False Expectations: A Short Story


One of my earliest memories was a family barbecue in a town that we didn’t stay in long enough to complete my first year of elementary school. I was playing in the gravel outside with the neighbor’s children while my parents played pool in the garage for bets we couldn’t afford to lose. I heard that my mom’s father was coming and was excited to meet him. I was told that he was a traveler. He spent many years in Poland delivering bibles and accepting sums of cash that were not equal to what he paid for them. But I didn’t know this at the time. I thought of him as a strong, man—a hero that traveled the world saving lives.

I continued building rock structures with the other children, looking up from my structures each time someone drove by. After some time, I noticed that the garage was filled with adults. I scanned the area for the tall, strong man I had constructed in my mind, but no one fit the description. The other kids grew hungry and went inside. I sat on the gravel watching the sun go down as I continued stacking rocks on top of one another. As I picked up a handful of gravel, I felt a sharp pain, like a burn on my hand. I screamed as the rocks flew out of my hand along with the source of my pain, a long, orange centipede.

“Mom! A bug hurt me,” I screamed and ran into the garage. As I ran, blind from the tears in my eyes, two hands gripped my waist and lifted me onto the pool table.

“Here. Calm down. What’s your name?” The woman was not my mother. She had long, stringy red hair that reminded me of a witch I had seen on TV. She asked me where it hurt and used her long, salmon fingernails to touch the two red dots on my hand. “Oh, did you get bit by a centipede? I know just what to do.” She picked up my hand and put it in her mouth. “Got to suck the poison out,” she murmured out of the side of her mouth while she continued to drink the blood out of my palm.

When she was done, she grabbed one of my dad’s old car rags from a shelf and wiped off the excess spit. “Good as new. Do you want a Band-aid?”

“Yes,” I whimpered. She took me into the kitchen and began digging through the cupboards. A hairy man with tattoos and no shirt on came in too.

“Who’s this sad camper?” he said and patted me on the head.

“This is your granddaughter,” the vampire lady said as she unwrapped the bandage and stuck it on my wound.

“Oh, hello, Bree. I’m your grandpa. How old are you now?”

“Five,” I said and lifted up my wounded hand to show five fingers.

“Well, you’re a big girl then. Big girls don’t cry. They shake it off, like this.” And he shook his tortured body in front of me until my mom came in.

“There she is,” she said. “What happened?”

The vampire woman told her about the centipede and my mom introduced me to her father and second stepmother.

I guess when you're little, your parents tell you the good parts about people and leave out the parts about sleeping in vans, child abuse and drugs. And sometimes, it's easier to wait for that hero to come than to accept what kinds of people you share one of your earliest memories with.

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Comments 17 comments

Hillbilly Zen profile image

Hillbilly Zen 5 years ago from Kentucky

This one broke my heart.

Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

This story is nicely narrated. The style and the voice of your writing really suits your chosen genre.

brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you both so much.

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Ghaelach 5 years ago

Morning Brittany.

Small kids don't see bad things. Grandad's and grandma's are always their hero's.

Like yourself it's such a shock when your hero turns out to be an ordinary person.

Nice hub.

Take care Brittany and have a nice sunday.

LOL Ghaelach

anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 5 years ago

I thought your grandparents were cool, from the way you described it. YOu've a vivid memory and it is nicely told. Rated up.

brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you, Ghaelach and anginwu. I guess I should edit to make the message about who they really are clear. (i.e. the drugs, child abuse, bible scams in Poland, etc.) Thank you for your comments and have a great day!

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Derdriu 5 years ago

Brittany: Wow! How brave and clever to parody the title and something of the plot and characters of one of Charles Dickens' powerful novels! As always, you do magnificent justice to each person's character and voice while relying on logical precision of plot and careful economy of language.

Thank you, voted up, etc.,


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

I loved this very original story. The sad theme behind it seemed very real to me. My heart went out to the little girl knowing she too, is at risk for a childhood as difficult as the one her won parents lived.

Vote up and interesting.

brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you as always, Derdrie. I'm glad you caught on to the Dicken's allusion.

HBN, Thank you. I am glad that I achieved a sad theme while maintaining a hopeful child's perspective. Thanks again!

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Wow! Great story...glad I followed you over to your profile. Enjoyed, and loved the title.

brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you so much, Denise.

Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

The last few sentences are so bittersweet, I feel deflated for that optmistic little girl of long ago. Hugs.

brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you so much.

Nurfninja profile image

Nurfninja 5 years ago from Earth

Great read. Is the title kind of a play on Great Expectations by Charles Dickens???

brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Somewhat, yes. Thank you.

Lord De Cross profile image

Lord De Cross 5 years ago

This must've changed your life forever. We as children see around our level of expectations. But seems that you made it fine. Actually was a turning point for your writing...by enriching your knowledge about untold or a hidden past. Does it makes sense Britt?


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Yes, lord. It makes sense. This piece is definitely the most autobiographical of my work on HP. I think the perspective of an older narrator looking back on how they understood it to be in the past really contributes to the turning point you are talking about. Thank you for commenting/reading.

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