Year Two October Story Chat “Puddles” by Hugh Roberts

Can you believe we’ve had a chance to meet twelve authors online and nearly in person already? Hugh Roberts started this project off last year with a spooky Halloween story, “People Under the Stairs.” True to form this year’s Halloween story may set your teeth on edge and keep you awake at night. There are plenty of clues. I’m still searching in and around that crazy puddle for one of them

Grab some an autumn snack like black cat or skeleton cookies, pumpkin cheesecake or Halloween cake pops. Please join me for this twisty horror surprise as Story Chat #1

Puddles – by Hugh W. Roberts

I wanted to be like my daddy and be a lifesaver until I heard Mummy say that he’d made her life a misery.

Mummy said that Daddy was horrible to her. But I never understood how he could be nasty and be a lifesaver. 

Aren’t lifesavers meant to be nice?

Daddy has always been kind to my friends, but not to me. But he never saved Mummy’s life. Do you know that she left home one night when I was fast asleep? I woke up, and she was gone. The nice police lady asked me some questions while others helped Daddy look for Mummy, but they never found her. 

Now I have a new mummy. 

I don’t like her very much, though. 

She’s the one that brings parcels to us and who I saw in Mummy and Daddy’s bedroom with Daddy before Mummy left. Daddy told me not to tell anyone, not even you! Please don’t tell him I’ve told you; otherwise, he may do nasty things to us.

My friends Teddy and Giraffe told me not to trust Daddy or my new mummy. Do you like Teddy and Giraffe? They’re my best friends and always tell me the truth. 

One day, I decided I wanted to be like Daddy. Not nasty, but to save lives. I rescued Teddy and Giraffe from a big puddle at the top of the cliff. It was left by a strange storm that Daddy said Mummy had sent to come and get me. He really scared me when he said that to me. I started to cry. Teddy and Giraffe were not pleased with him. They told me to tell Daddy that I had just saved them from the puddle.

I know; I saw you save them from falling in. It’s a strange puddle that Mummy’s weird storm left, isn’t it? Why don’t we go home and play our secret game again before your new mummy gets home?

But I didn’t want to play the secret game with Daddy because I don’t like playing it. I want to play with Teddy and Giraffe, not play Daddy’s secret game.

Aren’t you a bit old for Teddy and Giraffe? Daddy asked. You’re 8-years-old tomorrow and shouldn’t be playing with soft toys anymore.

NO! I shouted back. My real mummy said Teddy and Giraffe are my best friends, and they’ll look after me. They tell me everything. I do whatever they tell me, and they said no special games today with Daddy.

Daddy was very angry when I shouted at him. He tried taking Teddy and Giraffe off me, but I bit him on the arm to make him stop. 

YOUR REAL MUMMY? he shouted at me. YOU HAVEN’T SEEN YOUR REAL MUMMY FOR MONTHS, AND YOU NEVER WILL!

YES, I DID, I shouted back. I SAW MUMMY IN THE STRANGE PUDDLE YOU SAID SHE SENT TO GET ME. She’s in there. Go look, Daddy.

At first, Daddy didn’t believe me, but he eventually went over and looked in the puddle. 

There’s nothing in there. You’re seeing things, you silly girl. Now, come home with me and let’s play our special game, he said angrily.

NO! SHE’S THERE! Look closer, Daddy. Mummy, show Daddy you’re there.

That’s when Teddy and Giraffe told me what to do next.

Thank you for saving our lives, they whispered. Now push your nasty daddy into the puddle. We’re here to save you. 

While Daddy continued to investigate the puddle, I put Teddy and Giraffe down, went behind him and pushed him hard and waited for the splash. But there wasn’t one. The only thing I saw when I looked was Daddy’s face looking up at me from the puddle. I thought I heard him calling for help, but Teddy and Giraffe said to go home and call the nice police lady.

They told me to tell her what Daddy was doing to me. 

I tried calling the nice police lady on my toy phone, but she won’t answer. The only person that speaks to me on my phone is my real mummy. I love it when my phone rings, and it’s my real mummy. 

My new mummy will be home soon. I don’t like her. Did I tell you that I saw her in Mummy’s and Daddy’s bedroom? 

Would you like to play the secret game Daddy and I play? I know I said I didn’t like it much, but it’s got a funny name…Snakes and Ladders. That’s a funny name for a game, isn’t it? Snakes can’t climb ladders, can they?  

We’re not allowed to play it when my other mummy is home, so we’ll have to play it quickly. Did I tell you that she’s scared of snakes? I heard her say she’d die of shock if she saw a snake. That’s funny, isn’t it? 

Oh, look. It’s raining again. Do you think my real mummy will send any more puddles and send Daddy back? I hope not, but maybe just one more puddle that I can push my new mummy into.


Differences Between Countries

  • Snakes and Ladders is a board game that contains 100 squares. Players shake a dice and move along the squares. If a player lands on a square containing the bottom of a ladder, they move up to the top of the ladder. If they land on a square that has the head of a snake, they slide down the snake. The winner is the first one to reach square 100. It’s a fun game played by more minor children. It’s more commonly known as Chutes and Ladders in the U.S.A. Here’s a link to the British version. Wooden Toys | Crafted Wooden Toys and Gifts | WoodenToyShop.co.uk
  • I struggled with wanting to put American quotation marks around everything that was said by each character, but I try to be true to grammar rules from the country of the writer. This is what Hugh said about quotation marks. “We do use quotation marks, but not around quotes. Here, we highlight quotes either in italics or by making them bold.”

Food for Discussion

So what did you think of Hugh’s twisted story? I don’t know about you, but this story kept me going back for more clues to answer my questions. For some of them I never did come up with suitable answers. For example.

  • I wanted to feel love and sympathy for the little girl whose Daddy had treated her badly and who had lost her mother. What did you like or dislike about the little girl. How would you rate your sympathy level for her?
  • How do you think the father drown in such a small puddle, or was it really something else? If so, what?
  • Who do you think killed the mother, and why was there so little police presence?
  • Might the mother still be alive?
  • Why did an eight year old use a toy phone to call the police?

What’s New in Story Chat Year Two?

First of all, thank you all, both authors and commenters for making Story Chat such a success in Year One. Thank you to Cathy Cade who hosted for August and September and introduced us to Wendy and Val. I want to continue to honor your work and build the welcome Story Chat feel.

  • My goal is to assemble an anthology of all the stories and Story Chats in year one. Unless you have any objections your comments will be included as stated in the summaries. Let me know if you want your comment excluded from the summary.
  • The same rules go for Year Two as for Year One the story must be 500-1,000 words submitted on a Word or Google Doc.
  • No erotica.
  • It is best for bloggers to have websites so that Always Write can link to your site.
  • The story remains your property, but must be unpublished at the time I publish it on Always Write. However, I would like your permission to republish the story, as it appears on the blog, in a simple anthology, should I decided to publish one for Year Two.
  • Story Chat is always looking for new authors,. If you or someone in your writing group might be interested in participating, let me know.
  • For more information check out my Story Chat page.

125 responses to “Year Two October Story Chat “Puddles” by Hugh Roberts”

  1. Story Chat Y2: “Handle with Caution – Marsha Ingrao – Always Write Avatar

    […] starts each October? We met Hugh Roberts started this year with a spooky Halloween story, “Puddles.” Doug Jacquier broached the tough subject of PTSD after WWII in his story “Brooching […]

    Like

  2. Story Chat Y2: “When Gratitude Is Hard to Come By” by Geoff Le Pard – Marsha Ingrao – Always Write Avatar

    […] starts each October. We met Hugh Roberts started this year with a spooky Halloween story, “Puddles.” Doug Jacquier broached the tough subject of PTSD after WWII in his story “Brooching […]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Story Chat Y2: “On the Streets” by Cathy Cade – Marsha Ingrao – Always Write Avatar

    […] already? Hugh Roberts started this project off this year with a spooky Halloween story, “Puddles.” Doug Jacquier broached the tough subject of PTSD after WWII in his story “Brooching […]

    Like

  4. Story Chat Summary: “Brooching the Subject” by Doug Jacquier – Marsha Ingrao – Always Write Avatar

    […] you missed Doug”s thought-provoking story, “Brooching the Subject,” you will definitely want to give it a […]

    Like

  5. Story Chat Summary: “Puddles” by Hugh Roberts – Marsha Ingrao – Always Write Avatar

    […] trying a sleeker design for the summary post. If you want more details, be sure to read Hugh’s post and the fabulous dialogue that took place at Story Chat this […]

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  6. Gloria Avatar

    Very absorbing Hugh.
    I think the little girl’s mother is dead, otherwise she wouldn’t leave her daughter with a horrible father. Plus, he told the child she’ll never see her again.
    I think the puddle is the sea and Daddy was pushed into the sea. No splash and she scarcely heard him calling for help.
    Did Daddy tell the child that Mummy sent the puddle to come and get her, perhaps to keep her away from the dangerous cliff? 🤔
    I think she used a toy phone to call the police because it’s all part of her game. Teddy and Giraffe told her to call the police.
    I think the new mummy needs to watch her back!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

      I agree that her new stepmother needs to watch her back, Gloria.

      Other readers suggested that the real mother wasn’t dead and that she’d come back one day to get her daughter. I wonder if she left because she knew her husband had been unfaithful to her and couldn’t cope with what had happened? Or had he killed his wife because he wanted to spend the rest of his life with the right woman?

      I never thought much about what was on the other side of the cliff, but the little girl references more puddles towards the end of the story when it starts raining. Mabe those puddles do exist? Or maybe they only live in the mind of the child?

      She certainly does as her toys tell her. So perhaps the child isn’t the nasty one? After all, all she’s doing is what they ask her to do.

      Thanks so much for reading my story and joining the discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Gloria Avatar

        Interesting! Perhaps I think it’s the sea because that’s what I want it to be 🙈 (my dark side).
        It’s great reading all the different perceptions of the story. There are so many possibilities! Thanks Hugh.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Marsha Avatar

          Thanks for commenting, Gloria. The sea makes sense.

          Like

    2. Marsha Avatar

      LolNew mommy stands a cliff’s edge away from disaster!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. janiejunebug Avatar
    janiejunebug

    The story is intriguing and I enjoyed its strangeness. I read through the comments, so of course say Hugh’s explanations. I wanted to like the child, but couldn’t. I thought that pushing Daddy might have meant playing Snakes & Ladders and Daddy landed on a square that sent his game token plummeting.

    Love,
    Janie

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      That would make her nicer, for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

      I love your take it on it, Janie.

      I always had in mind to make the father the nasty one, but at the back of my mind was that it would be eerier if it was the child. The father certainty paid for being unfaithful to his wife, and I think the child has plans for the stepmother too. After all, she knew the father was married when she stepped into his bedroom.

      Thanks so much for reading my story and joining the discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. janiejunebug Avatar
        janiejunebug

        The father is nasty, though. He cheated on his wife and did so in their home at a time their daughter could see the other woman. Now the wife is gone and no one knows what happened to her, which is certainly suspicious. The father was also in a hurry to remarry. Something is not right with him. If the child is nasty, then maybe it’s like father like daughter.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Marsha Avatar

          I agree, Jane.

          Like

        2. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

          I agree – like father, like daughter.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Debbie Avatar

    What a great story by Hugh (I’m not surprised) and the chat has been interesting to say the least Marsha! I felt a real Twilight Zone vibe and wonder about that ‘magic’ puddle. I also appreciate that the mother may have had issues and the daughter is very insightful in her thoughts. I liked the twist about the secret games with daddy, I was wondering where that was going….fabulous imagination Hugh.
    Hope all is well with you both.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thanks, Deb. This Story Chat is super conversational!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

      Thanks, Debbie.

      That twist was never meant to be there, but as I redrafted the story, it came in because I’d changed my mind on what I wanted readers to think about the little girl in the story. At first, it was all about a nasty father, but turning the books and making the child the nasty one in the story seemed a far better idea.

      Of course, we never got to find out anything else about the puddle the father had said had been sent from his wife. Given that the little girl communicated with her soft toys and with her mother on the toy phone, it begs the question of whether she could see her mother in the puddle. And did her father end up in there too after his disappearance? Her plans for her stepmother may be a clue.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. JT Twissel Avatar

    Combining horror with humor is really your “bag,” Hugh. And you seem to have the knack for getting into a child’s head. Brilliant! I can’t never figure out your twists and turns!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thanks for the comment. JT. Hugh’s got the brilliant touch, for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

      I’m glad you can’t figure them out, Jan. In many of my stories, I like to leave it to the reader to decide the outcome.

      I’ve written from a child’s point of view before and got great feedback about it. Having a 3-year-old great-niece also helps, although I’m pleased to say she’s nothing like the little girl in this story.

      Thanks so much for reading my story and joining the discussion with us all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Marsha Avatar

        That may explain why the girl seems so young.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

          Yes, although only in parts of what she does and in her speech. My 3-year-old niece certainly talks to her toys, but she’s never let on that they talk back to her..yet.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Marsha Avatar

            LOL I’m told that my brother Wes very imaginative at that age, while his older sister (me) was not.

            Liked by 1 person

  10. ellenbest24 Avatar

    Hugh introduced me to this, your blog Marsha and If you like my writing I would like to join you all sometime with a story. I did respond to reading Hugh’s Puddle story a couple of days ago but my comment doesn’t appear to be here. .P. S. Maybe it spammed me for talking too much 🙃

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Hugh wrote to me about you. I’m so excited to welcome new – to – us authors. That is weird about your comment. I’ll look for it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ellenbest24 Avatar

        Thanks Marsha, I feel young (until I look in the mirror) when I am referred to as new. 🤣 I look forward to getting your email and seeing where it takes me.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha Avatar

          Great! I looked for you response to Hugh’s post, and didn’t find it. It might be on Hugh’s website instead of mine. I’ll check.

          Like

    2. Marsha Avatar

      BTW, I did get two of this comment, so I’ll delete the other one. 🙂

      Like

      1. ellenbest24 Avatar

        Oh my … that smacks of my tech incompetence 🙄

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha Avatar

          Not at all. I’ve done it lots of times. It’s WordPress getting over zealous. 🙂

          Like

  11. ellenbest24 Avatar

    Hugh introduced me to this, your blog Marsha and If you like my writing I would like to join you all sometime with a story I did respond to reading Huh’s Puddle story but my comment doesn’tappeartobehere. .P. S. Maybe it spammed me for talking too much 🙃

    Like

  12. KL Caley Avatar

    Firstly, what a marvellous story. I loved the unreliable narrator element to it. So many little teases for us all to add our own interpretation, very good. Child abuse, neglectful parent, wicked step-mother, possibly deceased mother, murder, talking toys, everything but the kitchen sink. Brilliant.

    Secondly, I thought I had already commented but can’t appear to find it (maybe I too would be better with a toy phone than a real one – haha)!

    My interpretations were, immediately you feel this child is vulnerable in some (many ways) and your instinct is you want to trust her and champion her. When she pushes her father at the end, that faith that a child is innocent waivers, yet I must say I still leant towards the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe she was trying to protect herself in some way. When she wishes to repeat the results with the stepmother, it caught me, hook, line and sinker.

    I too was wondering if there was something malevolent about the toys or some form of split personality in which the toys were displaying one side of her and her story another. I’m glad that was left open to interpretation though as it added to the reader’s sympathy for the little girl (well it did in my case).

    A thrilling read.
    KL ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

      Hi KL, thanks so much for reading my story and joining the discussion. The line I liked best in your comments was – ‘When she wishes to repeat the results with the stepmother, it caught me, hook, line and sinker.’

      The first drafts of this story were all about readers wanting to feel sorry for the girl and seeing her as vulnerable. But my mind wasn’t happy with that and, several drafts in, I wanted the little girl to be the one people most feared by the time they got to the end of the story. I stuck with it and am glad I did because it’s got a lot of you talking about her.

      Of course, most children are charming, but they become terrifying when you add a slice of unknowingness and evilness in.

      Thanks again for reading and joining the discussion.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Marsha Avatar

      What an inciteful comment, KL. I like the idea of a split personality or the toys having something to do with telling her story from a different perspective.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Sunday Stills: Burnt Orange – Marsha Ingrao – Always Write Avatar

    […] Chat – Hugh’s story “Puddles” is killing it in the comment section. Please join […]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thanks for the link. I agree with Frank!

      Like

  14. Gary A Wilson Avatar

    Wow — Hugh — this is a pretty twisted scene in many ways.
    It took me right in and knocked me about some too. ‘Creepy’ fits, but so does ‘intriguing’.

    It took me a while to sort out who the girl was talking to and I finally settled on perhaps an imaginary friend who was also the reader – so that’s how you drug us into the story! Nicely done.

    Her father’s secret game still has me wondering. At first, it was easy to think it was some form of sexual abuse but later, you tied it to the Snakes (Chutes) and Ladders game, so I still don’t understand that.

    The parcels from the second mummy, was quite the quiet image. It left me wondering if this woman is some kind of witch and was witchcraft a part of screwed up life this girl was enduring? That might implicate her real mummy as well as because when told that her real mom had sent the strange storm, she could not believe her mom would do something evil like that while not questioning if she even could do something like that. How could a normal person send a storm to get someone? Perhaps Hugh is planting a seed distrust about her real mom. . . hmmm.

    There are other details of the story we could dig into, but I really wanted to ask about how you “told” the story. You started with a clear first person narrative, but then dropped the father into the flow, like he was standing right there (?) or did you just not want to simply say, and then Daddy said to me, “blaa – blaa – blaa.” Instead you used italics like you were quoting. I’m still not clear on why you presented his voice in this manner. I’ve adopted what I’ve seen many other authors do and use italics, without quotes to punctuate someone’s thoughts as opposed to their speaking. But clearly you had her father speaking to her – but strangely presented. How did you intend for this to be interpreted?

    Final thought, and I suspect you deliberately did this because, I think the point is not stated but is clearly illustrated that you can’t have a child live like this and not mature into a broken older child. Perhaps this explains the degree of dependence on her two stuffed friends and hearing only her moms voice on her (toy?) phone or why she thought she could call the police woman on a toy phone. I think you’ve left us with a very damaged little girl who is already emotionally in a deep puddle of her own broken emotions. If there were more paragraphs to the story, I could see one possibility that the weird puddle was just a construct in the child’s mind – but that would leave some people still alive, unless they actually went over the cliff. . . hmmm.

    A very sad — but a very compelling read Hugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Wow, yourself, Gary. You have presented a very thoughtful analysis and raised some excellent questions. The toy phone also bothered me because she is 8 not 2-3 years old. In this era of technology most preschoolers are successfully using cell phones. Thanks for giving us more to ponder. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

        Interesting thought about the toy phone, Marsha. However, here’s another interesting view. Is this story set in an era of technology?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha Avatar

          There’s always another twist. There’s nothing in the setting that indicates a time, so don’t we default to the present? Or did I miss another clue? LOL I’m loving all these pathways for Puddles.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

            No, you haven’t missed any clues regarding the timeline of this story, Marsha. I prefer to let the reader make up their mind as to when a story is set unless I tell them. Remember that the little girl believes the toy phone is a way for her first mother to communicate with her, so why wouldn’t she still use it? If she believes it works, and it’s something nobody else would suspect works, then it’s something she won’t want to lose or be taken away.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Marsha Avatar

            So it could be any time.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

            Indeed. I like leaving it up to the reader to decide.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. Marsha Avatar

            That’s my friend, Hugh. “Leave it up to the reader” is your specialty, and boy is it happening in this story. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Gary A Wilson Avatar

        Thanks Marsha. I was also pleased to read that your recovery is coming along nicely.

        It’s easy to invest in your story chat each month. I continue to think it is such a great idea that it needs to continue. And Hugh never fails to deliver masterpieces.

        I consider myself lucky to have found it and find the conversations always teach me something new.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Marsha Avatar

          Thank you, Gary. You are a valuable member of the Story Chat team!

          Like

    2. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

      Hi Gary,

      Thank you for your in-depth thoughts on my little story. I loved it.

      When I first drafted this story, it was undoubtedly written from the perspective of a little girl who was being sexually abused by her father. But in later drafts, I wanted to make readers dislike the girl rather than the father. All the pointers towards being sexually abused were red herrings. I left them in the story because I wanted readers to feel sorry for the girl. And, from other comments, it seems many think the girl was being abused. However, I wanted the girl to be the evil one and say and do things that would cast doubt in the readers’ minds about how sorry they felt for her.

      The story is told by the little girl, so when the father was talking, the little girl told us what he was saying. I may have missed out on making some of the speech shown in italic font. At first, I didn’t use italic font, and Marsha queried why I was not using quotation marks around speech. Hence, I used italic font for the father’s speech as he wasn’t there, and his words were being told to us by the little girl.

      No intention of her second mother being a witch. The father was horrid to his daughter because of the threat of being blackmailed by the girl because she discovered her father in her parent’s bedroom with the future second mother. Although he should have been nice to his daughter, he couldn’t trust her because of her being so close to her mother. There was always a threat that his daughter may have told his wife what she witnessed. Hence, he had to somehow get rid of his first wife.

      And well done on saying ‘unless they actually went over the cliff,’ because that’s precisely what happened to the father while looking into that strange puddle at the top of the cliff. His daughter pushed him over the edge of the cliff – hence no ‘splash’ sound, which the little girl was strangely expecting to hear. In the story, she said –

      The only thing I saw when I looked was Daddy’s face looking up at me from the puddle. I thought I heard him calling for help, but Teddy and Giraffe said to go home and call the nice police lady.

      She may well have thought she heard her father calling for help, but not from the puddle, but from the bottom of the cliff. She was only convinced her first mother was also in the puddle because her father had told her that her mother had sent the strange storm that went on to form the puddle. His trying to frighten his daughter is all because he’s not able to live with the fact that his daughter has something over him. He wanted to do everything he could to make his first wife look nasty – hence telling his daughter that her mother had sent the nasty storm. And, after all, he saves lives, and lifesavers are good people, aren’t they?

      I hope I’ve covered everything here, Gary. But, if not, feel free to ask. My intention is to expand this story.

      Thanks again for joining the discussion on this strange tale from me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Gary A Wilson Avatar

        Thanks Hugh. It was a pleasure to read, okay, a bit disturbing too, but still fun. I look forward to reading the expanded version.

        Question: where did you find the photo of the girl and her stuffed animals? Was it part of the inspiration for the story or did you find someone to be your model? It was / is perfect!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

          Our host, Marsha, found the image for me, Gary. I’m thrilled with it. I’m not sure where she got it from, but I’m sure she’ll let you know. She added all the words to it. She did the same for my story -‘The People Under The Stairs’, the first story to appear on Story Chat in October 2020.

          Enjoy the rest of the weekend. I hope it’s been a sunny one (like it has been here in Wales).

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Marsha Avatar

            The picture is a stock photo available on Canva. The animals were separate photos on Canva. The backgrounds were removed and I placed them in the girl’s hands. MAGIC!

            Liked by 1 person

        2. Marsha Avatar

          Thanks, Gary. I put the explanation in response to Hugh’s comment. I read my comments backwards-newest first.

          Like

      2. Marsha Avatar

        Now that is an explanation, Hugh! I wonder, in order for the girl to look evil rather than abused, the father needed to be nicer, misunderstood, bemused, or not a suspect in his wife’s death. His bad behavior all lead the reader to think the girl is emotionally damaged and therefore not evil or responsible for her actions. Who was the hero of the story? Or can you have a story without at least one hero?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

          We don’t know anything about the father apart from that he’s a lifesaver, Marsha. And who doesn’t see a lifesaver as a hero and somebody who can only do good and be nice? Others may not suspect him, but his daughter does ever since she witnessed him being unfaithful to her mother (his first wife). And he can’t live with the thought of his daughter blackmailing him now or later in life.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Marsha Avatar

            Amazing that he didn’t kill her!

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

            His love for her is more powerful than the hate she has created. But if he hadn’t played around, I wonder if they would have been a happy family? Somehow, I don’t think so.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Marsha Avatar

            I have to agree with that. There is much more going on under the surface in that family than meets the eye.

            Liked by 1 person

  15. Norah Avatar

    I’m not a fan of horror stories and this story reminds me of horror movies that I never watched. That little girl seems very evil, while covering her maliciousness with seeming innocence. Daddy doesn’t seem very nice either. There’s generally nothing wrong with a game of snakes and ladders. Maybe there was something different about the way he played it. As Marsha said, the story raises as many questions as it answers, or more – typical Hugh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

      I laughed at the ‘typical Hugh’ bit of your comment, Norah. Playing Snakes and Ladders does seem innocent, doesn’t it? But when you suffer from ophidiophobia, it’ll take on a whole new meaning, especially when a child knows about it and wants to pay you back for something you did that they didn’t like.

      Thanks so much for reading this story. Knowing you don’t like horror stories, I’m honoured that you read it and left your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Marsha Avatar

      Lol, Norah! I wanted Hugh to make the little girl innocence and gave him all kinds of suggestions for change, because I wanted to like her and couldn’t! He wouldn’t do it and shocked me by saying he was GLAD I didn’t like her. Can you believe that? Thanks for the thoughtful comment, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. TanGental Avatar

    This put me in mind of the Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. Super intelligent alien children controlling the adults. Having read a lot of Hugh’s work I think we need to assume some supernatural element as well as an unreliable narrator. The toys may well be controlling evils who’ve latched onto the little girl and are controlling her murderous behaviour. The puddle may be a portal to a parallel world from where the malign force of the little girl has come and through which first the mother and now the father have been harvested. The one thing you can be sure with a Hugh Roberts’ story. Do not take it at face value! The most obvious explanation- wife murder and child abuse are almost certainly the deepest vermillion of herrings…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

      There’s a whole new story in your comment, Geoff.

      Just for a change, I had no intentions of their being a science-fiction element to this story when I wrote it. But I like the ideas you have thrown in, such as the puddle being a portal. You know how much of a big fan I am of the Twilight Zone, so that’s right up my street.

      Interesting what you say about the toys. Are they just a comfort blanket for the little girl, or do they have some kind of supernatural powers over her? Rod Seling wrote quite a few episodes about Children’s toys when he wrote the Twilight Zone. They were very eerie, and some viewers voted them amongst the most frightening episodes.

      I love the thinking from you all behind this story. So many different routes, all of which are possible. Of course, I know the correct path (and there is a clue in the story), but the different directions you’ve all gone in make for some interesting plots.

      Thanks for joining the discussion on this one. And watch out for those puddles.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. TanGental Avatar

        I used to jump in puddles but after meeting you, Hugh, I prefer walking under ladders…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

          Just make sure nobody drops a puddle on your head when walking under ladders, Geoff.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. TanGental Avatar

            Eew that image is now going to stay with me.
            .

            Liked by 2 people

    2. Marsha Avatar

      Geoff, your imagination is amazing. “Harvested!” So whose child is she? This puts both parents into the role of victims. I love your term “vermillion of herrings.” Hugh really knows how to get his readers chatting, doesn’t he? Thanks for joining in!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. TanGental Avatar

        He’s exceptionally talented and tricksy… damn nice chap too, though I’d probably not explore his cupboards too extensively.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Marsha Avatar

          I thought proctologist’s were the only ones who’s cupboards were off limits!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. TanGental Avatar

            Ah didn’t you know Hugh is an amateur proctolgist and cave diver?

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Marsha Avatar

            I learn something new every day. I’m glad all my doctors are not amateurs! LOL. That reminds me of that kid who posed successfully as a doctor, airline pilot and several other professions before he was 21 years of age.

            Like

  17. Terri Webster Schrandt Avatar

    Hi Marsha, hope you are feeling better! Hugh writes some twisted tales. No comments from me right now, but I wanted to say hello!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Hi back! You doing ok? Call me.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Cathy Cade Avatar

    Interesting…
    We think at first that mother has escaped. It isn’t unknown for abused wives to escape when they can intending to come back for their abandoned children.
    But Daddy seems certain she won’t see Mummy again. Or is he just being nasty?
    If she’d known about Daddy’s ‘game’ she’s less likely to leave her daughter behind.
    But what about that game?
    We’re all convinced the girl is being abused… until she mentions Snakes and Ladders – perfectly blameless, if boring, board game suitable for playing with children.
    Is she just a disturbed child with an unsympathetic father?
    But then there’s that line… ‘They told me to tell her what Daddy was doing to me.’
    An abuser would be likely to give a harmless name to their ‘games’, wouldn’t they?. And why ‘secret’?
    But the real puzzle is that puddle. It’s difficult to rationalise the disappearance of Daddy.
    So that when she tells of Mummy calling her on her toy phone, the disturbed child becomes more disturbing.
    Well done Hugh! A well-crafted, well-revealed tale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Great analysis, Cathy. I struggled with the puddle too. So did dad abuse her causing her to become disturbed or is this a story completely concocted by a mentally ill child? I agree with your praises.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

      Hi Cathy,

      Thank you for reading my story and your thoughts and questions about what’s exactly going on in this story.

      I love what you said about the mother escaping and intending to come back to get her daughter. It addressed Kirstin’s statement when she said, ‘I don’t think the mother is still alive because if there was abuse, which the story insinuates, she would’ve taken the girl.’ Maybe she is still alive and is going to come back? And as you rightly say, was the little girl being abused or was her father simply just being nasty towards her?

      I think it makes it even more intriguing whether she has mental health problems or is just an evil child. As I mentioned to Marsha in an earlier comment, bad children exist just as evil adults do. But then again, can a child really be wicked, or is it just a horrible form of nastiness?

      And could the line you mentioned, ‘They told me to tell her what Daddy was doing to me,’ simply mean to tell how nasty he had been towards her?

      I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to look into any puddle the little girl in the story tells them to look into, especially the one her father looked into. Is that a clue?

      Thanks again for reading my story and sharing your feedback, Cathy.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Marsha Avatar

        Great discussion, Hugh! I’m sorry I forgot to include a link to your website. My brain is clearing up as I get better!!!! Or maybe it’s just getting focused more outside my own needs! LOL I’m loving all this great discussion. As always, you give us plenty to gnaw on. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

          No worries about the links, Marsha. I much rather you concentrate on getting yourself better than worry about links. There’s plenty of time to add them.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Marsha Avatar

            I spend a lot of time on myself Hugh and I just plain forget. I’m sleeping about twice as much as normal. I used to be a five hour girl. Now I’m at about 10. It’s crazy. But the good news is that I feel, look and act stronger every day. Now for those links! 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Cathy Cade Avatar

        I will think on that c lue… intriguing.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Marsha Avatar

          Maybe it’s a mirage.

          Liked by 2 people

  19. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

    Oh Marsha, it’s good to see you here.. I was just getting ready to call you. Hope you are doing better. What an ordeal. Lots of time to read I see. What a story so true of mental health stories and the sad tales woven.
    Glad to see you my friend.. big hugs and love💖💖💖🤗🤗🤗🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thanks, Cindy. Any professional analysis of the girl or family members? Pretty strange 8-year-old!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

        you’re so welcome Marsha!!! I’ve learned that even the professionals don’t know how to help

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha Avatar

          That’s sad, but understandable. Someone that messed up is probably beyond help! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

            sooo sad but we try💖

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Marsha Avatar

            😍😍😍

            Like

    2. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

      Thank you for reading my short story, Cindy.

      Both Kirstin and Marsha mentioned the little girl having mental health problems. I’d love to know why you thought so.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

        You are so welcome Hugh. I would have to read it over again to truly access and hope to get back and re-read and let you know. 💖

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

          Thank you, Cindy. That’ll be great.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

            In reading it over Hugh, I think the girl was very traumatized by her fathers abuse and he mothers disappearance and he toys were her saviors in getting through life. These were just protective devices to get her through a day. Sad story because this is a story that happens too often in one way or another’s. It think it would be a great story for therapists and kids that have been abused.💖

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Marsha Avatar

            Wow! That takes it a totally different direction. Forget that she murders her dad. Or was that in her imagination, too. She would have liked to do that, but only thought about it. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

            I’m not sure but thinking maybe so?

            Liked by 1 person

          4. Marsha Avatar

            The girl is so unlikeable to me. That rarely happens in my heart-abused or otherwise. Sometimes abused children her age could be mean, but she’s not genuine.

            Liked by 2 people

          5. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

            oh interesting… i can’t say till i’ve walked in her shoes and I’ve walked in some pretty scary places so i have empathy for her.. xo 💖

            Liked by 1 person

          6. Marsha Avatar

            I have to say most of my scary experiences have been second hand, and for that I am thankful.

            Liked by 1 person

          7. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

            yes that’s a good thing!💖

            Liked by 1 person

        2. Marsha Avatar

          And this is what makes Story Chat so amazing! It’s so deep! I love it!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

            That’s a great take, Marsha. Is her father really dead?

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Marsha Avatar

            Are we going to find out in the summary?

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

            Oh, he’s definitely dead. But did he die in the puddle?

            Liked by 1 person

          4. Marsha Avatar

            OK, that must be the clue. Are we talking the cliff?

            Like

          5. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

            Spot on, Marsha. In my mind, she pushed him over the ciff, not into the puddle. That’s what there was no sound of a splash.

            Liked by 1 person

          6. Marsha Avatar

            That makes sense.

            Liked by 1 person

        3. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

          Thanks for coming back with your thoughts, Cindy.

          I agree that the little girl is traumatised and that she uses her toys as a protective device. I certainly think she uses them in a way to escape what’s happening in her life. Given she believes and does everything they tell her, she sees them as her saviuors.

          The abuse questions are interesting because when I first wrote this story it was going to be just that – her father was abusing her, but in later drafts, I changed my mind – hence the red-herrings about thinking she was being abused when in fact the secret game was all about playing Snakes and Ladders – something her new mother was terrified of because of her fear of snakes. I had in mind that the traumatisation was more about what she witnessed in her parents’ bedroom. How could her father have done that to her mother, who then suddenly disappeared?

          Of course, if she has murdered her father, does that mean she was always evil and what she witnessed tipped her over the edge to murder him?

          Thanks again for your thoughts, I enjoyed reading them.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

            Nicely done! I’d a murdered him too but not convinced he didn’t murder his wide!

            Liked by 2 people

  20. Kirstin Avatar

    Marsha! First, How are you doing? I’ve been a bit worried but wasn’t sure how to find out how you were. Secodn, this is the first time I’ve read a story chat. I’ll admit I don’t really like creepy stories, BUT this one was intriguing. Lots of good food for thought.

    I don’t think the mother is still alive because if there was abuse, which the story insinuates, she would’ve taken the girl. I lean towards the father being the one who killed her. But I could be completely wrong.

    Maybe the little girl either has a very active imagination or has some mental health issues.

    As far as the puddle, I’m not really sure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Hi Kirstin, thanks for your thoughts and well wishes. I’m improving every day. It’s a long process!

      You have made some great points. I think the little girl definitely has some mental health problems, but neither parent recognized it, apparently or had the ability or interest in following up. The father made the comment about her age and toys in a blaming way. It set her off. Dad is clueless or cares less about how to handle it. As far as we know, Mom and teachers never addressed her issues either. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kirstin Avatar

        Well, as long as you’re improving! Yay! I agree with your thoughts on the story!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha Avatar

          It was a very thought-provoking story-typical of Hugh!

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

        Hi Marsha,

        Thanks for adding your thoughts in response to Kirstin’s comments.

        Do you think the little girl has mental health problems, or is she hiding something else? I wondered, but then I recalled a news story from many years ago about two young boys who killed their parents. It was said they were pure evil, and mental health problems were never mentioned. However, it was a long time ago.

        It’s strange, but we often see evil children in movies, books and TV shows, but how often do we see or hear about them in real life? Do they exist? When I wrote this story, my memory of those two young boys who murdered their parents came to my mind. More food for thought, perhaps?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Marsha Avatar

          Well, it is evil to murder anyone, but especially the parents who raised you – unless there was some abuse going on. I’m thinking sexual abuse particularly of a young child. There is no excuse for a parent to inflict a defenseless child with that kind of abuse.

          She could be just an evil child, but are evil children born or bred, or both? If so, is there any blame or responsibility to fall on the parents’ shoulders. If I have an evil two-year-old, who hits or bites or acts out in harmful ways, don’t I train them to stop that behavior, or do I nurture it? If I nurture it, what’s wrong with me as a parent? Such a deep subject, Hugh, but you are dealing with an educator here! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

            I’ve heard it said that some humans are born evil. Then there are the humans who grow up to become evil. When it’s a child, I think the odds are that they are born evil. But, as you say, what about the parents? Shouldn’t they do something? I guess that depends on the beliefs of the parents.

            Do the little girl and the feel of this story have a ‘Twilight Zone’ sense to them, or is it something that could easily happen in the world we live in and know. I’m interested in learning which path readers will go down.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Marsha Avatar

            So far I’m sensing both.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

      Hi Kirstin,

      Thank you for reading my short story despite you saying you don’t like reading creepy stories. I am thrilled you took the plunge and read it and came back with your thoughts and some questions.

      What you say about the little girl’s real mother no longer being alive makes a lot of sense. Surely, she would have taken her, or at least tried taking her when leaving, wouldn’t she?

      But what if her husband had got to her first before she was able to take her daughter with her? And, given her daughter’s mental health, would she simply have wanted to have got away and left everything behind her rather than take anything with her to her new life? And is it an overactive imagination, mental health problems, or simply that the little girl is evil?

      Thanks again for reading my story and sharing your thoughts on what’s going on in it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Marsha Avatar

        And then again, if the father’s meanness was only in the imagination of the little girl, why wouldn’t he want to have the wife take her. In fact, why would he want her there at all unless he really was abusing her?

        Like

        1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

          Maybe the little girl knows something about her father’s life that he doesn’t want anyone else to know? Is it a kind of blackmail that sometimes pushes him over the edge as to the way he treats his daughter?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Marsha Avatar

            Ooooh, another angle. Wasn’t Cindy’s comment interesting? Maybe she didn’t kill him anywhere but in her imagination.

            Like

          2. Gary A Wilson Avatar

            Okay, I have a thought about this path the discussion is taking.

            I posit that all of us are born with a variety of emotional and attribute spectrums that can be summarized as good or evil. But this composite spectrum is made up of many more specific ones, thus we get people who are basically good, but can’t resist an opportunity to steal given an easy opportunity or someone who needs to be in prison but once there, can’t help but try to help others cope and grow out of their own problem personalities .

            We can be very nice people but somehow were absent when empathy was being doled out, etc.

            Take that point and add to it that this is the unique mix of attributes we are all born with and our parents, guardians, teachers and anyone else we are stuck with or admire have opportunities to train, raise or influence us to hopefully be civilized or, if someone ends up being essentially broken themselves and in charge of a child — well, what else would we expect from a bad person contaminating and younger one?

            This is why I entertained the thought that perhaps this girls mother was also broken somehow. If she’d been murdered, then did she see but refused to act in defense of herself and child (weakness) but if she left without her child . . . leaving her in such a situation, sorry, but I’d call that pretty evil. The lifestyles depicted may have crept in slowly – but this family was broken and somehow, she played a part at least in not acting to fix part that was within her power.

            So I think there is room in this story for this whole group to have a story that starts with innocence that was beat or training out of them by the evil attributes of others..

            Liked by 3 people

          3. Marsha Avatar

            This story really worked us up trying to explain the presence of evil in this child, doesn’t it, Gary? Did you read Geoff’s explanation? Maybe she’s not even their child. I agree that the entire family is broken. Maybe, like Hugh’s story last year, we can’t trust the narrator. Where do we go with that? Who or what will expose the narrator as being untrustworthy?

            Like

          4. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

            I love what you have done with looking at this family outside of the story, Gary. Thank you for adding it to the discussion. Human nature is something that zig-zags through all of us. Some of us can make decisions quickly, whereas others fear changing anything. Rod Serling (creator of the Twilight Zone) was excellent at looking and telling us what he thought about human nature, much of which was eerie and had viewers shocked. But when you thought about it more, much of it bore truth.

            Liked by 2 people

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