Copper – #writephoto

You could hardly see her as she walked down the old country lane. The trees were ablaze with fall color and her coppery-colored hair was indistinguishable from the leaves swaying from the bowing branches. She was home to see her parents for the first time since she had married. They were not pleased and she hoped to placate them.

It was the fall of 1943 and her new husband had gone off to war after only two weeks of married life. She knew that he hadn’t wanted to marry before going off to war. She wouldn’t know until many years later why he finally decided they should marry. She thought he had a guilty conscience. She really hadn’t meant to get pregnant. They met in the USO Club in the small town where she lived with her sister and attended college. Her sister and her husband had introduced her to him.

He was just so exotic. Growing up deep in the heart of Appalachia, she’d never met anyone like him. She’d fallen in love. He’d come to the small college town to train naval men before they went off to war. He was from another place, another culture. He had such a voice! They hadn’t meant to become so intimate so fast. Then there was a baby that would come of their union. She did love him so, but did he love her? She had no way to know. She was determined to make that happen.

Now she had to concentrate on her mother and father. They had married in the spring, but she had attended summer school. This was the first time she’d been home since her marriage. Almost at the end of the lane that led to The Big House, where she’d grown up and where her parents still lived, she slowed her pace and took a deep breath. She sat her small cloth suitcase down and breathed in the crisp fall air. She looked around her. It was beautiful in eastern Kentucky at this time of year. Now it was time to face the music. She could hardly stand to disappoint them, especially her Daddy.

Advertisements

Timeless – #writephoto

She often came this way. She stopped and sat on the fence, looking at the single, timeless standing stone. It always caused her carefully controlled mind to wander. Back and forward. Backwards, she wondered where they came from. What they meant? Were other stones buried by the sands of time somewhere deep around this one, perhaps in a circle? Maybe this was a lone stone. Perhaps meant to cure sick children? How will we ever know, she wondered, what the prehistoric people who raised these stones really were doing.

Then there was that other theory. The one that some thought explained the pyramids as well as the standing stones. The theory that said that we weren’t alone in the universe. Perhaps other beings had helped those prehistoric people build these complex stone structures. Most discounted that theory of course, but she found herself thinking of it. It seemed so impossible that the prehistoric citizens could have done it themselves.

A timeless mystery of the universe. She started walking again, her imagination making her smile.

Renewal – #writephoto

Jane remembers the night they got to that island. They were just looking for a place to stay and they happened upon the bridge where signs told them of vacancies. They crossed the bridge, not really knowing where they were. Not really knowing they were going out into the Gulf of Mexico.

It was winter and even in the southern part of America, dark came early. Even so, someone was in the office of the first place they came to. After they secured a reservation, they went to their spot and crashed. Never really thinking about where they were. They had driven a long way. They knew it was warm and they could smell salt water. Sleep came instantly.

It had been a hard year for them before that winter. They were young. They didn’t know that the things that had happened, decisions they had made, would come back to haunt them many years later. They had the freedom of youth without the wisdom of age. Like most young people of ther generation, they worked hard and played just as hard. Too hard. It was the 1970s and their kind of fun seemed innocent then. They didn’t realize that it wasn’t. That the transgressions of youth would color their whole lives. They didn’t know that too much fun then would make the responsibilities of age hard and getting old so much more unbearable.

When Jane’s eyes came open, just a crack, the next morning, she looked around and saw the entire place enveloped in a warm glow. Bare tree branches were on one side of the place with palm trees towering over the other side. They had been lost the night before. She couldn’t imagine where they were.

Jane got up and dressed and walked out on the porch and down the road. The sky astonished her, layered in gold clouds. She had never seen anything like it. As she walked and nodded to the locals, she felt a weight lift off her shoulders, a sense of renewal wash over her. A decision she had been trying to make became clear to her as the tropical birds swooped in front of her. When she came to a general store, she found out the name of the island although in her mind, she’d already dubbed it her magical island. She’d been struggling with that decision for weeks.

After that winter, Jane knew they would spend many winters on that magical island. Looking back, she knows they will go back someday. It might be they should do it soon. Could it renew her once again?

Clouds – #writephoto

She doesn’t walk much anymore, but today, her dog needed to walk so off they went. He’s excited to be out and she hopes the walk will be good for her too. It’s hard for her to get outside her own head, but she looks around at the scenery and notices the beautiful, but darkening clouds ahead of her. She doesn’t think they look threatening, so she and her dog walk on. She tries to be in the moment mentally and he helps with that, smelling every smell along the way. It helps her to focus. As always, she’s thinking about many things while trying just to think about him and his joyous communion with nature.

The clouds are so beautiful that they cause an old song to pop into her head. She smiles as she remember Joni Mitchell’s original recording of “Both Sides Now.” The ultimate “cloud” song as far as she is concerned. She remembers lying in her parent’s backyard in the grass, looking up at the clouds as a teenager. She remembers the line “ice cream castles in the air.” As a young girl, she looked at the cloud formations and dreamed of such innocent and foolish things..

She and her dog stopped to rest. She gave him a drink out of his water bottle and he laid down to rest for a few minutes, looking around, drinking in the scenery. She watched the clouds as they moved overhead. As an older teenager, reaching adulthood, she still watched the clouds in the backyard, but the images became different. She remembers the words to the song. One stanza described her feelings at that time in her life, when she met a boy she thought she would marry.

“Moons and Junes and ferries wheels 
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real 
I’ve looked at love that way”

She had fallen in love and she thought he was in love. Something terrible happened. He was not the boy, she had found out very painfully, that she would marry. She reached down and touched her dog’s head. He was her touchstone now if her thoughts drifted to a bad place.

They got up and walked on. The dog was anxious to see what was over the next rise on their walk.

2018 had turned into a year of reflection for her. She hated that and thought it was brought on by her health issues which seem to have blown up this past year. She had spent the year frightened and it had made her look back at her life. She liked to look forward, but she was facing serious life-threatening issues. Looking forward had become difficult.

She had looked at the relationships in her life. Not just romantic relationships, but all of them. Family, friends. She saw the folly in so many of them. She and her husband seemed to finally be at peace. She had amazing friends. Something wonderful had happened with her family. She had found family members she hardly knew existed and some she had not known existed and she was getting to know them. That had made her year. There were other family relationships that were gone. Gone forever. That had hurt her terribly.

Love. Romance. Did it even exist or like in the song, was it just another illusion? She had come to the conclusion that love was very rare, that it seldom existed if at all. As for the rest of her life, however long that was, she found the song to be very relevant:

“But now it’s just another show 
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know 
Don’t give yourself away 

I’ve looked at love from both sides now 
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all…”

They walked on home, leaving the cloud formations behind, to do whatever they had to do.

The Growling

It was a beautiful day on the beach by the village. The children could run out the door of their homes and reach the sand and sea in moments. Tourists who rented homes here and there could be spotted lazing in the warm sun. The setting was an idyllic as one can imagine. 

The small boy and his dog walked along the streets of the village that day. He was doing errands for his mother. The dog, normally so well-behaved, kept running circles around him with a low growl in his throat. The boy couldn’t imagine what was wrong. 

It seemed that the growl from the dog got louder. The boy felt the earth shaking. He’d felt this before. He knew it was an earthquake. The shake was a big one, but the damage to the village didn’t look severe. The growling didn’t stop. 

Someone shouted that there was a tsunami warning. The boy climbed up onto the roof of a shed and hoisted his dog up with him. They were hit by a wall of water. When it subsided, they were mostly alone, saved by the growling. Only a few others remained.

Thanks to Susan at Sunday Photo Fiction and to Anurag Bakhshi for the photo prompt.

A Christmas Story

The year was 1971. It was Christmas. Patricia was 19 years old, fresh out of high school and going to college in her hometown. The last year and a half had been painful for her, but she was traveling to her grandparent’s farm with her parents for the Christmas holiday. Because of the loss she had suffered and the way she had suffered it, she didn’t have much Christmas spirit that year. The trip wasn’t long, but she hadn’t wanted to go. 

Even though it was winter, the farm that her grandparent’s owned and still worked was beautiful. Stark, though in the summer it was lush and productive. Stark fit Patricia’s mood.  She’d felt stripped bare ever since “the incident” as her mother called it. Not only had Patricia felt stripped bare for the world to see, she’d felt lonely, afraid, and stupid, even amidst her friends at college. Since “the incident,” her mother had been more solicitous than usual, but her father, who she loved so much, had been distant and angry. It was decades later when Patricia finally understood that he wasn’t angry at her.

Patricia’s grandparents were getting old. They were still vital, particularly her grandmother. Her grandfather had been ill and was visibly slowing down. They were starting to sell some of the farm and its assets, knowing they couldn’t keep it up there for much longer. The parts Patricia loved were still intact. Once they arrived, Patricia realized she was glad to be there. She felt wrapped in a warm cocoon when she was with her grandfather.

Her dad was going to spend his time there fixing things around the farm that needed repair. Her mother was going to help her grandmother prepare Christmas dinner for the other family members who were coming on Christmas Day. Patricia had orders to read, study for her classes, and try to rest. They were all looking forward to the arrival of the babies on Christmas Day. Two of her mother’s sisters had little girls born in the same year. They were now six years old. Patricia couldn’t wait to see them. She couldn’t have loved them more if they had been her own.

Patricia awakened early on her first morning at the farm. She went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and found her grandfather dressed and sitting at the kitchen table. He was ready to go milk the two remaining dairy cows. When she sat down at the table, he asked her if she’d like to go with him, as she had when she was a little girl. She quickly said yes and he told her to go put on warm clothes because they might be a while.

Her grandfather grabbed his walking stick and they started toward the barn. He didn’t move as quickly or easily as she remembered, but she walked along beside him. He talked about farm-related issues and asked her if she wanted to try to milk one of the cows like she had in the past. He teased her about it and she said she would. She had never been good at milking. They pulled up side by side stools by the cows and Patricia tried to milk, but her hands just weren’t strong enough. Her grandfather laughed and quickly milked both cows.

As they left the barn, he stopped, turned, and looked up the steep hill behind the barn. He looked at Patricia, now almost grown, and asked if she would like to take a walk. He told her there might still be some hickory nuts on the ground for them to gather. Since she was a child, her grandfather had always sent her a letter when the hickory nuts were falling. She jumped at this chance to go with him, but she knew that climbing that hill would be hard for him now. She let him take the lead.

As they walked, Patricia’s grandfather talked to her. About life’s disappointments and hardships. About how she should hold her head high and never let them get her down. He told her to be proud of her roots. To get her education. To make him as proud of her in the future as he’d been in the past. All the while, he was breathing hard, struggling to climb that hill. When they reached the top, he rested against a tree and gave her a pail in which to put the hickory nuts. They would feed them to his two remaining pigs.

Patricia worked hard gathering those nuts while listening to her grandfather. He talked about his view of the world. How he wanted her to do well not only personally, but also for the world. He wanted her to never compromise her values. She heard every word he said and took those words to heart. Somehow she knew they were having a very important conversation.

As they started down the hill toward the house, she felt the burden of the last two years lifting off her shoulders. She felt better than she had in a long time. When they got back to the house, he went into his bedroom and said he was going to rest. He took a long nap. His morning with her had taken all of his energy. 

The next morning, the babies arrived and Patricia kept the two beautiful, blonde little girls entertained while dinner was being prepared. They were her little cousins and she adored them. Other family members arrived and the big family had a wonderful Christmas dinner at the long dining room table. The children all sat at tables prepared for them in the living room. The wonderful southern cooking and the love in that family was something she would remember all of her life. 

Patricia and her parents left for home the next day. She hated leaving the farm, her grandparents, and the babies. Her grandfather had given her the most important gift of all that Christmas. His wisdom and words of love. She went home stronger and she could hold her head up high. 

Mashed Potato Surprise

The family sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. She had cooked quite a dinner and he had helped. Everyone was at the table and they were both carrying the dishes of food to the table when she heard a crash. She turned around and he had dropped a large bowl of mashed potatoes on the floor, splattering them everywhere. They were everyone’s favorite dish.

He smiled, walked to the table, and pointed his finger. A lightning bolt appeared and at the end, a large bowl of mashed potatoes.

She said, “Hmm, so why have I bothered cooking all these years?”

 

Thanks to Charli at the Carrot Ranch

 

 

The Abstraction

78F0F78A-71B5-44AC-919B-48E2B9B65698

The old man had entered the contest for wood sculpting six months ago. Now, at the deadline, it was finished. As the crowd walked by and viewed his creation, they remarked that he should not have carved a living tree. His vision wouldn’t have worked on a dead one.

As more people viewed it, he wondered if the world had forgotten abstract art. Did everything have to be realism? He got angrier by the minute at their criticisms and tried to explain abstraction.

He got angry and threw his ax in the middle of the tree.

He won the award.

 

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and Friday Fictioneers!

 

Haunted

3C6F84FD-D8A9-40F5-AAB1-ACB1F43723E5

“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” That old quote popped into her head at 4 a.m. It wouldn’t be daylight soon this morning since the Earth was spinning toward the shortest day of the year. She was still awake at this ungodly hour, as she often was, yearning for the light.

She couldn’t sleep until it was daylight. The old dreams, the terrible dreams of her childhood, haunted her, and she knew she couldn’t sleep until dawn when they would subside. She remembered them when she awoke, screaming, but only for a few seconds. Only the light chased them away.

 

Thanks to Charli and the CarrotRanch!

One-Way Glass

9AEAF953-97AF-4FC7-AEF2-5488019F84B4

Doors to her were only a symbol. They had always kept her out, excluded her. From the time she was a child, she’d felt like she was on the outside looking in. She wondered if that clear blue pane would allow her to see inside. No doubt it was one-way glass. Doors were always one-way.

Since she’d become an adult and developed courage, she’d insisted on being allowed into the doors she thought were important to her. A difficult door had been to her career. It was not a career particularly open to women in those days. She had to push her way, kicking and screaming through that closed and locked door. It disillusioned her. During her career, she had to knock down one door after another.

Now she found herself fighting against the most difficult door of all. Time and age. This time, she wanted to stay on this side of that door, but she was being pulled toward it by an irresistible force. She didn’t want to go.

170 words

 

Thanks to Priceless Joy and Jade M. Wong for the photo prompt.