Microfiction: Old lady

For Charli Mills’ writing prompt, a 99 word story about something you give a crap about. Vast subject. This is a true story, as are the things we care about most.


Every day it’s the same route to the same shop to buy the same things that won’t empty her purse completely. Until the day I find her wandering, her bag empty and her eyes full of hurt.

“Been burgled,” she said, her blue eyes wide and watery. “Two kids, pushed past when I opened the door. Went straight to the drawer with the money in it.”

All I can do is give her my arm, guide her distracted steps home. I can’t give what I would—more time, strength, and a safer world to live her last years in.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

41 thoughts on “Microfiction: Old lady”

    1. It wasn’t much but it was a fortune to her. I didn’t ask, but I bet she had it put aside for Christmas presents for grand nephews and nieces. I so despise this kind of violence. There can never be an excuse for it.

  1. My sister retired a few years back and is living on a fixed income. She had her computer and all her backups stolen out of her home. Bands of kids in gangs go around stealing stuff from unattended homes. The people who stole from her had to be watching to see when she would be leaving.

    Frankly, I have no sympathy for whatever happens to kids who steal from vulnerable people.

    1. I don’t know. That hard bitten or sick adults could, I suppose you can find reasons, but kids without responsibilities, with their lives ahead of them and they already care so little? It’s frightening.

  2. This kind of cowardly action is hard to stomach. The truth is, the heartless pick on these kinds of people because they are so easy to rob. Why rob someone who will defend themselves when you can barge past an old lady who can’t stop you?
    And the rootless young are egged on by their peers, by the thrill of danger and the forbidden, without carrying the baggage of fellow feeling with them. Humans learn empathy – you only have to watch small children interract to know that. If you’ve never been taught it, how can you know how to behave decently to others?
    A sad, sorry, heartfelt and well written tale, Jane

    1. Thanks Lynn. I agree entirely. The excuse too often trotted out for this kind of behaviour is that they take their example from the big boys, the ones who fiddle their taxes or wog off with pension plans. It’s not an excuse as far as I’m concerned, but I’d like to see the crooks who cause mass misery given exemplary sentences.

      1. It’s tough, for people who have no prospects, no future, no investment in your community and country. It’s not an excuse for behaviour like that, but it’s a problem that’s so deeply rooted it’s hard to know what a solution is. I do think we invest too much in punishment and not in holistic prevention – but prevention is much the harder nut to crack, less headline grabbing and its efficacy is harder to prove

      2. I suppose it does come down to the question of investment. At one end of the scale there are those who feel they have never been accepted into society and possess nothing worth defending, and at the other are those who are so rich they can buy their way in anywhere they fancy. Nowhere has their loyalty and they feel they owe nobody anything. Both reprehensible. There’s a levelling out needed but how exactly to do it without bringing back the gulags I don’t know.

      3. True – destructive behaviour at both ends of the social scale. Depressing and sad and, it seems, not a uniformly Western affluent problem. For instance I don’t think you find the same levels of social inequality in Denmark or the same levels of community disengagement that lead to low level offences like littering in Germany or Switerland. Though this may be changing. Not sure what the answer is, but I know here in the UK we are still riven by social inequality and division – something that’s plagued our nation for … well, forever

  3. This one cut sharp with its desire to help amid the lack of control over what would make it better. When I think of how literature can jar people out of complacency, it’s a story like your flash. Well written!

    1. Thanks Ellen. There is a lot of woolly thinking going on at the moment, about fault and blame etc. I was shocked by a report in the local paper about child prostitution. Turns out the children in question were Bulgarian Gypsies, prostituted by their own parents. That’s okay though because apparently they don’t have the same cultural attitudes to prostitution that we have. If the family needs money, bingo, you’ve got little girls to provide it.

      1. Disgusting, that is why we should be telling any and all who want to live amongst us in a new country “okay but this is the moral code we live by and if you don’t want to live our way then here is not where you should be”.

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