Archive for the 'Short Stories' Category

Fiction #47 Leon

Fiction #47 Leon

Leon wasn’t the sharpest chisel in the set, but he was my mate in primary school. His father farmed the property a mile down the road. Despite being so close Leon and I rarely played together out of school hours. I didn’t have a bike – in fact I didn’t have a bike until I was married with two children – and Dad never saw the need for me to have a bike. And Leon couldn’t come over to my place to play because he had so many responsibilities around the farm.

His father was so disorganised he needed Leon to tend to various animals on a daily basis, feeding and watering as required. He was expected to do the rounds of the animals from a very early age, starting before going to school each day and continuing after school.

They had about a dozen chooks that laid the odd egg or two for breakfast, a family of ducks that pooped all over the paths and lawns, four pigs being fattened for eating someday but never reached the slaughter house, three cows, a horse that no-one could remember the last time anyone had ridden him, and flock of almost wild geese that roamed the farmyard around the sheds and the adjoining paddocks like they were the sole owners of the entire countryside. No-one ever messed with those geese if they wanted to remain unscathed.

I was in the same classroom as Leon. In fact, all of the children of the district shared to same room in the one teacher school. We were also in the same class in Sunday School in the local – the only – church in the small mallee town where we grew up. Most of the community were Lutherans; the few who weren’t Lutheran worshipped nowhere as the distance to the next town was too great to travel to church. People weren’t as mobile in the 1950s as they are today.

On one infamous occasion the teacher’s wife, a wonderful woman who never said or even thought ill of anyone, came to a church service one Easter. Being of the Churches of Christ denomination she was not only astonished but somewhat offended when she was refused permission to receive Holy Communion in the Lutheran Church. That was probably a watershed event which led me to one day abandon my membership of the Lutheran Church.

Leon’s faith was as simple as mine was complicated. He simply believed in God and took to heart all the stories about Jesus and Noah and Samson without question. God was God and was to be obeyed and feared. My faith by way of complete contrast was a convoluted expression and awe inspired mixture of love and fear and amazement. God was indeed to be feared, but he was also, through the expression of his son Jesus, an amazing example of love, a God who desired love in return. Fifty years later Leon still has an uncomplicated faith while I still have a cocktail of faith elements swishing around in my mind. I might manage to work it all out – providing I live another thirty or forty years. I am a work in progress.

Leon was a truly laconic Australian boy. I think he was the one they had in mind when they invented the word. He spoke with a deep, drawn out drawl, never getting excited in thought or speech. He could lull you into slumber with a drawn out description of wrestling with a reluctant bull for an hour when trying to load him on to a truck. After every sentence or two he would throw back his head and laugh, the deepest laugh I can ever remember hearing; slow, deliberate and taking delight in the memory of his misfortune and seeing the funny side of everything. It was the laugh which kept you from nodding off during one of his recounts of farming life.

Student life and Leon never became close friends. He never made it to high school; he was needed as an unpaid farmhand from an early age. In fact, I believe he even had to regularly ask his father for money when he eventually married. Leon survived primary school as best he could. He barely learned to read and write, but then, farmers didn’t need those skills to succeed on the land in the 1960s. He never excelled at anything academic in complete contrast with my levels of success. I managed to set new levels of excellence in all subjects attempted during the examinations in my final year, records which still stand because the school closed its doors for good several years later when all the children were taken by bus to the nearest large town.

Our friendship was a strange one; opposites attract they say. Intellectually we were poles apart, spiritually we saw life quite differently, emotionally I was a see-saw while he was a solid rock and physically he was tall, strong and stocky while I was short, thin and weak. Yet there was a bond that drew us together, a bond usually only felt by close brothers.

I cannot explain it, yet it was real, tangible. And long lasting. Only last year we were at a funeral and met up again after many years apart. He took one look at my bulging waistline and commented in a way only Leon could, ‘Looks like you’ve been in a good paddock.’ Only a friend like Leon could get away with a statement like that and not offend me.

© 2015 Trevor W. Hampel

All rights reserved.


  • Although I have listed this piece of writing under fiction, some of it is true, based on a real life. Mine.
  • This piece was originally written as a warm-up writing exercise.
  • You can read more of my stories here.

Short story starters

Today I have added another set of short story starters.

Just choose one of them and use it as the first sentence in a short story.

1. As Don turned the corner, he was surprised to see who was standing next to his car.

2. Fiona stopped and stared at the bush in the corner of her auntie’s garden.

3. In the rush to get to the football ground in time for the match, Harry had quite forgotten one, extremely important detail.

4. On reflection, Joel should have seen this argument coming.

5. As Lorna hobbled up the path to her front door, she pondered on the events of this important, life-changing day.

6. Twelve years ago Nola would not have reacted in this way, but things had changed – and not for the better.

7. Peta had quite forgotten her father’s advice and blazed ahead regardless.

8. Without a moment’s hesitation Ross slipped the envelope through the slot in the door.

9. As Toni walked across the stage to the lectern, she was sure about only one thing.

10. The clock ticking on the wall reminded Wendy that her time was slipping away rapidly.

You can find more short story starters here and more writing prompts here.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above. Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.

Fiction #46 Fig Trees

We had several fig trees in the garden on the farm where I grew up. This was in the Murray Mallee area of South Australia. It was dry, dusty country for much of the year. Winter and spring rains were few and sparse, sometimes coming just at the right time, often at the wrong time. Farmers like my father eked out an existence somehow. It was a tough life.

A feature of our farm was the vegetable garden and orchard. It was like an oasis in the parched desert. Water came from the Murray River about twenty miles away but the pressure was never good. Dad made a large storage tank near the vegetable garden which filled slowly during the night and when other taps were switched off. This water was then used to water the garden as needed.

But back to the fig trees. We had at least two of them, perhaps three –my memory dims a little after all these years. Lovely lush green leaves a bright splash against the surrounding drab grey-green leaves of the mallee trees. In season the branches bowed under the weight of the luscious fruit. The rest of the family gorged themselves on the fruit when ripe, and mother gathered the leftovers for fig jam.

I was the odd one out. I didn’t really take to fresh figs and still won’t pick one up to eat. Not sure where this phobia came from. I cannot ever recall even tasting a fresh fig. Strange that, seeing I love and devour most fruits. I do occasionally eat fig jam, but then, very few people actually make fig jam like when I was younger. In fact, most people don’t make any jam these days. The only jam you see offered these days are those insipid globules of stickiness grandly called ‘conserves.’ They are so far from the taste of true home-made jam they deserve a different name.

No – fig trees and their fruits do not make the list of my favourite things.

Now – home-made strawberry, apricot or peach jam – well, where do I start? Fortunately my wife has excelled in making these jams over the span of our married life.

Pity I have diabetes.


© 2015 Trevor W. Hampel

All rights reserved.


  • Although I have listed this piece of writing under fiction, most of it is true, based on a real life. Mine.
  • This piece was originally written as a warm-up writing exercise.
  • You can read more of my stories here.

Short story starters

My series of short story starters and writing prompts on this site continue to be very popular with readers, so here is another set of ideas.

Just copy one (or more) of these sentences as the opening to your story.

The rest is up to your imagination.

Warm up exercise: consider using one of these ideas as a short, 15 minute warm up writing exercise before you start on your work-in-progress.

Writing prompts:

  1. James hesitated when he reached the basement, wondering if it was safe to enter.
  2. Katrina knew she shouldn’t be walking through this unfamiliar part of the city.
  3. Leanne picked up the book with the strangest of titles.
  4. Malcolm couldn’t resist; he just had to phone his brother and find out the result.
  5. Five hours had elapsed since Nanette had called.
  6. Paris had always intrigued Olga, but not for the usual reasons.
  7. If I had asked Peter a week ago that this was going to happen, he would have laughed in my face.
  8. She had dreaded this day coming for many weeks, but Ronya was pleasantly surprised by the actual outcome.
  9. Setting off at midnight was not Sam’s idea, but it was the least of his troubles that day.
  10. “How can we go on,” said Tony, “when this has just happened?”
  11. “Unless you let me have the gun,” whispered Vanessa, “we are never getting out of this place.”
  12. As soon as Wendy opened the rusty gate, she knew that this visit was going to be different.


Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above. Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.


Good writing.


Fiction #45 Alison

On reflection, I didn’t really trust Alison from the very first time I met her. The circumstances were unusual, granted, but there was no need for her to dismiss me in that way.

‘I’ve changed my mind.’ She stared at me for a few moments. ‘I’m not really interested in what you have suggested. I have never been interested in that sort of thing, so go away.’ She slammed the door.

I stood there open mouthed. ‘Well—of all the cheek…’ There really was no point in saying anything because I knew instinctively that the door wasn’t going to answer me—nor was she about to fling open the door again and invite me in—out of pure and simple sympathy.

I slouched my way back to my car, parked some distance down the street. Why I had parked away from her house escapes me. I guess I had my reasons at the time but events since that morning have blurred those reasons into insignificance. I sat in the car for maybe fifteen minutes. I’m inclined to think too much about events, people, situations and such things.

‘This is a situation,’ I said to the steering wheel. ‘At least—I think it is a situation.’ She doesn’t want to be involved, that’s painfully clear, I thought. I really don’t understand why. After all, she had appeared very keen when she broached the subject at work only yesterday. She’d even given me her address. I flicked on the radio but the music was so mournful I switched it off after thirty seconds.

My mind slipped back to the day we first met. It was at work in the bank three months earlier. I’d been on teller duty that morning because our regular, reliable, trustworthy teller had decided to take a day off unexpectedly that day and no relief teller could be arranged at such short notice.

‘Good morning. How can I help you?’ Our stock query to all customers was met with narrowed eyes and a mumble.

‘Deposit this cash,’ was her terse reply. She shoved over a bulky calico bag. I emptied the bag on to the counter in front of me and gave a low, barely audible whistle.

‘Cut the music,’ she snapped. ‘Just count it.’

The pile of cash was mostly fifty and twenty dollar notes, some loose but most in bundles.

‘This will take a few minutes to count,’ I said, beginning to sort the notes into piles, ‘because the piles are uneven numbers of notes.’

‘Just count.’

I began sorting the notes, and then flicked through each pile in the expert manner most competent tellers are expected to display. Haven’t lost the old skills even though I don’t do much teller work these days.

‘Fifty thousand, five hundred and seventy dollars,’ I announced. ‘Sell something valuable?’

‘Ssssh! Not so loud.’

I raised my eyebrows – just a little – and placed the notes in the special safe under the counter. There was no need to keep that much cash in the tray at my hip. I took her card and entered the amount.

‘Thank you Alison, all done,’ I said as I glanced at the name on the card and handed it back, along with her receipt. ‘Will there be anything else?’

She turned away and marched out of the bank without a word. Ungrateful floozy. I turned to the next customer and dismissed any further thoughts of her for the rest of the day.

Our normal teller returned the next day and I was back at my usual position at the help desk. Things went well until an hour after opening time. I had just spent fifteen minutes struggling to understand a customer on the phone, trying to get through to him that he really needed to come into the branch and attend to the matter in person. Some customers just didn’t understand.

I looked up as the manager Adrian approached my desk.

‘Tony—I’d like you to meet Alison,’ he announced. ‘She’s your new assistant.’

I must have done a double take. I know my jaw dropped and as I picked it up again Alison spoke.

‘We’ve already met,’ she said sweetly.

‘How did you…?’

I stared at her like a monkey caught stealing bananas from the fruit shop.

‘Tony served me yesterday when I had a little cash to deposit,’ she said. She winked at me, but not so Adrian could see.


From that point on our working relationship had been hard work. For the next three months we worked at close quarters on most days. The help desk was a busy spot in the bank and while I was grateful for the extra assistance, our working relationship was, at best, strained. I had only once made a tentative query about the fifty grand, but either she didn’t hear me, or she was hiding something. She never answered me, and I decided never to broach the subject again. Still, I was mighty curious about how she had come by so much cash, and why she was being so secretive about it.

I was therefore quite surprised – perhaps even delighted – when our relationship took a turn for the better some two months after she started to work alongside of me. There was a gradual thawing and a much friendlier atmosphere, not that Alison was ever totally frosty towards me or any of the other workers. I must say that her treatment of every customer was faultless. She was ideally suited to the position of helping people; patient, understanding and efficient with just the right balance of casual friendliness and astute business acumen.

‘Hey, Tony?’ she asked suddenly as we were closing up for the day. ‘I didn’t realise that you were so into philately. Brian told me during lunch.’

‘Yeah,’ I said, a little sheepishly. ‘It’s not something I generally broadcast much. I used to be teased about it a bit as a teenager.’

‘So – do you attend the local stamp club?’

‘I go to most meetings. I’ve made a few friends there, but really – they are all just acquaintances – not what you’d call close friends.’

‘I’ve got a few albums too,’ she admitted, eyes sparkling as she smiled at me. ‘When’s the next meeting?’ She hesitated. ‘I think I’d like to go with you.’

‘Tomorrow.’ I looked at her. No, she wasn’t teasing me. I think she was quite genuine. ‘Always the last Friday of the month. Want me to pick you up?’ She nodded, and we made the arrangements.


I slowly drove off down the street, glancing across at her house as I went by. The door was still firmly shut and there was no sign of Alison having changed her mind. I drove to the Philately Club meeting with confused feelings. I was not sure what had just happened, and why the sudden change in her manner. She had seemed so keen to go to the meeting with me.

The meeting was a bit of a blur, but I managed to get through it without too much extra trauma. In fact, one interesting matter of business made me sit up and take extra notice. Several members had recently had break-ins in their homes with valuable collections being stolen. One was estimated to be valued at around forty to fifty grand. While this was of interest to me in so much as I realised that I was somewhat careless about my own security, I really gave it not much thought after that.


The rest of the weekend that followed was a flurry of activity for me. A family reunion kept me away for most of the time. It was only late on the Sunday evening that I finally retreated to my study to work on my stamp collection, thinking I needed a little peaceful activity before the stresses of the work week.

‘What the…?’ I realised at once that something was missing. The filing cabinet where I kept my stamp collections was open. All my albums were missing. I’d been robbed. The next hour or so was taken up with helping the police with their investigations. I went to bed later than usual before a work-day, and never really slept all that well. It felt like I had been robbed twice: my collection and my sleep.


Monday morning added to my confusion. Alison didn’t turn up for work. She sent no message and her mobile went unanswered when I called. I feared something must have happened to her, so Adrian, ever the concerned boss, suggested I cruise over to her house and check on her after work.

The afternoon was terribly draining, as I was kept busy without Alison’s help at the desk. I was also constantly feeling like curling up in a corner and having an afternoon nap. It took quite an effort not to yawn in customers’ faces, especially those who were rude, or didn’t really know what they wanted.

Eventually I made it over to Alison’s home. There was no answer to my knock on the door. I went around the back and knocked there. Still no answer. I peered in through several windows – the house was totally empty. Unoccupied. Devoid of furniture.

The next day was even more perplexing.

‘She’s emptied her account.’ Adrian showed me a print-out. ‘Nothing left in her account. She had over a quarter of million in it. All gone – transferred to an overseas bank.’ He stared at the paper, and then at me.


We never saw Alison again. I still have no idea where her fifty grand came from, but I have my suspicions. And I never saw my stamp collections again, either.


All rights reserved.

Copyright 2015 Trevor W Hampel.

You can read more of my short stories here.