Postcards by Stephen Hastings-King

After my father died, I went to his house for the first and only time. It was a network of trails through sprung organizations. Illness had pulverized his collections. Everything was covered in dust.

When I knew him, he collected and cataloged. He kept their organizations in his memory. He knew where everything was. Later, he filled notebooks with networks of colors and numbers and lists. Then time and age turned his maps into fragments.

I thought that his books would lead me to the boxes that contained the remaining fragments of my childhood. I wanted to find them.

When I arrived, my siblings lined up along the porch and stared at me. There seemed more of them than I remembered.

I thought someone would know the system. But they were just overwhelmed.

The notebooks had disappeared.

By myself, I wandered through room after room past shelves of cardboard boxes. Each was marked with a color and number, each a wayward postcard not addressed to me. Arbitrarily, I opened a box. It was full of taxidermy animals and moths. Another contained bottles of evaporated perfume; a third dozens of identical wooden rectangles.

I gave up.

When I was leaving I asked if there would be an auction. One of my siblings said there would be. I said: If you find my childhood, call me. She said she would. She never called.


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Filed under Stephen Hastings-King

13 responses to “Postcards by Stephen Hastings-King

  1. If one persons life fit into a box, what would be in it?
    Excellent story, thanks for gift of prose.

  2. This left me feeling somewhat depressed. With all the record keeping his father did, his son’s life wasn’t important enough to try to hold onto…

  3. guy

    Objects, ordering, a lost code, a recursive spiral… I’m a sucker for all that stuff. I particularly like the perfume and rectangles.

  4. Kim Hutchinson

    Good story. I enjoyed it.

  5. Really nice details that focus on a neutral voice that hides the pain within. Nicely done.

  6. stephen

    Thanks very much for the reads and comments.

    This is a peculiar story for me. Most of it is true—I altered a bunch of details to work with types of distance, some formal (of the voice from what it says, of the narrator from the multiplying siblings, order and absence, codes and what makes them codes) some personal (it took a while to make this).

    I’m pleased at the range of ways to look at the story itself, that it’s open to reorganization in these ways. Nice.

  7. It’s like finding ancient tablets or scrolls and no one knowing the language anymore in which they are written, and thus, they remain an unfathomable mystery …

  8. Kelly Grotke

    beautiful, Steve, and pitch-perfect complexity.

  9. stephen

    thanks for the lovely comments, kelly & matt.

  10. Not sure if he’s looking for memorabilia or his actual lost childhood, but I like this either way. Everything is so well described, but I especially like how you’ve characterized relations between the narrator and his sibs.

  11. This story blew me away. The archeology of a life. Just. Brilliant. Peace…

  12. stephen

    thanks so much for the lovely comments, and for the reads that enabled them.

  13. Pingback: Week #28 – the postcard | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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