Losing your memory backwards one chapter at a time

Six Sentence Stories is a weekly writers’ challenge hosted by Denise at Girlie on the Edge. This week’s prompt word is: BOOKMARK.

Losing your memory backwards one chapter at a time

Mary Jane, of Room 73 of the Sacred Heart Retirement Home, knew she had to start reading her latest novel from the very end – back-to-front – chapter 16 to chapter 1, because if she didn’t, and if she started from the beginning, the words would run out, and she would meet the story somewhere in the middle, finding herself suddenly bedazzled, befuddled and be-damned to be presented with blank pages and a narrative without conclusion.

 

So she flipped to the last page, the words The End, and devoured the final chapter, 16, inserting her favourite bookmark somewhere around page 235 (her favourite bookmark being a souvenir she purchased from a London bookshop in 1985, depicting the image of a smiling penguin in Wellington boots, beneath an umbrella printed with I London), and sure enough… no sooner had she finished chapter 16 did the ink disappear and she was left with blank pages.

 

She tackled chapter 15 next, her head trying to fathom the motivation of protagonists and antagonists, plot resolutions for which the mystery had yet to be established, and a structure that was evident without seeing a single foundation laid, and sure enough – as each paragraph was digested by Mary Jane – did those printed words disappear like fleeing blackbirds above pages of fresh-fallen snow, bleached sinks and baths scrubbed to porcelain white, lily-white petals upon white coffin lids, and Ultra Brite Hollywood teeth grinning in the limelight.

 

By chapter 14 she realised she ought to make notes to aide her memory, to piece together the story before the words disappeared altogether, to rearrange it correctly at her leisure; the plan was simple, she would make bullet points on yellow post-it notes, stick them to the bedroom wall of the retirement home in lines of reverse cohesion and backwards formation, yellow post-it after yellow post-it, curling up at the edges from the central heating, it was like looking at a hundred and more sunflowers soon to wilt in the sun, and by chapter 10 she had to borrow a smart phone from one of the nurses, and take photos of the story before the book turned blank, took to scribbling the themes and secondary characters in ballpoint on her arm, notes on napkins in the dining room over soup turning cold and donning its coat, at times she felt like she was stuck in the Christopher Nolan film Memento, or was River Song whispering in the ear of her Doctor, or she was reminded of her youngest grandchild reading his Japanese Manga back cover to front, oh, what a way to come to terms with a story when the brain only wants to go forward.

 

By chapter 5 she found herself rooting for characters who had long since been dead, and by chapter 4 she finally understood how the plot had been developed, and by chapter 3 she realised the setting was her birthplace, and by chapter 2 she realised the main character was her… Mary Jane, and by chapter 1 she knew what had influenced her to write the story in the first place, and by then it was too late, as the staff came rushing into her room to take her saturation, temperature and blood pressure, and how they whispered in her ear: Mary Jane, shhh, it’s going to be okay, because we’re going to give you a little injection, to make everything double-triple-okay, okay?

 

And as Mary Jane was filled with morphine, she finally finished her book back to front, and she removed the smiling penguin bookmark she had purchased from London in 1985, ah, Mary, your story was good, it began with The End and ended with Once Upon A Time, and now all those blank pages are left in a book, with no title or artwork on the cover, no dedication, no author’s notes, no glue to hold it all together, flutter, flutter fall the pages to the disinfected floor, to be swept up by the staff before they close the door.

 


Losing your memory backwards one chapter at a time written by Ford, 28 July, 2022.

Graphics by Ford.

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38 comments

  1. Oh my. This brought back some very poignant memories for me when my mom developed Alzheimers. I don’t know it that was your intention but that was my take from this beautifully crafted piece. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You got it spot on, Nancy. Thank you so much. Though I don’t have any family ties to the disease, I’ve worked with people suffering from it for many years. It’s hard for everyone involved; the person, the family, friends, the carers.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mage, I have found that living my story either forwards or backwards has no real effect….it seems that no matter what direction I go the clouds and fogs of time envelop periods and chapters of my life and I can’t remember. It’s kinda worrying as I’m probably halfway through my “book” (i.e. middle aged).

    And thanks for describing the bookmark’s logo so vividly….I feel peckish now and want a chocolate biscuit if I can p..p…p..p..pick one up 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good thoughts, FT, thank you. I enjoy thinking backwards to fun times, but sometimes wonder how accurate are the memories, and does the good stuff varnish over the bad? Or does the bad seep through the good?
      I’m pleased to have reached the middle of my own book (middle age as you say, same as you).

      D’oh, now you’ve got me wanting a Penguin bar… haven’t had one in years! Those classic ads for them were great 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey you started this with your description of the Penguin on the blue wrapper that wore Wellington Boots! The blue packed biscuits always seemed to taste better.
        Regards to our memories and such, I’ve just got to the point where I take each day as it comes and am glad to be still alive and kicking (albeit if my kicking isn’t as strong as it used to be!)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Damn*

    Taking off (in a complimentary only) from For Tyeth’s comment: ‘How about a nice blue mint?’

    Also liked how the story could be read as charming and sweet tale of a little old ladies triumphing over the inevitable extinction of time or… a horror story, life as a river of synapses unable to bid into continuity.

    *compliment on story-telling of the first water

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautifully crafted story, Ford. And a fascinating concept. Maybe it’s what we all do as we get older and try to make sense of our lives. I don’t have much experience of people with dementia, but i wonder if that’s what it’s like as chapters disappear. Great piece of writing. (And can I just say too how grateful I am for folk like you who work with people at the end of their lives. It’s something that sacres me and that I couldn’t do. Thank you.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Jenne. I can’t even begin to imagine what goes on in the mind of a person suffering such severe memory loss, and I always feel for their family. Across the years I’ve worked with all sorts of client groups, from physical and learning disabilities, to sight and vision impaired, to brain injuries, to the homeless… but the elderly + memory loss is the toughest I think. In recent years, add Covid to the mix and it’s doubly hard. Thanks again for your good words 😎

      Liked by 2 people

  5. We have exchanged in the past thoughts about that particular issue, in both our blogs.
    Nothing to add, except a bravo for brilliant ink from your pen.

    Ford, enjoy your time off. Don’t miss the N.Cave concert.
    And don’t worry about the SSC&B stock…I will dry it out by the time you all return!.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks mate, glad you liked the ink used on this subject dear to us both.

      As for the SSC&B stock, shhhh, don’t tell D but I’ve already smuggled a few bottles of good stuff for my train ride, hotel, park bench, concert and general imbibing 🥂🍷🍸🍺😁

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Fabulous story, Ford… so sad how the words vanish from the page, and an unusual take as it isn’t only the past that’s being erased, but the future also.
    A really good read.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautifully written, V. “The End” at the beginning and ‘Once Upon a Time at the end”. Perfectly placed bookends.
    I’m sitting, “once upon a time” refusing to allow tears to fall, even though you beckoned to them with your words.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the comps, J, always appreciated. Yes, the trick is to use as little words as possible, surely? Something I often fail at, especially in this six-sentence format. I try to remember that less is more…
      How’s the writing going with you? Keep at it, ay? It’s a wonderful thing! Bisous.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s so nice of you to ask. It was out to a few people for feedback, which is slowly coming in. Now I’m dreading the pitch and all. It took so long to get there, I will at least try.
        Funny, my writing friend (good old journalist) complained my sentences were too short. “Your telegram style is too laconic and a bit tiring.” Ouch. I love how you always draw me in. Maybe the few words just really have to be on point?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, do that pitch – it’s for sure harder than the story but necessary. Styles come in and out of fashion. Short is good then suddenly long is good, and before you have a draft ready short is back in. There is no easy answer, other than to keep on writing and soak up your own observations as well as those by others 😁

          Liked by 1 person

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