Flash fiction: Mrs Jellico


The teeth grinding and sobbing wake me. It’s disconsolate, broken-hearted, a funeral kind of weeping. I hear it through the wall, and I pull the cord with the red triangle. The nurses’ station buzzer sounds and shoes squeak on linoleum. The crying stops.
‘Where’s the fire, Mrs Jellico,’ the girl asks, although she knows I have no words left.
When she’s plumped my pillow and gone, the noise starts again. Keening, moaning, grinding. I rap on the wall.
The nurse is back, syringe in one hand, eyes kind. ‘Shh,’ she says. ‘Shh, Mrs Jellico. Not long now.’

The crying fades.


Hear me read: 


I’m not sure exactly how I got from the photo to this story; perhaps milling = grinding = teeth. Anyway, I got there. This is a Friday Fictioneers story of 100-words inspired by a weekly photo posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo is provided by Shaktiki Sharma. Click here to join in and write your own story, or here to read other people’s.


Last week I was asked by Penguin books to provide some tips about writing flash fiction, and they’ve just gone live on the Penguin website. Do take a look. I will be posting this piece on my own website in the future, so if you have any you’d like to add, please comment below here, and I’ll add them to the post, credit you and link to your website.

51 thoughts on “Flash fiction: Mrs Jellico

  1. I agree with Rochelle, achingly well written and very atmospheric. ” … although she knows I have no words left.” Such a wonderful phrase.


  2. Poor Mrs Jellico, trapped in an institution, trapped by her own body it seems and trapped in the nightmare of other people’s suffering. Real or imagined, the noises are torture for her. Beautiful and sad story.
    Congrats on the flash fiction piece for Penguin – all great tips. I, like you, love where flash takes you, your mind spinning in all directions and what a perfect form to practice brevity – no space for anything other than the essentials. I find that with most of my stories, I’ve already filled in some back story of the characters – maybe some future too – and that the piece I write is the point of action, the twist, the fulcrum on which an entire story would turn.


  3. Who cares how you got there? I’m just glad you did. Great story. When my mom was dying the hospice nurse told my sisters and me to “sedate” mom when she got too agitated and grasped for things mid-air – none existence things she saw and felt. We seldom did it because it left her so lethargic, she couldn’t move for hours. You caught that in this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Her helplessness and confusion are palpable in your story. I’m just horrified by conditions that leave you conscious and functioning inside but shut off and unable to express anything. Your story captures those feelings. Gripping.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting take on the photo. Love being in Mrs. Jellico’s head… I wonder if that’s what it’s like. I suppose.

    Fun to read and then hear you read. I am seriously thinking of stealing your recording idea for my stories.


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