Short story: Dead Salt Pond



Richard hadn’t walked around Dead Salt Pond for years, but he let the dog lead the way. When he had first taken Sophia there, when she was still his student, the jetty had been newly built; firm, dark planks stretching out over the reeds. Now it was silvered and rotten, holes showing a patchwork of sunlight and shadow on water.

That day, he and Sophia made love for the first time, in the dunes behind the beach.

“Marry me,” he asked, at the end of the jetty.

“I can’t.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Can’t,” she said. “Richard, you do know I’m still seventeen?”

And he saw the rest of his life charge towards him, unstoppable.


Our stories are meant to be 100 words long, give or take a couple of words, but this is 114. I put the last line in, took it out, put it in, took it out, put it in… Should the last line have been taken out? I’d be really interested to know what people think. Let’s have a vote!

For those who don’t know how Friday Fictioneers works, this picture (this time supplied by Adam Ickes) is our inspiration for our weekly online writing group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Click here to read other people’s amazing stories or to join in. And please comment below with any suggestions for improvement on mine.

39 thoughts on “Short story: Dead Salt Pond

  1. I like the last line. To me it simultaneously leaves the story open, yet ends it. We have to decide whether he waits for her, gives up in despair, is arrested or exactly what form that charging life takes. It stops your part of the story and leads us into ours. Hmmm, hope that makes sense to you. It makes perfect sense to me. 🙂



  2. I’d leave the last line out I think, though I liked the concept and the visual image it brought. Funnily enough, I had to stop and think whether 17 was too young to get married. For greater impact I might have made her younger. Well written, in your inimitable style.


  3. well-written story. the story’s good either way but yeah, i think maybe i would’ve left the last line out so that the story’s less than 100 words. but that’s only because of my OCD 🙂


  4. In Australia the age of consent is 16 so I didn’t get the full significance of her being 17. It seemed a moral rather than legal question to me. I like the impact of leaving out the last line. The implications will hit the reader and be left resonating.


  5. I’d leave it in. The point of whether at 17 she’s legally or psychologically not ready for an affair is left to the imagination. At first read I thought he felt his age. In RSA the age of legal consent is also 16.


  6. I read the last line and felt satisfied. It answered to the melancholy gripping him at the start. After reading your note, I read it without the last line. It works very well that way too, but it’s a different type of story, more punch, but less substance, the longer version has a proportionally much longer afterlife.


  7. Yes tough call. For me leave it in. It represents the inner nature of his realization. But I do agree with Sandra and Rochelle. Make her younger. I was a 12 yr old people mistook for 16.


  8. Good story and well done. The beginning of the story said Sophia was also Richard’s student, so if found out, he could lose his job. Although, if he was jailed he would of course lose it anyway. He’d be in deep trouble. Of course, if her father was the violent kind, he might not live to go to jail.


  9. Perhaps I’m missing a cultural/country specific age issue. Like others, I think that if you want to make the point that Richard is in TROUBLE (as in, this could ruin his entire life) than you need to make her 15 or so. That she’s seventeen muddles the ending for me quite a bit.


  10. I think if she was younger it would make it more shocking to me. Yes, she is still a minor, but a hundred years ago that was almost thought of as early spinster years. Good story. Where’s her parents? What kind of a school allows the professor to have relations with a student. Take it out. Nan


  11. My 2 cents’ worth, besides that I like the story, is that I could go either way with the last line. We get that much more insight into Richard with it (I mean, was he conflicted at all about her being underage?; I really don’t know until the “charging toward” him at the end). Really, it’s a hard thing to do in just 100 words, or even 100 and change. And this is probably just me, but ” ‘Marry me,’ he asked, at the end of the jetty,” came a little too soon on the heels of them making love the first time, as if he were proposing to her that first time (which seems rather abrupt, but some people do propose after one date/tryst, I know). Again, it’s so difficult to work with these word counts, so I think for me–if this is what you meant (a time change)–just adding “he asked later, at the end of the jetty” or something to indicate that their relationship had moved past the first tryst would clarify the tense/time period for me. Weird coincidence that my story for this FF featured a 17-year-old woman, too [but she was in the distant past]. Guess that’s our lucky number for the week, or unlucky as the case may be. FWIW, I like the imagery and tension here either way, with or without the last line.


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