YESTERDAY’S HOUSE • by Tim Sevenhuysen

It had worked for Dr. McNaughton in the past: if the child refused to open up, give them a table full of playdough and watch what they did with it.

Sometimes kids created playdough monsters, and he would ask them to describe what they were afraid of. Others rolled snakes. McNaughton’s colleagues were almost immaturely Freudian, but he typically saw snakes as signifying a lack of imagination.

Some children just ate the stuff.

But Ross, this troubled four-year-old, had built a house.

McNaughton had left the room for a few minutes, to allow Ross to feel comfortable, and when he returned, there was a cutaway model of a suburban home sitting on the table.

“What’s this, Ross?” said Dr. McNaughton.

“It’s your house,” said Ross simply.

For a second, McNaughton was taken aback. His house? How could the kid know — but no, this wasn’t actually a model of his house. There was an extra story, and too many bedrooms. Still, there was something familiar…

“My house?” was what McNaughton said.

Ross nodded. “This is the kitchen, and this is the TV room, and this is the room where mommy and daddy yelled a lot, and this is the door where daddy said ‘goodbye-and-be-brave.’”

It was McNaughton’s house. Not today’s house: yesterday’s house. Where he had grown up. Where he had listened helplessly as his parents’ marriage fell apart. Where he had watched through the window as his father drove away.

“Ross, you built my house,” said Dr. McNaughton. “How did you…”

Ross looked up at him with eyes that were, for the first time, vulnerable.

“Ross, is this your house?”

Ross nodded.

And Dr. McNaughton took a deep breath, and said, “Ross, I think we can help each other.”

Tim Sevenhuysen is a Master’s student in sociology in Victoria, BC, Canada. He has been writing microfiction at since February 2009, and maintains a blog at

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Every Day Fiction

  • Spooky, effective and hard-hitting.

    An excellent piece of flash.

  • wonderful writing, extremely touching.

  • Lilias

    What a great story, saying so much in such a short time. Loved it!

  • Reading this story was a good game to play.
    well done

  • Wow. This one socked me right in the gut. I love how the two characters serve to reveal something to each other. Five stars today.

  • So nice to see how you did this in fewer than 1,000 words when I’ve been struggling with a longer piece telling the same story. Four stars!

  • Nice. Straight forward. Admirable economy of words. Finishes with an moment-of-truth that stands up and makes me want more. What else could you ask from flash?

    Mr. Sevenhuysen, you hit a home run. Five stars…..

  • fishlovesca

    Writing a complete story in so few words is really tough to do, but this author has a lot of experience in micro which explains his mastery of the form.

  • I wasn’t surprised when I saw a relatively short piece under your name Tim, nor was I surprised to find it well written and masterfully delivered. You have natural talent for flash fiction sir, and it shows in this piece.

    I found the narrative engaging. I like how the protagonist utilizes the playdough, and how he shrugs off the Freudian implications of the snakes. The interactions with the child felt natural, and the twist was well delivered. My only complaint would be that I wanted more, but that does not detract from the plot as it easily stands self sufficient, so I would say that it’s a good sign that you hooked this reader.

    Well done!

  • JenM

    Whhat a unique story. I liked the fact that ther’s a chance Ross could be psychic, though it’s more likely he was just letting out his own expirences.

  • Rose Gardener


  • Short and sweet. Very good work. My favorite line was “…this is the door where daddy said ‘goodbye-and-be-brave.'”

  • Pingback: Yesterday’s House on Every Day Fiction « Tim

  • I don’t think the child was psychic. I think he was saying, “It’s your house because I made it to share with you. I made it for you so that you, who are so nice and not Freudian, (after all, kid’s precocious) can be in the same house as me.”

  • To whom did Daddy say “be brave”? Won’t he be there to help his child? Didn’t he work out the parting together with his wife so the home would be strong without him?

  • B. Stanley

    Beautiful story–well written, tight, open to interpretation. Dr. Ross McNaughton, is it?

  • Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! I’m glad so many people have appreciated the story. I’m especially enjoying all of the different thoughts on how best to interpret the story.

    To be honest, I never made my mind up on exactly what the implications were. I really like the various ideas I’m seeing, though!

  • Kim


  • Wow, nicely done. Complete, succinct, finely-tuned.

  • Interesting idea. A bit sparse for my tastes, but definitely interesting.

    I must admit, I can’t work out how you’d build a cutaway, multi-storey house in playdough – it’s not the most rigid of building materials! Ross is clearly a gifted child.

  • Gretchen

    Creative, touching, and delivered in just a sprinkling of words. Well done!

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