be pleased.” He looked up at her, the oak trees along the bank visible through her shadowy body. “This way we both get what we want. I’ll marry Catherine and sell the mill; we’ll go to London and set up a shop. But you — now you can stay here as long as you like.”


Gerald Warfield’s short story, “The Poly Islands,” won second prize in the first quarter of the 2011 Writers of the Future contest. The same year, his humorous story “The Origin of Third Person in Paleolithic Epic Poetry” took first place in the nationally syndicated Grammar Girl short story contest. “Spores of the Volcano” appeared in NewMyths and the Campbellian 2014 Anthology. “Return of the Mayflower” is scheduled to appear in Perihelion. Several of his flash pieces have previously appeared in Every Day Fiction. Gerald published music textbooks and how-to books in investing before turning to fiction. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writers Workshop (2010) and a member of SFWA.


Rate this story:
 average 4.5 stars • 2 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Edward Beach

    Hi Gerald,

    I gave this 3 stars. A story has to really shake me to deserve 5, has to ring true on some level to deserve 4. I think your general idea is good; someone returning from a conflict only to uncover the ghosts they’d left at home must be a relevant theme for so many soldiers returning from service. Presumably, it’s a relevant theme for anyone who has spent time away, perhaps at university or working abroad. Why, then, this story needs to be told in a medieval setting is not self-evident. I can understand a children’s story being told this way because they kind of need add-on’s to grab and hold their attention, but we’re (mostly) adults here.

    Personally, I think if you use this kind of historical reference then you have to justify it to some degree. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I overplay an American voice in my storytelling because I don’t feel comfortable using my own British voice, as if there isn’t a story to be told through it. Clearly, that’s not true, it’s just a reflection of my insecurities as a writer. Writing in a medieval setting strikes me as a similar issue. I’d love to read a story written in your own voice and from your own perspective. You can clearly write, you have good ideas, it would be great to see those ideas played out in a modern world I can connect with.

    PS: I hope you don’t feel I’m being over critical. I appreciate critique myself so tend to dish it out whether it’s asked for or not. I’m happy to edit this comment, or have the moderator remove it if you feel it over-steps the mark. Just let me know!

    • Jeremy J Szal

      I’m not sure what you mean about the first paragraph. Are you seriously lowing the score because it’s in a medieval/fantasy world as opposed to “the real world”? If he did right in that way, then one could ask why he decided to write it in that state, too. He wrote a fantasy story because he wanted to write a fantasy story. I don’t see the problem.

      • Edward Beach

        Your right, the author is free to write in whichever way s/he likes. As a reader, I’m free to walk past a book in a shop because of its genre, or score a story on the basis of how it makes me feel.

        I gave it 3 points, which isn’t a bad score, because when I considered all the possible stories that could have come from the root idea, the choice of a historical fantasy detracted from my overall appreciation.

        Author’s are free to write what they like, that freedom doesn’t always produce outstanding work. This work is good, but could have been better, so 3 stars seems fair.

        • Gerald_Warfield

          Hi Edward,

          We all have our likes and dislikes with respect to character types, settings and genre, but we should be able to set those aside when evaluating
          a story. That you don’t like stories in
          a particular setting is your personal prerogative. For instance, I noticed in one of your other critiques you say “I don’t like stories involving princesses and wizards.” But bringing an external prejudice to bear in a public rating system devalues your own critique. I, for instance, don’t read much horror, but if a horror story appears on EDF that is a terrific story I don’t say, well, this is a five-star story but because it’s
          horror I’m devaluing it to a three. What other prejudices do you bring to bear on your ratings? As to the appropriateness of the setting in this particular story, you are not saying that a returning knight from a battle in the thirteenth century is equivalent to a returning Iraqi war veteran—are you? Or that the position of a woman in a relationship outside her class in Medieval Europe is equivalent to a modern romance—are you?
          You were apologetic in your post and offered to take it down. Please don’t.
          You’ve provoked some meaningful discussion. I’ve seen other comments from reviewers that hint at the kind of like/dislike mechanism you are applying, but you were brave
          enough to articulate yours. This forum gives us an opportunity to refine our skills as readers and as writers. That we can discuss these points surely represents this forum at its best. Thanks for your post.

          • terrytvgal

            As an unpublished newbie, maybe I shouldn’t stick my nose in here, but I rather think the setting gave the story a strong foundation. The piece had the feel of a parable, it’s message a reminder that resonates not just now but through the ages. I doubt a contemporary setting would have given me that same feeling from the story. I felt something was lacking as I have remarked above but it was still a tale well told. Thanks, Gerald.

          • Edward Beach

            Hi Gerald,

            Thanks for your considered response. I’ve been thinking about what you said, and it got me to reflect a bit more on flash and how I think it works.

            Firstly, why don’t I like historical/fantasy fiction? Well, funnily enough I actually do enjoy it. I’ve read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and Pratchett’s Discworld series. I’ve read most of Jane Austen’s novels (which is like reading history and literature at the same time), and Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker Prize twice for her historical fiction. So I’m not prejudiced against the genres per se. But I think what these longer works have, and what flash maybe can’t have, is an immersive quality.

            Consider how much time the writer has over the course of forty Discworld novels to build up a clear and convincing picture of their chosen world. Then consider how little time the writer of flash fiction has. So when a flash writer chooses a setting that is distant in time and place from the reader, it strikes me they have already chosen to do something very difficult in convincing the reader of the experience, and an alarm bell rings.

            Why? Well, I think it’s fair to say we know more about things that are close to us, whether consciously or unconsciously, than we do about things we rarely experience. So when we read a story about the shop down the road, or the guy next door who happens to be a war veteran, we enrich that story with our real experiences of similar places or people. And that enrichment (call it prejudice) happens because the brain fills in blanks all the time. That’s why we don’t see the black spot in our visual field where the optic nerve meets the retina, or why people will ignore objective evidence if enough people around them contradict it.

            So when it comes to reading stories set in far away times, when the reader will naturally have more black spots in their knowledge, their brain will still be hard at work, filling in the blanks of their understanding with unconscious trash, obscuring your hard-crafted words with all the irrelevancies of modern-day life. And the more obscure you get, the more your writing is influenced by whatever the reader’s brain throws in the hole. So when you asked me earlier whether I am comparing the experience of knights and soldiers, or medieval and modern women, I guess my answer is that it’s always happening anyway, whether I am aware of it or not. My understanding of womanhood and Arthurian heraldry is saturated with assumptions and experiences collected from mundane trips to the local store, or nights spent fruitlessly in front of the telly.

            So you can’t rely on your reader’s knowledge. For example, I felt your final paragraph didn’t ring true because I was always taught that a Knight in the European feudal caste system was part of the nobility. He maintained himself in a state of war-readiness under the service of a monarch or local Lord in exchange for land. A shopkeeper would have come in at a significantly lower rank than either a Knight or a mill-owner. So the idea of your Knight devaluing himself doesn’t make sense at all without some part of the story explicitly explaining why that would happen. Shopkeeping just happens to be a more respectable tradition in modern capitalist societies. Now, I may be entirely wrong about all this, but do see what I mean about relying on people to fill in the bits that flash doesn’t give you the space to be explicit about?

            So what this comes down to is that flash is too small for big things. I once read a flash about two brothers who held a chilli-eating competition in their kitchen. It was the funniest thing I’d ever read.

          • Gerald_Warfield

            Hi Edward,

            Yes I agree that the reader fills in the gaps, and the more remote the setting or circumstances, the more difficult it is for the writer to guide that process. This very topic has been discussed many times at cons and workshops. It’s tricky as a writer, guessing what to assume on the part of the reader and what to be explicit about. In this case, I wanted the reader to come away with a little more understanding as to what a water mill was like. One might say, what does it matter that we know about mill races or that the gears can be disengaged? Well, it’s a part of our history and reflects the richness of human ingenuity. What was it like to stand in one of those building, vibrating from the motion of the great wheel? One thing about your comment, though. Able was not a knight. I went back to the story to see where you might have gotten that idea, but it was perhaps, as you said, one of those things that just got filled in. Anyway, your comments address the very nature of flash fiction, and I appreciate the chance to have this exchange.

          • Edward Beach

            Ha, that damn brain! Pastorale #1 begins with, “A knight emerges…” The power of suggestion for you.

            Out of interest, what is Able then? You mentioned the difficulty of women entering relationships outside of their class earlier.

          • Gerald_Warfield

            Ha ha! I can’t fault you for getting two of my stories mixed up! Able was never anything more than the next miller. Having come from an orphanage, he was very lucky to have become a respectable business owner.

          • terrytvgal

            I do so agree!! I read all the posts for all the stories, Edward brought an opinion to the group and discussing it can only help me be to be a better reader and maybe one day actually get something published.

          • Gerald_Warfield

            Oh, Terry. I absolutely agree!

        • Jeremy J Szal

          Of course you are, but bringing your own personal preferences into the story, like Gerald said, and trying to devalue them that way, is both unfair and incredibly biased.
          I personally dislike Westerns, but I’m not going to downgrade a story just because it is a Western. You don’t have to like it, but you sure as hell don’t have to give it a lesser rating because it wasn’t in your preferred genre.

          • Edward Beach

            Hi Jerry, you made a good point. Perhaps you’d like to read my reply to Gerald’s last comment. It’s longish so I want repeat it here. Thanks!

          • Jeremy J Szal

            Hmm, you also have a point upon reading your post, but I still disagree to an extent. Sure, it’s much, much harder to write flash fiction and make it sci-fi/fantasy, but it very well can be done, and the rewards can be plentiful if it is done right. I only write science fiction and fantasy, and I’ve had some sci-fi flash published here as well. While you are correct, it is difficult to condense a speculative fiction story into 1000 words, it is possible to do so. I love a massive tome of a fantasy novel, but I still feel that it is possible to trim the fat and get it under 1000 words. Easy? No. Enjoyable? For me, not as much, but I do marvel at people who can consistently do it, especially with fantasy.

            Thanks for your comments, and even though I disagree, they were interesting to read.

    • Shawn Scarber

      The title is ‘The Mill’. Maybe you didn’t actually read the story or you’re not aware of modern grain processing procedures, but I don’t know of many “modern” uses for mills such as these.

      • Edward Beach

        If the story was about pre-modern grain processing methods this would be a fair comment.

      • Cranky Steven

        Shawn, the story makes it clear it is not set in modern times.

  • Edward Beach

    Hi Gerald,

    I gave this 3 stars. A story has to really shake me to deserve 5, has to ring true on some level to deserve 4. I think your general idea is good; someone returning from a conflict only to uncover the ghosts they’d left at home must be a relevant theme for so many soldiers returning from service. Presumably, it’s a relevant theme for anyone who has spent time away, perhaps at university or working abroad. Why, then, this story needs to be told in a medieval setting is not self-evident. I can understand a children’s story being told this way because they kind of need add-on’s to grab and hold their attention, but we’re (mostly) adults here.

    Personally, I think if you use this kind of historical reference then you have to justify it to some degree. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I overplay an American voice in my storytelling because I don’t feel comfortable using my own British voice, as if there isn’t a story to be told through it. Clearly, that’s not true, it’s just a reflection of my insecurities as a writer. Writing in a medieval setting strikes me as a similar issue. I’d love to read a story written in your own voice and from your own perspective. You can clearly write, you have good ideas, it would be great to see those ideas played out in a modern world I can connect with.

    PS: I hope you don’t feel I’m being over critical. I appreciate critique myself so tend to dish it out whether it’s asked for or not. I’m happy to edit this comment, or have the moderator remove it if you feel it over-steps the mark. Just let me know!

    • Jeremy J Szal

      I’m not sure what you mean about the first paragraph. Are you seriously lowing the score because it’s in a medieval/fantasy world as opposed to “the real world”? If he did right in that way, then one could ask why he decided to write it in that state, too. He wrote a fantasy story because he wanted to write a fantasy story. I don’t see the problem.

      • Edward Beach

        You are right, the author is free to write in whichever way s/he likes. As a reader, I’m free to walk past a book in a shop because of its genre, or score a story on the basis of how it makes me feel.

        I gave it 3 points, which isn’t a bad score, because when I considered all the possible stories that could have come from the root idea, the choice of a historical fantasy detracted from my overall appreciation.

        Author’s are free to write what they like, that freedom doesn’t always produce outstanding work. This work is good, but could have been better, so 3 stars seems fair.

        • Gerald_Warfield

          Hi Edward,

          We all have our likes and dislikes with respect to character types, settings and genre, but we should be able to set those aside when evaluating
          a story. That you don’t like stories in
          a particular setting is your personal prerogative. For instance, I noticed in one of your other critiques you say “I don’t like stories involving princesses and wizards.” But bringing an external prejudice to bear in a public rating system devalues your own critique. I, for instance, don’t read much horror, but if a horror story appears on EDF that is a terrific story I don’t say, well, this is a five-star story but because it’s
          horror I’m devaluing it to a three. What other prejudices do you bring to bear on your ratings? As to the appropriateness of the setting in this particular story, you are not saying that a returning knight from a battle in the thirteenth century is equivalent to a returning Iraqi war veteran—are you? Or that the position of a woman in a relationship outside her class in Medieval Europe is equivalent to a modern romance—are you?
          You were apologetic in your post and offered to take it down. Please don’t.
          You’ve provoked some meaningful discussion. I’ve seen other comments from reviewers that hint at the kind of like/dislike mechanism you are applying, but you were brave
          enough to articulate yours. This forum gives us an opportunity to refine our skills as readers and as writers. That we can discuss these points surely represents this forum at its best. Thanks for your post.

          • terrytvgal

            As an unpublished newbie, maybe I shouldn’t stick my nose in here, but I rather think the setting gave the story a strong foundation. The piece had the feel of a parable, it’s message a reminder that resonates not just now but through the ages. I doubt a contemporary setting would have given me that same feeling from the story. I felt something was lacking as I have remarked above but it was still a tale well told. Thanks, Gerald.

          • Edward Beach

            Hi Gerald,

            Thanks for your considered response. I’ve been thinking about what you said, and it got me to reflect a bit more on flash and how I think it works.

            Firstly, why don’t I like historical/fantasy fiction? Well, funnily enough I actually do enjoy it. I’ve read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and Pratchett’s Discworld series. I’ve read most of Jane Austen’s novels (which is like reading history and literature at the same time), and Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker Prize twice for her historical fiction. So I’m not prejudiced against the genres per se. But I think what these longer works have, and what flash maybe can’t have, is an immersive quality.

            Consider how much time the writer has over the course of forty Discworld novels to build up a clear and convincing picture of their chosen world. Then consider how little time the writer of flash fiction has. So when a flash writer chooses a setting that is distant in time and place from the reader, it strikes me they have already chosen to do something very difficult in convincing the reader of the experience, and an alarm bell rings.

            Why? Well, I think it’s fair to say we know more about things that are close to us, whether consciously or unconsciously, than we do about things we rarely experience. So when we read a story about the shop down the road, or the guy next door who happens to be a war veteran, we enrich that story with our real experiences of similar places or people. And that enrichment (call it prejudice) happens because the brain fills in blanks all the time. That’s why we don’t see the black spot in our visual field where the optic nerve meets the retina, or why people will ignore objective evidence if enough people around them contradict it.

            So when it comes to reading stories set in far away times, when the reader will naturally have more black spots in their knowledge, their brain will still be hard at work, filling in the blanks of their understanding with unconscious trash, obscuring your hard-crafted words with all the irrelevancies of modern-day life. And the more obscure you get, the more your writing is influenced by whatever the reader’s brain throws in the hole. So when you asked me earlier whether I am comparing the experience of knights and soldiers, or medieval and modern women, I guess my answer is that it’s always happening anyway, whether I am aware of it or not. My understanding of womanhood and Arthurian heraldry is saturated with assumptions and experiences collected from mundane trips to the local store, or nights spent fruitlessly in front of the telly.

            So you can’t rely on your reader’s knowledge. For example, I felt your final paragraph didn’t ring true because I was always taught that a Knight in the European feudal caste system was part of the nobility. He maintained himself in a state of war-readiness under the service of a monarch or local Lord in exchange for land. A shopkeeper would have come in at a significantly lower rank than either a Knight or a mill-owner. So the idea of your Knight devaluing himself doesn’t make sense at all without some part of the story explicitly explaining why that would happen. Shopkeeping just happens to be a more respectable tradition in modern capitalist societies. Now, I may be entirely wrong about all this, but do see what I mean about relying on people to fill in the bits that flash doesn’t give you the space to be explicit about?

            So what this comes down to is that flash is too small for big things. I once read a flash about two brothers who held a chilli-eating competition in their kitchen. It was the funniest thing I’d ever read.

          • Gerald_Warfield

            Hi Edward,

            Yes I agree that the reader fills in the gaps, and the more remote the setting or circumstances, the more difficult it is for the writer to guide that process. This very topic has been discussed many times at cons and workshops. It’s tricky as a writer, guessing what to assume on the part of the reader and what to be explicit about. In this case, I wanted the reader to come away with a little more understanding as to what a water mill was like. One might say, what does it matter that we know about mill races or that the gears can be disengaged? Well, it’s a part of our history and reflects the richness of human ingenuity. What was it like to stand in one of those building, vibrating from the motion of the great wheel? One thing about your comment, though. Able was not a knight. I went back to the story to see where you might have gotten that idea, but it was perhaps, as you said, one of those things that just got filled in. Anyway, your comments address the very nature of flash fiction, and I appreciate the chance to have this exchange.

          • Edward Beach

            Ha, that damn brain! Pastorale #1 begins with, “A knight emerges…” The power of suggestion for you.

            Out of interest, what is Able then? You mentioned the difficulty of women entering relationships outside of their class earlier.

          • Gerald_Warfield

            Ha ha! I can’t fault you for getting two of my stories mixed up! Able was never anything more than the next miller. Having come from an orphanage, he was very lucky to have become a respectable business owner.

          • terrytvgal

            I do so agree!! I read all the posts for all the stories, Edward brought an opinion to the group and discussing it can only help me be to be a better reader and maybe one day actually get something published.

          • Gerald_Warfield

            Oh, Terry. I absolutely agree!

        • Jeremy J Szal

          Of course you are, but bringing your own personal preferences into the story, like Gerald said, and trying to devalue them that way, is both unfair and incredibly biased.
          I personally dislike Westerns, but I’m not going to downgrade a story just because it is a Western. You don’t have to like it, but you sure as hell don’t have to give it a lesser rating because it wasn’t in your preferred genre.

          • Edward Beach

            Hi Jerry, you made a good point. Perhaps you’d like to read my reply to Gerald’s last comment. It’s longish so I want repeat it here. Thanks!

          • Jeremy J Szal

            Hmm, you also have a point upon reading your post, but I still disagree to an extent. Sure, it’s much, much harder to write flash fiction and make it sci-fi/fantasy, but it very well can be done, and the rewards can be plentiful if it is done right. I only write science fiction and fantasy, and I’ve had some sci-fi flash published here as well. While you are correct, it is difficult to condense a speculative fiction story into 1000 words, it is possible to do so. I love a massive tome of a fantasy novel, but I still feel that it is possible to trim the fat and get it under 1000 words. Easy? No. Enjoyable? For me, not as much, but I do marvel at people who can consistently do it, especially with fantasy.

            Thanks for your comments, and even though I disagree, they were interesting to read.

    • Shawn Scarber

      The title is ‘The Mill’. Maybe you didn’t actually read the story or you’re not aware of modern grain processing procedures, but I don’t know of many “modern” uses for mills such as these.

      • Edward Beach

        If the story was about pre-modern grain processing methods this would be a fair comment.

      • Cranky Steven

        Shawn, the story makes it clear it is not set in modern times.

  • Kendall Furlong

    Fiction should be judged on what it sets out to do. Some fiction doesn’t know its goals, but this piece clearly does and does it extremely well. Five stars.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Thanks, Kendall. What is that green stuff you’re drinking?

      • Kendall Furlong

        Irish beer!

  • Kendall Furlong

    Fiction should be judged on what it sets out to do. Some fiction doesn’t know its goals, but this piece clearly does and does it extremely well. Five stars.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Thanks, Kendall. What is that green stuff you’re drinking?

      • Kendall Furlong

        Irish beer!

  • A good twist in the tale. I enjoyed this story. Impeccably written and it kept this reader’s interest all the way through.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Thanks, Derek.

  • A good twist in the tale. I enjoyed this story. Impeccably written and it kept this reader’s interest all the way through.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Thanks, Derek.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    For me this story labored all the way to its “twist.”

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    For me this story labored all the way to its “twist.”

    “I guess there’s no point in trying to make you see reason, now,” he said.

    Well, I guess not, since they both know she’s dead. And the choices of verbs, adverbs and adjectives turned this into a melodrama rather than a poignant or shocking story. I’m sorry, but this was a two-star story for me.

  • Jen

    I found this story completely gripping from the beginning. Five stars from me.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Thanks, Jen.

  • Jen

    I found this story completely gripping from the beginning. Five stars from me.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Thanks, Jen.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Edward doesn’t need me to interpret or defend him, he stated quite clearly in his first comment what a major issue was for him:

    “Personally, I think if you use this kind of historical reference then you have to justify it to some degree.”

    But I will anyway.

    Reader to writer: “Convince me.”

    I myself will sometimes say something to the effect that “this [whatever] is a genre I usually dislike, but you made me like your story.”

    I was very happy about a comment someone made on one of my stories, stating that he disliked all that “fantastical stuff,” but then going on to quote a line from my piece that he thought wonderful.

    It’s the writer’s job to make the reader care. I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming, so to speak, to a 4- or 5-star rating for some stories in genres that typically make my toenails curl, because the writing and the stories were just so damned good.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Hi Sarah,

      True, true. My sympathies were with Kayla who was victimized by a society where women didn’t often inherit businesses. This was particularly unfair since she was capable of running the mill. That fact, alone, of course, knocked the story out of a current time frame. And then, I love watermills (lol) which didn’t have to place the setting in the Middle Ages, but did merit an even earlier time period. Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed Back to Egypt.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Gee–make me feel crappy now. But thank you.

        Kayla was not a very winsome victim. And Able seemed to be merely expressing the logic of his time. The story didn’t give me anything to grab onto and establish an emotional connection to either of your protagonists. And it makes me nuts when charactors violate the internal logic of a story. Perhaps you intended Kayla not to have yet perceived her own separation from her body til we are shown her corpse. But Able knows, So that line of dialogue struck me as–you should forgive the bluntness–silly.

        • Gerald_Warfield

          Aha! I find myself agreeing with you and coming to different conclusions. This really gets into the guts of the story. You’re right, Able knows as soon as he sees her, but he doesn’t make the most logical decision. Instead, he takes the opportunity to have it out one final time with his (adoptive) sister. I’m thinking about a sequel where he’s hanged for her murder, even though he didn’t do it.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Edward doesn’t need me to interpret or defend him, he stated quite clearly in his first comment what a major issue was for him:

    “Personally, I think if you use this kind of historical reference then you have to justify it to some degree.”

    But I will anyway.

    Reader to writer: “Convince me.”

    I myself will sometimes say something to the effect that “this [whatever] is a genre I usually dislike, but you made me like your story.”

    I was very happy about a comment someone made on one of my stories, stating that he disliked all that “fantastical stuff,” but then going on to quote a line from my piece that he thought wonderful.

    It’s the writer’s job to make the reader care. I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming, so to speak, to a 4- or 5-star rating for some stories in genres that typically make my toenails curl, because the writing and the stories were just so damned good.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Hi Sarah,

      True, true. My sympathies were with Kayla who was victimized by a society where women didn’t often inherit businesses. This was particularly unfair since she was capable of running the mill. That fact, alone, of course, knocked the story out of a current time frame. And then, I love watermills (lol) which didn’t have to place the setting in the Middle Ages, but did merit an even earlier time period. Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed Back to Egypt.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Gee–make me feel crappy now. But thank you.

        Kayla was not a very winsome victim. And Able seemed to be merely expressing the logic of his time. The story didn’t give me anything to grab onto and establish an emotional connection to either of your protagonists. And it makes me nuts when characters violate the internal logic of a story. Perhaps you intended Kayla not to have yet perceived her own separation from her body til we are shown her corpse. But Able knows. So that line of dialogue struck me as–you should forgive the bluntness–silly.

        • Gerald_Warfield

          Aha! I find myself agreeing with you and coming to different conclusions. This really gets into the guts of the story. You’re right, Able knows as soon as he sees her, but he doesn’t make the most logical decision. Instead, he takes the opportunity to have it out one final time with his (adoptive) sister. I’m thinking about a sequel where he’s hanged for her murder, even though he didn’t do it.

  • joanna b.

    an odd story. too much description of the mill itself, continuity sometimes obscure, nonetheless, gripping. poignant, too. regardless of the flaws, or at least what i saw as the flaws, the emotions for both of them were genuine for me. 4 stars.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      It’s an interesting problem, how much detail to give. I enjoy learning both as a reader and a writer. Before I wrote this I didn’t know that the conduit to the wheel was called a “mill race.” Of course, you don’t want to distract the reader too much…

  • joanna b.

    an odd story. too much description of the mill itself, continuity sometimes obscure, nonetheless, gripping. poignant, too. regardless of the flaws, or at least what i saw as the flaws, the emotions for both of them were genuine for me. 4 stars.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      It’s an interesting problem, how much detail to give. I enjoy learning both as a reader and a writer. Before I wrote this I didn’t know that the conduit to the wheel was called a “mill race.” Of course, you don’t want to distract the reader too much…

  • Susan Shell Winston

    story worked for me. I wasn’t expecting her to be a ghost. Masterful reveal, Gerald.

    Susan Shell Winston

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Thanks, Susan!

  • Susan Shell Winston

    story worked for me. I wasn’t expecting her to be a ghost. Masterful reveal, Gerald.

    Susan Shell Winston

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Thanks, Susan!

  • Rose Gardener

    All ghostly characters have a dilemma- to admit upfront they are a ghost, or to reveal it later and have it come across as a twist. When the twist ‘I’m a ghost’ is all there is to their story, it’s almost invariably a huge let-down. But I thought the historical setting, the knowledgeable detail of a working mill, and the piece-by-piece unraveling of what had recently transpired each added something of interest here. The timeless theme of jealous love was the real story, the ghost merely its conduit. Five stars from me.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Hi Rose. That was exactly the dilemma I was working with. Went through several rewrites.

  • Rose Gardener

    All ghostly characters have a dilemma- to admit upfront they are a ghost, or to reveal it later and have it come across as a twist. When the twist ‘I’m a ghost’ is all there is to their story, it’s almost invariably a huge let-down. But I thought the historical setting, the knowledgeable detail of a working mill, and the piece-by-piece unraveling of what had recently transpired each added something of interest here. The timeless theme of jealous love was the real story, the ghost merely its conduit. Five stars from me.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Hi Rose. That was exactly the dilemma I was working with. Went through several rewrites.

  • Cranky Steven

    Nice! I would have given it five stars if Able had gotten his in the end. Four is strong though.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      LOL! I was actually thinking about a sequel where Able was hanged for murder even though he didn’t do it.

      • Cranky Steven

        Are you quite certain he didn’t? Re-incarnation into Judas leaps to mind and Judas was well known as a knot expert. 🙂

  • Cranky Steven

    Nice! I would have given it five stars if Able had gotten his in the end. Four is strong though.

    • Gerald_Warfield

      LOL! I was actually thinking about a sequel where Able was hanged for murder even though he didn’t do it.

      • Cranky Steven

        Are you quite certain he didn’t? Re-incarnation into Judas leaps to mind and Judas was well known as a knot expert. 🙂

  • terrytvgal

    Something was missing, somehow. In this case your biography, which I always read last, just served to reinforce that feeling. Still I have to consider it a success to the extent that I didn’t figure out Kayla was a ghost until you told us. A good reminder here to be careful what you wish for.

    • Cranky Steven

      I wished for something and it came true but I forgot to wish for a girl friend too so I guess it didn’t count. *sigh*

  • terrytvgal

    Something was missing, somehow. In this case your biography, which I always read last, just served to reinforce that feeling. Still I have to consider it a success to the extent that I didn’t figure out Kayla was a ghost until you told us. A good reminder here to be careful what you wish for.

    • Cranky Steven

      I wished for something and it came true but I forgot to wish for a girl friend too so I guess it didn’t count. *sigh*

  • Paul A. Freeman

    This reminded me of Wuthering Heights, for some reason, which is why it had a Victorian setting for me. It did feel that the action was padded out a bit.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    This reminded me of Wuthering Heights, for some reason, which is why it had a Victorian setting for me. It did feel that the action was padded out a bit.

  • An interesting piece with a nice progression from beginning to end. I look forward to reading more of these gentle and surprising stories.

  • An interesting piece with a nice progression from beginning to end. I look forward to reading more of these gentle and surprising stories.

  • MPmcgurty

    Gerald, I admire how you were able to fit a story or a lesson into 1000 words. That is especially difficult for me, but I’m learning from many of you, not only through the stories, but also through the comments. I admit the discrimination angle of the story hooked me. I’ve read a couple of your other stories in archive and will go back and read the rest.

    Great conversation here about a major flash fiction challenge. About this particular piece: I like twists, but I think they have to be earned. Perhaps it’s my own stupidity but I didn’t see any foreshadowing here; in fact, after learning Kayla was dead, I re-visited – a la Sixth Sense – to see if I could spot hints. Instead, I was struck by how Able spoke to her as if he wanted her to think she was still alive. E.g., “You are fiercely loyal and a hard worker. Any man would be proud to have you.” I can’t imagine saying that to someone who is dead. Even by changing the tense – “You were fiercely loyal…” – might help in that I might have thought he was just referring to the past.

    I like the idea of a sequel where Able gets his.

  • MPmcgurty

    Gerald, I admire how you were able to fit a story or a lesson into 1000 words. That is especially difficult for me, but I’m learning from many of you, not only through the stories, but also through the comments. I admit the discrimination angle of the story hooked me. I’ve read a couple of your other stories in archive and will go back and read the rest.

    Great conversation here about a major flash fiction challenge. About this particular piece: I like twists, but I think they have to be earned. Perhaps it’s my own stupidity but I didn’t see any foreshadowing here; in fact, after learning Kayla was dead, I re-visited – a la Sixth Sense – to see if I could spot hints. Instead, I was struck by how Able spoke to her as if he wanted her to think she was still alive. E.g., “You are fiercely loyal and a hard worker. Any man would be proud to have you.” I can’t imagine saying that to someone who is dead. Even by changing the tense – “You were fiercely loyal…” – might help in that I might have thought he was just referring to the past.

    I like the idea of a sequel where Able gets his.

  • JWM

    I found this quite enjoyable. As a fan of suspense where you are thrown for a loop at the end of the story, I would certainly put this along the lines of “The 6th sense”, “The Village”, etc. The fact that so much was conveyed in so few words is impressive. The last few paragraphs offer an abundance of things to ponder that easily convey a much larger story in what is ultimately implied (e.g., over a lifetime together, one person longs for the other, while the other pulls away, leading to this final conflict and conclusion). One thought from an earlier review is that “You were fiercely loyal…” might work better than “You are fiercely loyal…”, etc., in it might help set up the ending better when you get to it. I read this twice and looked at the reviews to make sure I fully understood it. Great stuff though!

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Thanks for reading, JWM. You understood. I’m thinking about collecting all my Pastorales one day in a chapbook. I’m up to number seven.

  • JWM

    I found this quite enjoyable. As a fan of suspense where you are thrown for a loop at the end of the story, I would certainly put this along the lines of “The 6th sense”, “The Village”, etc. The fact that so much was conveyed in so few words is impressive. The last few paragraphs offer an abundance of things to ponder that easily convey a much larger story in what is ultimately implied (e.g., over a lifetime together, one person longs for the other, while the other pulls away, leading to this final conflict and conclusion). One thought from an earlier review is that “You were fiercely loyal…” might work better than “You are fiercely loyal…”, etc., in it might help set up the ending better when you get to it. I read this twice and looked at the reviews to make sure I fully understood it. Great stuff though!

    • Gerald_Warfield

      Thanks for reading, JWM. You understood. I’m thinking about collecting all my Pastorales one day in a chapbook. I’m up to number seven.