Clickety-clack – genre: Haibun – April 10, 2015



Clickety-clack clickety-clack – rolling down the railway tracks comes the train in the fog. Passing through the small town, it rumbles by my grandma’s house, shaking the place to its foundations.

Once there was a paper-mill just on the other side of the tracks. In those days the clickety-clack must have been a constant back-ground noise, like the cicada’s are now the constant sound of summer.

When the factory closed, the town went to sleep and now, only dreams of prosperity hearing the passing of the occasional trains, going somewhere else.

spring passed
the town falls into winter
its factory closed

© G.s.k. ‘15

Written for Friday Fictioneers

The Grey House – Haibun Thinking – November 7, 2014

The old grey house kind of leaned slightly out of kilter. Looking at it you’d almost think it’d collapse like a deck of playing cards.  The old woman lived there by herself.  To my eyes of 9 she seemed to be an ancient witch, though to my eyes, she would have been in the white witch category.

That summer she sat on the old wooden slats that were the steps into her house … they were grey like everything else about that house.  She’d smile at the us as we raced by with our bicycles, who knew what she was thinking.  One day I decided to stop and talk to her for a moment.  My Uncle, who was actually a year younger than I, reluctantly stopped too.

She stood up and said: “Howdy, nice to see ya.  I’ve got some cookies on the table.”  Just as though she’d known us all her life.  We went in with her. There wasn’t much to see, an old wood burning stove, a table with two chairs an old rocking chair, a few shelves, and a closet next to her bed with a curtain along side it, which she drew when we came in.

She didn’t have a refrigerator, in fact thinking about it later, I realized she probably didn’t have electricity in the place either.  Although it was summer, there was a fire going in the old stove and an old metal tea-pot bubbling away.  I wonder now where her sink was, because I don’t remember seeing one at the time.

We sat drinking tea and eating cookies and she rambled on about her life; the people who used to live nearby but went “out west”, the depression, the war and her husband who never came back home from the war, the closing of the paper mill. She seemed to be talking to herself more than to us. She was caught-up in her memories, we were there to hear her testimony of what had been.

We finished eating then we said our goodbyes, she gave us a kiss on the cheek and a few more cookies to take with us.  It was sort of weird  to be kissed by that withered old lady … her skin was so dry and wrinkled and she had an odd perfume about her … she smelt like old flowers.

A few days later, she died, just like that.  She’d seemed so vital when we’d seen her, she certainly didn’t seem sick. When I asked my Grandma why she’d died, the only thing she said was that the lady was very very old.

Her grey house was torn down not even a week after her funeral. Nothing remained to say that she’d lived there.

an old grey house
memories her companions
– now lost forever

(c) G.s.k. ’14


“All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain.”
~ Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner)


Linked to Haibun Thinking

Grandma’s House – Haibun – November 4, 2014

We drove into the town...

We drove into the town…

I was born in Illinois not too far from St. Louis but rarely visited the State. My Father was in the Air Force and so we never stayed anywhere for more than a couple of years.  However my Grandparents and my Mother’s family lived there so we’d go visiting from time to time as I was growing up.  I always considered their house as our home base.  Somewhere we could always go back to.

My Grandparent’s house was made of wood and covered in tar paper shingles.  Originally it must have just been a three room affair, originally being somewhere back in the late eighteen hundreds.  From a square box there’d been added my Grandparent’s bedroom just off the kitchen, then a long “covered back porch” which didn’t look like a porch at all but a long dark corridor and a screened front porch where the toy box was kept that looked on the street just off the stoop.

The walls were covered in century old wall paper, undulated by humidity and layer upon layer of older wallpaper.  The floors were undulated too, obviously made of wood covered in old cracked linoleum.

When I was little, there was no bathroom.  There was a night pot for evening “business” and the out house – a horribly stinking affair made of grey weathered wood – for daytime “business”.  There was a tin tub that Grandma filled up with hot water on the back porch for adults to take a bath.  We kids usually got washed in the huge kitchen sink.  Two iron pot-belly stoves heated the house in winter.

At night, I never got out of bed when I went to visit Grandma.  And I always wanted a night-light.  I was sure that the place was haunted.  It was surely infested with cockroaches – which Grandma called “harmless water-bugs” who covered the floors once the lights were turned-off.

The house stood on its own piece of land and had a small yard with a big tree. Vegetable gardens were out back near the out house and a ramshackle affair known as the garage stood not far from the back door.  I say known as, it was a garage of course,  but it was so full of old things Grandpa had a time parking his car in it.  Right outside the back-door was the sandbox, where I spent hours preparing delicious cakes.

Not two hundred meters away passed the train, which once rolled into the paper mill just on the other side of the tracks, when the mill was still open. Later it just rolled by periodically, shaking the house to its foundations, rumbling like a huge dragon. Since there was also a street next to Grandma’s place, just outside the front porch, there was a railroad crossing, so the locomotive inevitably blew its piercing whistle.

That old place … it’s still here in my mind.  It was just a tar-papered shack, like so many others that had been built back in the ages when people came to settle, in our case from Germany.  I realize now that it was little more that a shanty, but it had been home to more than a couple of generations of kids, including me.  I never would have imagined that there would be a time when that old house wouldn’t be there to greet me.

When my Grandparents died, my Uncle sold the house and the land.  The old house was torn down. They tell me that the cockroaches flowed like water out of the place. I believed them.

old tar-papered shack
filled with memories and love
in Illinois

Linked to Ligo Haibun  Childhood – deluded

Friday Fictioneers – June 20, 2014

First of all I’d like to wish Rochelle a wonderful time during her two week summer vacation!  For the occasion she’s put up a “re-run” but as I’d never seen the photo before it’s a new to me!  Got to love some re-runs!

Copyright -Mary Shipman

Copyright -Mary Shipman

Remembering (1964)

It was the summer of 1964 when grandma decided to redo the bedroom where I’d be sleeping.

She called in my uncle to do the job. He pulled down and replaced the old plaster board, the wall paper was thick: a hundred years of layer upon layer.  Ah, the “wild-life” that scuttled away! He re-did the old undulated floor too.

I got to choose the paint, lilac, which was my favorite color then. He completed the job building me a build-in closet.

Being the oldest of 4 kids, I’d never had a room of my own. It was paradise!

This is a true story inspired by Friday Fictioneers!


My Grandparent’s House – Sunday Walk – March 2, 2 014

The rail-road cuts the town in half...and it was  here I discovered there existed a wrong and a right side of the tracks...

The house was little more than a shack if truth be told.  It’d been constructed somewhere back in the late 1800s of wood with tarred sand paper shingles. The walls were covered in a hundred years of warped wall paper, buckled and faded with generations of insect life living under it.  The floors  undulated by time were covered in old linoleum.  The windows had a strange sort of ancient plastic like screening with wire run through it, the windows couldn’t be opened, the rooms were always dark, except for electric lamps which were almost always on.

You entered the house through a screened porch. The front door opened right into the living room. The furniture lined the walls, Davenport on the right with an end table with a lamp on it as you entered, easy chairs in front of you with an ancient radio, floor lamp and spittoon and an arch-way that led to the back of the house, a coal-burning pot-bellied stove,another arch-way and an up-right piano faced the Davenport,  the TV was next to the front door.

There were no inside doors but one inside the place.  Of the two archways, one had a curtain on it and was a bedroom the other, as I said before, led to the back of the house, with the kitchen and another bedroom…if you kept going through the kitchen, you’d have found a back “veranda”, little more than a lean-to actually,  which had been added who knows when.

In this veranda there were shelves along one wall full of mason jars of pickled this or that, which no one ever seemed to eat.  There was also the “new” inside toilet and shower (here was the only door that didn’t lead outside of the house), it was added in 1960 replacing the outhouse.  There was also an old wringer washing machine. Then the  the back door.

The two bedrooms …  one was where generations of kids had slept, including myself when I came to visit.  The other bedroom was the “master” bedroom, where my grandparents slept,  big enough for just a dresser, closet and double bed which was just off from the left of the kitchen behind a second pot-bellied stove.

The kitchen was a large elongated rectangle before they curtained-off a part in 1960 for my Aunt. Here she slept in her double bed and had her dressing table and a makes-shift closet. So, it became nearly square-shaped.  Here were the second pot-bellied stove, a gas range, refrigerator, a big table surrounded by chairs a buffet and the kitchen sink with its cabinets over and under it. Everything was along the walls except for the table and chairs. The paint work in the kitchen must have been glossy white once upon a time but when I visited it had long since turned a sort of pale yellow.

The house was on a corner, with gravel roads that ran in front and to one side of the house with ditches separating the roads from the house.  Out the back door to the left, there was an old sand-box that I loved to play in and a big grassy yard with a huge tree where someone had put up a rope and old tire creating a swing.

Along the yard was the dirt drive-way that led to a dilapidated weathered grey wooden garage.  It was full of all a hundred years of stuff, including a bunch of license plates all held together with wire. It had a smell that I’ve never smelt anywhere else again.

A path led off from it to the right.  Here was the vegetable garden and if you kept following the path you came to the out-house, a foul-smelling place inside another wooden shack which no one had thought to fill up when they built the new bathroom.

Along the left side of the drive-way there was a high gravelled ditch and  embankment, then, the railway tracks.  Everytime a train went by the house shook and shivered. The house was on the right side of the tracks…but just.

This was were my mother and her 7 brothers and sisters were raised.  The house was demolished in the 80s when my grandparents passed away.

old America
wood and tar papered houses
generations grew

Sunday Walk: 21 July 2013 – Carlyle, Illinois U.S.A.

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When I was back in the United States in 2010, my brother came to take me on a road trip and to his daughter’s wedding…we went to visit the small town our mother and her family were born, and where we’d lived for a brief and difficult period of our life…I wasn’t too surprised that he’d not been back there for many years, though he lives less than 70 miles away…

So this is a short walk down a memory lane…where memories no longer exist…sometimes, it’s a good thing to go back and see how things have changed!

Have a great Sunday!