Just a cleaner


Image copyright: Douglas M. MacIlroy

Image copyright: Douglas M. MacIlroy

“And what did you do during the war, dad?”
I knew he’d ask one day.
We’d all signed the official secrets act – so I can’t ever tell.
But, hell, this was my boy; we had a covenant – never lie.
“Just a cleaner, son. Just a cleaner.”
“A cleaner?” he asked.
“Yep. We’d clean up after the government messed up. Like dung beetles.”
“Did you have a gun, dad?”
“No son, just a broom, just a broom.”
“Were you a hero, dad?”
“No son, just a patriot.”
“What’s that mean, dad?”
“Ah, I kept my eyes shut, and I swept.”


This for Rochelle Wishoff-Fields’  weekly 100 word challenge.

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28 Responses to Just a cleaner

  1. Patrick, I agree. I felt like I was there. It would be a difficult position to be in. Well written. — Suzanne

  2. I suspect the use of analogies here. Or was it plain truth? Who knows but the father.

  3. Dee says:

    Excellent. You set the pace perfectly and the dialogue is just so right, I felt I was in the room with these two. Your last line speaks volumes, well done Patrick.


  4. Amy Reese says:

    I felt like I was sitting in the room with this one. I have a feeling the son understands completely. The dad said all he needed to say. That’s my sense of it. Great job and unique take on the prompt.

  5. WOW .. this really took me under the skin.. I felt like I was eavesdropping into a very uncomfortable conversation.. so much not said, yet more than he should have perhaps.

  6. Margaret says:

    I like your sparse, but engaging dialogue. You show their relationship very well. Clever use of the prompt.

  7. wildbilbo says:

    I’m with everyone else – one of your best. Easy, flowing dialogue, that propels the story well. Raising the conflict of loyalties (government secrets vs familial bonds), was an excellent theme…

    BUT my favourite part was ‘Not a Hero, just a Patriot’ – highlighting that these things can be VERY different.
    Top work.

  8. dmmacilroy says:

    Dear Patrick,

    I’ve got a good memory, but it’s short. That caveat notwithstanding, i think that this story was one of your very best in a long line of good ones. A long time ago I had this conversation with my son and much later he’s had his own version with me. We speak in a shorthand we each understand and few others ever will.

    You nailed this one. Perfectly written, brilliantly told.



  9. Dear Patrick,

    Excellent use of the prompt…one that steps out of the box, crushes it and makes it into something else. I salute you and your well written story. So much said in few words. And I think he only lied to his son in the fact that he truly was a hero.



  10. Sandra says:

    Beautifully paced, realistic dialogue. I thought it was a dung beetle too, completely missed the spider. Well done.

  11. Best done with eyes shut.

  12. storydivamg says:

    Dear Patrick,
    This is a skillfully spun story and a perfect match to the prompt. I appreciate the father’s careful honesty as he helps his son understand the delicate implications of war. Bravo.
    All my best,
    Marie Gail

  13. Well done. The father didn’t lie, and one can hope the boy was satisfied.

  14. elmowrites says:

    Wow, what a wrench it would be to have to gloss over these things to one’s family, and especially children. I love how you handled it, makes me wonder what he was sweeping.

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