by Rita Jansen

“Better an empty house than a bad tenant,” Mum would say, shovelling the weekly dose of castor oil into me. “When the bowels are out of kilter, the brain turns to mush!” Over the years, many of Mum’s aphorisms made good sense, except for her take on my sixteenth birthday present from my granddad.

“If you ask me, you’re granddad lost more than his right arm in the war,” she said. “Who in their right mind gives a gift like that to a young girl?”

“Granddad’s not crazy,” I said in his defence, although, truthfully, it wasn’t something I would have chosen for myself. “He knows they’ll all be taken by the time I need it, and I got to choose the nicest one.”

2009-11-22 The gift

Henning Mühlinghaus via Creative Commons

Both have passed on now. Mother died suddenly at the age of fifty-two and Granddad didn’t make it to my seventeenth birthday. His gift has remained untouched although I’ve kept an eye on it over the years.

However, it won’t be long now until someone opens it on my behalf and lays me to rest in the best plot in Heaven’s Door Cemetery; Granddad’s gift to me.


Rita JansenRita was born in Drogheda, Ireland but left the Emerald Isle to work as a nursing sister in South Africa. She’s been fortunate to live in many interesting places, including Zimbabwe, finally settling down in a small fishing village on the South Coast of Natal. Now retired, she has the time to pursue a life-long desire to write about the many characters and situations encountered along life’s journey, which lie in wait, like hidden treasure in her memory box.

counting III (cc)

Martin Fisch via Creative Commons

Word counts: a phrase that strikes utter apathy in the hearts of people everywhere. Well, most people. If you’re a writer or editor, you probably care (at least some) about word counts. They are a rough measure of the size of a piece of writing, and in shorter works (journal articles, short fiction, etc) they can be a measure of effort for use in paying writers. Typically book-length work is paid based on unit sales and/or other complicated algorithms so it matters less how many words something is once it reaches that scope. Now, determining what lengths qualify as “novel” versus, say, “novella” is a whole other discussion, but let’s focus on the fact that word counts are used to determine relative size and values for works that tend to be collected or anthologized.

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