June Story Chat Summary: “The Backpack” by Aimer Boyz

The Story’s Success

With 155 recent views, 42 likes, and 102 comments, Aimer Boyz’s story, “The Backpack” continues to make Story Chat a raging success. This Story Chat ignited passionate discussions, and I commend Aimer for her equanimity in responding to her readers. The comments raised some issue questions for me as the Story Chat hostess, and I’d like your opinions.

My first question is, what is the difference between a theme and an agenda? Secondly, should Story Chat screen out agenda stories? Finally, would you have categorized “The Backpack” as an agenda story?

If you love to read short stories, you will enjoy Story Chat. For links to all of the Year Two stories bookmark the Story Chat Page or visit one of the authors’ recent blog posts listed below.

What Aimer Said About Story Chat

“This Story Chat experience has been a little nerve-wracking and a lot interesting. My story seems to have touched on a few that I didn’t expect, but that’s part of the fun of writing. You never know where your words will take your readers. “The Backpack” is my first attempt at writing a short story and I’m learning a lot from feedback like yours. Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂”

Aimer Boyz

99-Word Summary

by Gloria McBreen

From the beginning of the story, I saw straight away that Ben is a shy little boy who doesn’t feel comfortable around strangers. Unlike his brother.

Mark and Josh seem to be getting on fine until the backpack comes out. Josh is jealous of the backpack and insulted it and Mark. Mark also insulted Ben’s backpack as he demonstrated all the zippers; “That’s eleven, Ben’s has nine.” Ben didn’t seem to notice this and even considered getting it to show Josh.

Then he seemed more concerned that his brother’s smile had been wiped off his face by Josh’s remarks.

Attendance with Abbreviated Chattering

WARNING: Story Chat is not for the faint of heart. Going into a chat room online is much the same as going to a party. Story Chat is usually kind of like a warm homey chat room. There’s a lot of off-topic conversation as well as niceties. Since this is a summary of the chatter, not a taped recording to be used in a murder trial, I edit (not murder) comments with a chainsaw. To do this, I take out the parts that I think are white noise or unrelated and leave some of the raw emotional comments brought out by the story. To read the unabridged comments, feel free to refer back to the story post.

If the chatter has a blog I linked a recent post to their comment.

  1. AIMER BOYZ – AUTHOR – “I feel sorry for the kids today, they will never have the freedom to roam around on their own like we did. Different world. It took me a while to learn not to sweat the things that came from people who weren’t integral to my life. Gosh, I would have saved myself a ton of angst if I’d figured that out sooner. There are many examples in books and movies where a child hero/heroine acts in a manner we think unlikely. That’s part of the magic of fiction.”
  2. ALWAYS WRITE – HOSTESS – “Neither boy had any reason to trust Josh at the beginning of the story, so maybe his words should not have cut so deeply. He was a nobody to them, just a jerk. We don’t know what happened before he came over. Maybe Mom had said, “You are really going to like this kid (the trust issue) and I bet he’d love to see your new backpacks. (excitement and trust built up.) So the real letdown was that Mom was wrong about this kid and he didn’t want to see the backpacks and it was a setup because she wanted to see Josh’s parents. So the real breach of trust here could have been with Mom. That would also explain the yell at the end.
  3. RAMBLES OF A RARING WRITER “One of my daughters was terribly shy when she was Ben’s age. My son was more like Mark; outgoing and would mix with anyone. My daughter would not have stood up to Mark as a six-year-old. My son most definitely would have. He would have been very hurt by Josh’s behaviour and he would have told him to have manners. I’ve seen him doing it. That’s just my experience of how two different children might handle a bully. But this is a story and like children, all stories are different and as Story Chat has proved yet again, readers read stories differently. And that’s ok. Many stories where a child is the hero/heroine, have parts in them where we think, ‘Nah….a child would never say/do that.’ Stories are just that…stories. To convey a message. And I think Aimer did just that with this one and made it an enjoyable read also.”
  4. TANGENTAL: “woof… well… I read the story and then the comments and… was there some heat or some heat? Aimer, you’ve managed to get to some tender places with what, ostensibly seems like a simple commonplace story. That speaks volumes for the way you’ve pulled us readers into the room, alongside those three boys. Initially, I thought Ben was maybe awkward because of something like autism making him ‘not good with strangers’ and sticking to his fish tank. That idea faded as he engaged with the conversation between the other two but didn’t completely go until Ben got stuck in at the end and even then I wondered if, perhaps, his willingness to confront the older boy might have something to do with how he viewed the situation differently to the others, making him less scared than another child might have been. Ben remains something of an enigma to me.”
  5. HUGH’S VIEWS AND NEWS – “Aimer – you’ve shared a delightful story with us. It took me back to how my younger sister would protect me against some of the bullies who would call me horrible names just because most of my friends were girls. So, for me, your story is very true to life. I had to read the story twice, and I have to add that I wasn’t put off by not knowing the layout of the room the boys were in. Sometimes, authors can give too much description that takes the shine off the story they’re writing. As readers, we don’t need to know all the ins and outs and should be allowed to make our own minds up. I always enjoy it when an author allows me to build up a picture rather than being bombarded with too much information.”
  6. THIS IS MY TRUTH NOW – “I have seen this sort of thing happen between kids and I have seen siblings standing up for each other. A child of six would call mom, that was the correct reaction. Kids can be very hurtful by laughing at a prized possession without necessarily meaning to inflict the hurt they do. Kids aren’t tactful or kind to each other.”
  7. GARY A WILSON STORIES – “Benjamin was content enough at the fish tank without engaging the stranger, while bother Mark was anxious to engage and even anxious to impress. Benjamin was content to fiddle with the fish tank while Mark engaged. Benjamin had already seen his brother’s new backpack so what changed that caught Benjamin’s attention and drew him to the pending encounter? You make great use of the age-old rule that I get to taunt and torment my siblings but other than our parents, no one else gets to do that. They’re brothers and of course, they annoy each other. It’s how normal kids are wired. Josh’s “You have a girl’s bag,” would have indeed been painful to Mark as he was clearly angling for respect and approval from this new guy.” 
  8. SIX CROOKED HIGHWAYS: “A sweet story about brotherly love and the casual verbal and physical violence of young boys including, ironically, Mark’s bullying of Ben. However, I think there’s too much of an overlay of adult perceptions here and I found Ben’s 6-year-old ‘wisdom’ unconvincing.”
  9. PRIORHOUSE BLOG: The story had two parts for me. The first section had me in the setting and I could almost hear the zippers as they unzipped and the details were vivid – could feel that enthusiasm of the child showing the backpack. The second part of the study (in my view of it) unfolded right at the part this was said: “You have a girl’s bag. … The nice part was the way Aimer led us into a child taking a stand! Josh would not be allowed to belittle and Ben took a stand”
  10. PICTURE RETIREMENT: “And just like that, a few careless words slice into a young boy’s heart and leave a scar that might never heal. Beautiful, well-written, and thoughtful story.”
  11. WRITING WRINKLES: “I liked that six-year-old Ben knew who to call for to sort things out. Ben seems to have a clued-up view of things all around. And he knows whose side he’s on. Maybe what Josh needs to sort him out is a brother?”
  12. UNIQUELY FIT BLOG: “You were right Marsha. I love the story. Well written Aimer and love the brotherly love. We should all have someone like that in our camp! 💖💖💖”

Themes and Tips in the Discussion


  • PRIORHOUSE BLOG: “Even though children are not always told to tell an adult, I have been in a kindergarten class (private Christian school) where the child came to the Teacher and was told not to “tattle” There are mixed messages in society and many children don’t speak up, especially when young and not able to articulate that well.
  • GARY WILSON STORIES: “There is merit in learning how to deal with them, weighing them for any sign of value but then dismissing them, especially if given by a known bully. Learning how to strip someone’s words of the power to hurt or even upset me was a powerful lesson for me. If seen many adults who still suffer terribly for lack of knowing how to do it.”
  • AIMER: “I agree that children receive mixed messaging, being told not to tattle while also being told to find an adult for help. That’s a tricky divide for them to navigate. We can’t protect them from every scrape both physical and emotional. But we can be there with a band-aid 🙂”


  • PRIORHOUSE BLOG: “The child at the end called for “Mom,” which means she was not supervising properly. I know a lot of parents have minimal supervision (even on the Judge Judy show there were cases where Judy had to tell a parent that “no, you are not watching your child if they are outside in front of the house and you are in the couch inside” If Josh was older and not a friend yet – why was he in the room with two younger boys? This is the reader’s story to raise awareness about not being careless with words and interceding in social situations when possible. This story is for adults and can maybe plant seeds about active parenting and also about not being so quick to use the term “gay” because maybe many in that marginalized group really want that to stop.
  • GARY WILSON STORIES: “When we were young, there were many days when we just didn’t see our parents and as grammar school kids, we ran around and did our best to stay alive and have some fun. Bullies were then, as they are now, a reality that we may never be rid of. We all have to learn some degree of dealing with them. As parents, we tried to avoid larger situations where bullies might present themselves.”
  • TANGENTAL: “The debate around supervision and parenting generated a lot of heat and not much light and didn’t seem relevant to the story. In one interpretation, Josh’s comments about the bag came out unexpectedly. Even with adults in the room, unless they were actively listening to what had been, up to that moment. an entirely harmless conversation, they would not have seen the contretemps that was to emerge from Josh’s comments. And then it kicked off in seconds before Ben steps in and calls for a referee. Or these boys could have been left to their own devices and at risk of the most egregious of bullying. The point is we don’t know and we don’t need to know to be able to enjoy this story.”
  • RAMBLINGS OF A RARING WRITER: “When a child calls ‘Mom’, her response depends on the tone of voice and how loud the child calls. My perception of Ben calling ‘mom’ was in a tone that said, ‘I want you here now, it’s important’. I don’t always answer straight away to ‘mam’. But if it’s called out loud in an urgent tone, I’ll respond immediately. It’s impossible to monitor your children 24/7.”

Whether or Not a Six-Year-Old Understands the Word Gay

  • RAMBLINGS OF A RARING WRITER: “I’ve heard children say, ‘that’s so gay’, but here it means girly. They’re not encouraged to say it because it’s not nice regardless. Just like ‘that’s crappy’ or ‘that’s for babies’. These are all words they use to put each other down. I think that sometimes we underestimate what goes on in a child’s mind. I didn’t question the fact that Ben understood the meaning of gay because in today’s world it’s an open discussion and I would assume that many children understand what it means. It’s only since 2015 that same-sex marriage was made legal here in Ireland. Since then nearly every family I know has a sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, or family friend in a same-sex marriage. My youngest child is only eleven and I don’t think we ever had an in-depth conversation about the gay community. We see it on television all the time. It crops up in conversation. My adult children were probably eleven when they asked, ‘What does gay mean?’”
  • SIX CROOKED HIGHWAYS: ” I think there’s too much of an overlay of adult perceptions here and I found Ben’s 6-year-old ‘wisdom’ unconvincing.”
  • PRIORHOUSE BLOG: “I don’t think such a young child would ponder so literal like that…. and the colloquial use of “gay” is more like “lame” and not stylish! Perhaps five and six-year-olds are now learning about same-sex relationships (depending on the family) and I know when Katie Perry’s “kissed a girl” song was out – our soccer friends had three little girls under 7 and they always reacted silly when that song was on! I don’t think they understood “gay” That part seemed like an agenda:”
  • GARY A WILSON STORIES: “The gay issue being mentioned, complicates this story. You sure got the shock value from it, but I’m not sure Ben was distinguished enough to have credibly stayed so cool and measured in his response.”

Ongoing on Always Write

  • July Story Chat “Not a Proper Job” by another new (to us) author, Philip Cumberland AKA Fenlandphil’s Blog
  • WQW #22 (Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays) – “Hot Holidays: Father’s Day & Juneteenth” Happy Summer Solstice today – tomorrow’s topic! The only rule is to have at least one quote in your post about the topic. Remember a song can be a quote, too. Then just post a story, poem, or pictures that tie into and respond to your quote or quotes. The last day to post links is Tuesday at 12:00 noon Phoenix time.
  • PPAC #51 (Photographing Public Art Challenge) every Friday at 9:00 (ish). The last day to post links is Thursday at 12:00 noon Phoenix time.

Thank you Aimer for submitting your touching story. Readers, thanks for the time you took to read, think about this story, and respond honestly. You are all the heart and soul of Story Chat.

19 responses to “June Story Chat Summary: “The Backpack” by Aimer Boyz”

  1. D. Wallace Peach Avatar

    I had to dip back and read the story. I thought it was perfect, poignant, and skillfully told. I don’t believe this story was heavy-handed at all in terms of theme or agenda. If every story has to make people feel comfortable, we might as well all stop writing right now. In some ways, stories tell themselves and a writer has to honor the characters and the truth of the situation or the reality is compromised. That’s my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha Avatar

      I love it, D. Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂 I thought Aimer did a great job with the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. willowdot21 Avatar

    Sorry I can’t follow this story I did try but it brought back too many bad memories 💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Willow, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say.


      1. willowdot21 Avatar

        It’s okay I just avoid that type of thing 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

    I agree with what Geof and Cathy said. I read stories for entertainment, not to judge any underlying theme. If I’m not enjoying what I am reading (or watching), I’ll stop reading/watching and look for something else.

    As authors and writers, we all have a passion for writing and words in our blood, but words can be used in many ways.

    I’d only step in with moderating or deleting comments if they are said in a rude and unprofessional manner, Marsha.

    If you take away frank and open discussion, it’ll spoil the whole Story Chat experience, but where the discussion is unfriendly or unprofessional, I agree it should be edited or deleted.

    For example, I wouldn’t allow any comment where a blogger attacks another blogger unprofessionally. I’ve witnessed it happening, and it’s not nice. It’s one of the reasons why I moderate all comments on my blog regardless of whether who is leaving the comment has commented before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Hugh, this is great input. I haven’t deleted any comments other than extraneous comments, where they got logged in twice. That happened this time, and that’s no big deal. I agree about the comments being moderated. What I was thinking about was accepting or rejecting the story itself before anyone else sees it. For example, I stay away from politics as much as possible. That is a big red flag agenda. An example of an agenda story that I’m talking about might be a story about guns and the right to own an AK whatever, or something of that volitility and politicalsubstance.


      1. Hugh W. Roberts Avatar

        I agree about certain subjects – policies and religion are no-nos for me. However, if I came across a story or blog post I didn’t like reading (because of the subject), I would stop reading it and move on.

        In the circumstances like this, I think it best to have some guidelines in place so that when authors write a story, they know what is and isn’t acceptable. But I’m sure you’re already doing that, Marsha. And over the last almost two years, what an incredible range of story subjects have been featured. That first story already seems like a long time ago.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha Avatar

          It is amazing that it’s been almost two years. Our months are filled up through October if you are still on board for your traditional thriller. I do try to make the requirements clear, and I’ve done a lot of thinking about agendas since I wrote this piece. (And reading Charles Dickens who was the agenda king for his era.) Story Chat is about honest conversation, and without a little controversy, there is little conversation beyond, “Great story, Hugh.” Story Chat has always gone deeper than that. Between now and October, I will create a new page for Story Chat and may do some articles as well. I wanted input from the primary participants to make sure I’m going the right direction.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Cathy Cade Avatar

    Whew! that’s some summing up of the strands. Maybe a theme is an underlying background while an agenda is a reason to set out to tell the story (and, in my opinion, that often gets overdone and turns into preaching).
    I never look for an agenda – or a theme, come to that. I look for entertainment first and then other things come through. If they do, then I’m more likely to remember the story. Having said that, bullying is one of my betes noir, in all its forms.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      I don’t think of bullying as an agenda. I don’t know any readers who like a bully. They are the perfect bad guy and every story has one or more of them. I just finished the Bleak House, and the bully was the attorney who had everyone’s secrets. He bullied everyone. It’s a shock that he didn’t get killed before the story ever started, but then there wouldn’t have been a bully. To me, having a bully in a story is almost essential to give it some conflict. I agree with your idea about an agenda as a reason to tell the story. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

    I love how you summarized this Marsha and added comments at the end and even mine. Very kind of you to do and you are so inclusive of everyone always which blows me away at how much work it is. I can’t really answer your question as it didn’t feel like either to me. Just a lovely story. 💖💖💖

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Great, glad to hear that! Thanks for sharing your opinion, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

        Pleasure!!! You’re most welcome Marsha!!💕

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Suzanne@PictureRetirement Avatar

    Marsha, excellent recap of some very interesting and involved comments. I loved the story and did my best not to ‘overthink’ or dissect it. It was a good read all around – both story and comments!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thanks so much, Suzanne. Come back next month!


  7. TanGental Avatar

    On the theme/agenda dichotomy, I’d be cautious about stepping in, if you felt the need. To me this wasn’t either especially thematic and it didn’t strike me as containing any sort of agenda. However we writers soon learn that as soon as we release our work into the wild it no longer belongs to us but to each reader to interpret as they will. Same here. Did Aimer have an agenda? I didn’t spot it but if others did then that’s their privilege. Unless the usual courtesies are being ignored I would tread lightly before intervening, Marsha. The joy here is to encourage frank, honest and polite commentary after all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Good advice, Geoff. I listen to all of you and try to piece things together as best makes everyone feel safe and happy. I do say no to erotica, but that’s a genre not s theme or an agenda. I think of agenda as having a political aspect.

      Liked by 1 person

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