#InstaTales 1: The gathering house

Welcome to Insta-tales! A new series where I will use one of my original photographs or digital composites as a starting point to weave together a story, a life lesson, or an anecdote. Hope you enjoy today’s offering – a short story! {It’s my first attempt at fiction, so please be kind!}

The gathering house

I wiped my dusty hands across my brow and took a final look around the attic. Everything had been sorted out – five huge garbage bags of thrash were piled up at the backdoor, two cartons were earmarked for charity, and five shoe boxes of treasured memories lay at the foot of my bed. As I was about to turn off the light, something glinted at the corner of my vision. On closer inspection, I noticed a small, dusty box with gilded edges that I had never seen before. I picked it up and made my way to the bedroom.

I left the box on the dresser, too weary to open it and take a look inside. It’s a small little box, I thought – I’ll look at it after I’ve rested a bit.

It was my last night at the farmhouse. Most of the rooms were bare – I had sent some pieces of furniture to storage, the rest had been given to my grandparent’s favored charity. The kitchen was almost stripped bare. I poured myself a goblet of wine – the last bottle from the cellar – picked up a plate of cheese and decided to sit in my favorite place one last time. As I made my way to the bay window in   what used to be the living room, I remembered the dusty box lying on the dressing table.

As I wiped the box clean, I marveled at its craftsmanship. The wood was a deep, richly grained cherry, the knots had been artfully worked into the design of its lid. The gilding at the edges was an intricately patterned Fleur-de-lis. The moonlight streaming in through the bay window almost seemed to make the box glow.

I opened the lid gently, almost reverentially. Inside was a well-creased, old letter, seemingly brittle with age, and a well-worn photograph that looked like it had been handled often, the edges wrinkled, the image cracked and stained. I stared at the image, puzzled. It wasn’t of a person, but a place. So why was the photograph so well-used? Whatever this place was, it appeared to have been important to someone. I was certain that the answers would be revealed in the accompanying letter. I smoothed the paper open and sat back to read.


I never imagined that a place could have had such a deep and profound impact on my grandfather. When I was growing up, I used to love to listen to his stories. He used to conjure up magical places populated with whimsical characters who taught me about compassion and love, about war and peace, second chances and redemption. As I recalled those stories and put them together with the person I knew and the place in the photograph, I felt tears stream down my cheeks. It was almost impossible for me to reconcile my compassionate, kind, big-hearted grandfather with this wayward teenager whose character was shaped – or rather re-shaped – in the gathering house for the staff of a correctional facility.

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  1. Woah, Jini. This was one amazing write-up. I loved the way you constructed and beautifully finished it. 🙂

  2. Wonderful write-up! I have always followed ur art related posts (n they’re awesome)..bt this is different n as awesome as ur other posts.. Keep writing fictions! 🙂

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