The Other Side of the Wall by John Wentworth Chapin

The hunched woman brushed her gray hair and wrinkled her nose. She muttered loudly, “I’m glad they put the wall up. When it gets a little humid around here, I can smell those damn people.”

“No, you can’t, Mama,” Linda said.

“I can and I do and you mind your own business,” the old woman retorted.

Linda sighed and folded laundry. So unnecessary.

“It goes under the ground, but not deep enough,” the mother continued. “Their rain soaks in and poisons our trees. Look all the way down the wall.” She pointed with her chin. “Weeds won’t even grow next to the wall.”

“Papa,” Linda mused.

“Don’t,” her mother warned.

Linda didn’t have to glance out the window to know that the ground along the wall was barren. They poured industrial-strength pesticides along the wall to keep the ground dead and make hole-diggers and runners easier to spot. Her father had crossed the border, even before the wall; they never knew how, whether stowed in a van or on foot. He promised to send money and bring them over. That was nine years ago, and they had never heard from him. They both knew he was dead. Each kept it to herself for her own reasons.

“Keep the bastard up north. We’re better off without him,” her mother grumbled.

Linda hoped he was happy and rich.


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Filed under John Wentworth Chapin

8 responses to “The Other Side of the Wall by John Wentworth Chapin

  1. The tension between these two is drawn so well. And though the mother is more than a bit irascible, it’s good to be reminded that not everyone wants to ‘go north’.

  2. Love how this story developed, how the characters themselves and the setting were established gradually and the physical border mimics the border of their thinking. Nice.

  3. Bleak on this border: the gambit to keep the ground dead is devastating. yes, as observed, the characters and tension in the relationship (“each… for her own reasons”) so effective – another border. Yet life goes on – the folding of the laundry & the hope that the likely dead father is happy and rich. Good, good.

  4. Kelly

    I love meeting your people, John

  5. guy

    I like the contrast/border between mother and daughter that you draw at the end.

  6. I love how the wall is echoed in the psychological division/wall between the two women. The three of them (dead or alive) enclosed in a wall of sadness. Good stuff. Thank you

  7. The inner border (characters) mirroring the borders of the outer world is powerful. This is great, John, imaginative and deep.

  8. Pingback: Week #37 – Border town | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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