Family Monument


© Jennifer Pendergast

After five-year-old Barry and his Grandpa were done playing in the park, the little boy stood marveling at the giant, rusty wheel, while Grandpa went to get the picnic basket.

Bubbe had made their favorite split pea soup and they sat eating and reading comic books in the wheel’s comforting shadow.

Grandpa said it used to be a monument, but people forgot what to. For Grandpa, it was a symbol of family, something big and enduring that has no beginning or end.

Grandpa’s latest tests showed he was still cancer free. He and Barry were here to celebrate.

I wrote this in response to the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the photo at the top of the page to write a piece of flash fiction no longer than 100 words. My story today is 98 words long.

To read more stories based on the prompt, go to

I know I write a whole bunch of endearing little stories about Grandpas and grandkids. I might have written this one differently if the photo didn’t contain a small child.

This story is very, very loosely based on a “road trip” I took with my son David some years back. He served in the Marine Corps and suffered a number of injuries he believes he should have been receiving disability payments for. The local VA did an evaluation, but David wanted a second opinion, so they sent us to the VA in Walla Walla, Washington.

We made a day of it. My wife really did make homemade split pea soup for us. We told stories during the drive, David played videos on his phone, and I was reading the graphic novel “V for Vendetta” on the trip.

We finally arrived back home in Boise exhausted, but we had a great time. To this day, it’s one of my favorite adventures with my son.

The scene in the photo looks vaguely like the grounds of the VA in Walla Walla, which is a converted fort.

Sorry if I’m writing too many schmaltzy tales, but if at all possible, I prefer happy endings.

54 thoughts on “Family Monument

  1. I noticed that several stories based on the photo prompt depicted portals of some sort, leading to other planets and perhaps other dimensions or time periods. I wondered what sort of portal story I’d have written, but then realized I’d already written it.
    Of course, it’s far, far longer than 100 words, but imagine on the other side of the portal is the planet Mars…4.5 billion years ago, when it had a sustainable atmosphere, an ocean, and a rotating molten metal core producing a magnetic field (keeping solar radiation from hitting the planet’s surface).
    The story’s called The Five Billion Year Love. After the tragic death of his beloved wife, all scientist and inventor Juan Villanueva wants is to be alone, completely alone. He finds the answer to his dilemma in a time portal that leads to exactly one time and place: the ancient and uninhabited planet Mars of nearly five billion years ago. The question though is whether or not Juan is alone or if he has company on this unknown world of the past.


  2. I love symbols, and circles are probably my favorites. So, as you might imagine, I really like this tale. I love that grandpa got good news and that the two characters appreciate the gift enough to celebrate it in a meaningful way.

    About your trip to the VA with your son, I sure hope the second evaluation rendered better results. I am a disabled veteran, Marine Corps too. My injuries are pretty obvious so there was little dispute, but the paperwork and the waiting was a nightmare. I’ve seen your son’s story through many of my friends’ eyes–they’ve hurt their backs and such, or live with PTSD. It’s horrifying and infuriating to see them struggle to get benefits after they did so much. Anyway, I should probably stop here. But as you might’ve noticed, this is really close to my heart.


    • Thanks. He was in artillery which involved a lot of heavy lifting and thus back injuries. He’s 32 years younger than I am but says he sometimes feels older than me. The eval was years back and payments have been adjustment since then. Interestingly enough, he works at the local VA as a clerk in different wards so he knows the system from both sides. I don’t feel like his PTSD/anxiety disorder is severe. He doesn’t take meds at the moment, and his emotional state/expression seems like “him” most of the time.

      It’s pretty sad that these young men and women give so much to their country just to get slapped in the face when they ask for help.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear James.
    I’d say that Grandpa and the boy have something to celebrate indeed! And the monument can now be a monument to being cancer free. 😀 I love it that his grandmother is Bubbe. That’s what I am to my granddaughter.




  4. Can’t get too schmaltzy for me: bring on the warm, loving families and the happy endings, hooray! I really liked the laidback feel of this one too; it gave such a nice feeling of a slow, relaxing day together in the park.


  5. Nicely done. I loved the idea of family being “something big and enduring that has no beginning or end.”


  6. I spent yesterday afternoon playing with my three granddaughters, ages 2, 5 and 6. It was a lot of fun for all four of us. Their grandma made us a great supper served with love. This story made me feel good all over.


    • I have a tendency to try to be as literal about the visual prompt as possible. It would have been a different story if a child hadn’t been in the photo. Thanks, Keith.


  7. Your story is beautiful and heart-warming, James. It is those precious times together that mean so much and you captured that beautifully, both in the story and in the memory you shared with us. My father has been an absolute rock to my children and myself since my husband died of cancer. Thankfully his own recent cancer scare turned out to be a false alarm


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