“Aftershocks” by Craig D.B. Patton

May 30, 2010

A couple, grieving the loss of their son in Iraq, returns home to find their living room ransacked, and the police have no answers. (6min)


It has been four years since their son vanished in a massive truck bomb explosion in Baghdad. Witnesses said he was standing right next to it when it went off.

There was an empty, flag-draped casket at the funeral. Framed photos everywhere, overcompensating for the lack of a body. A field’s worth of flowers. Well wishes and military salutes. Then tail lights receding down the long dirt road from their home and a settling, spreading emptiness.

For weeks, they remained deep in shock. Sometimes they even believed their son still lived. The casket flag and the condolence letter from the President in the family room reminded them otherwise.

The swelling boil of their grief ruptured on their son’s birthday in July. They wailed. They smashed dishes. They screamed at God. How could He take their son? They had prayed every day for his safety. He had been a pious man, respectful and humble, eager to do good in this troubled world.

God did not answer.

On the first anniversary of their son’s death, they were not at home. They had gone to her sister’s home in Minneapolis, seeking comfort from family.

When they returned, they opened the front door and stared. The living room was trashed. Paintings hung askew or lay on the floor. The mirror and lamp were shattered. Plants were toppled, spilling dirt onto the floor.

They called the police.

John Buttrick June 1, 2010 at 11:38 AM

Sat down with a glass of iced coffee on a hot humid afternoon to read “Aftershocks.” Glass still full, ice melted, last word read, I sat on the couch anticipating and dreading the story’s continuation! Very effective at pulling the reader into the grief of the parents.

Faye Buttrick June 1, 2010 at 6:56 PM

I read your flash story late evening with sirens going off down Main Street. Appropriate background for your writing. A few chills and an aha as the scene plays out sums up your good work here. A twist with the actual kill scene as part of the vision/experience.

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