Once

I watch them ride by, flushed with life. Up and down the hills they go, speeding past the world.

I try to imagine the wind lashing their face with mirth while the cold makes their noses red.

My hometown was always hot and dusty, and yet we enjoyed racing through the fields. It didn’t matter that our stomachs were empty or that the stones pricked our bare feet. For those few moments were were kings of our own world. Laughing and sprinting on our own terms. We were free.

I go back to mowing the lawn. The memories are fading and the weeds keep growing.

My stomach may no longer be empty, but my heart sure is.


In response to The Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of July 22, 2018, based on a photo by C E Ayr.

The passenger

The sound of the ignition firing threatens to tear out my heart, but I don’t look back.
Maybe I’m taking the coward’s route. Maybe running away from the past and shutting down the memories is not the solution. But for today it will do. Let me first survive the weight of today.

Joy, laughter, excitement- these emotions are dead to me. The world’s mirth appears to mock me. I blare the radio and accelerate in my attempt to get away. But the ghost of my past sits firmly in my rear seat, his vacant eyes frozen on me.

In response to the Friday Fictioneers – 13 July 2018 challenge, based on a photo by Liz Young

El Diego

Dead man walking

He ambles along, his bad leg marking tracts in the dust.

The phrase comes to mind, only he’s in a prison of his own making.

‘Can we turn on the light?’ I follow, wondering if he had even bothered to pay the electricity bill.
A switch clicks, and I blink back my surprise.

‘El Diego’ – The name escapes my lips like a prayer.
His eyes light up.

The next half hour is a blur.

‘I’ll be here around 10 with my team. They will be so thrilled to see your collection.’
He bids me adieu with joy in his eyes and a spring in his step. El Diego has brought him back to life.


In response to the Sunday Photo Fiction – July 15,2018 challenge, based on a photo by Susan Spaulding

Sitting on a park bench…

Sitting on the park bench…

Those were supposed to be lyrics in a song. How did he go from being the guy who strummed his guitar to Aqualung, to actually become the old man, he wondered.

The words run through his head.
Sitting on a park bench… Drying in the cold sun… Feeling like a dead duck… Leg hurting bad…

Damn Jethro Tull. Those guys sure could tell the future!

Sitting on the park bench… Eyeing little girls…

At least it wasn’t with bad intent, he laughed to himself, as two little tornadoes charged towards him, their screams interrupting his crazy thoughts.
‘Grandpaaaaa…’


The challenge of Sunday Photo Fiction of June 17th was to write short fiction based on a photo by Susan Spaulding.
The first thing that I thought of was the song Aqualung by Jethro Tull. My apologies to Tull and all his fans (of which I am one) for this corny writing 🙂

Daze

It is the combined smell of rancid oil, sweat and sawdust that first register in my groggy mind.

I should open my eyes, but the incessant throbbing in my head makes that so difficult. I reach out, touching something, a plastic pole perhaps, and use it to pull myself up. Eventually I open my eyes a crack at a time and find myself looking at… a pink bird… I should know the name, but nothing comes to my fogged up brain.

I’m standing in some cheap alley. You know the type where you look down when you walk because you don’t want to step on anything. My stomach cramps, and heaves. I bend over, but nothing comes. Need help… I stagger over to the shop.
Excuse me, where am I?
There is a newspaper. No, today can’t be Wednesday. I’m sure last night was Saturday. Finished the conference… Went to a bar… Drank with a few locals…

The vendor is staring at me. I look down, trying to button up my open shirt. That’s when I notice it.

The scar across my stomach. Stitches. Why do I have stitches?

I heave again.


In response to The Sunday Photo Fiction – June 10 challenge, based on a picture by Susan Spaulding.

The Guard Dog

They didn’t bother staying around for his funeral.

‘The old man fucked us over. Dissolved all his assets and hid his money. Claims he spent it all on his tombstone. A crappy tombstone with an obnoxious dog guarding it! We are done with him.’

Their departure did not surprise Mr. Thomson. Only their arrival had.

Neither of his older sons had ever visited Mr. Mulligan during his eight years in the assisted living facility, nor had Mr. Mulligan ever spoken of them. His youngest, Sam, had been his sole visitor, until he was deputed to Jordan a few months back.

For the last week they had circled their father like vultures, demanding he tell them where the money was.
But good old Mr. Mulligan kept his secret until the very end.

It was a month before Sam received the letter from his father.
My dear Sam. I’m sorry I could not be a better father to you after your mother left us. She was my anchor, and without her I was adrift. I’m sorry that I could not protect you from your brothers. But I will not fail you in death. Until your return, my dog guards your fortune within.


Photo credit: Susan Spaulding
In response to the Sunday Photo Fiction – May 27, 2018 challenge.

Faster…Walk faster…

Hold up Marc, wait for me.

Him and his long legs. The man doesn’t know what a relaxed walk is. It was the same thing every damn morning at the park. He races off.
It’s called a morning walk, Annie, not a stroll,’ he would laugh off my complaints.

He’s doing it again. This time Sammy is with him. Always a daddy’s boy.

Sammy, wait for mommy. Both of you stop. Don’t just keep walking.

The man at the end of the tunnel. So familiar. Yet I cannot place him. He’s staring. Why is he staring! Panic grips me. I start walking faster. As fast as I can. I’m unable to get close enough. They still can’t hear me. I need to walk faster. I start running. My legs feel like dead weight.

Marc, Sammy, stop.

Suddenly I’m jolted. Pulled out of the tunnel. Plunged into darkness. There is a man leaning over me. ‘Ma’am can you hear me. Please don’t move. You were in an accident. Can you tell me your name?’

Marc, Sammy, stop.
Let me go. I need to get to my family.

‘Ma’am, please don’t try to get up. Is Marc your husband? Was he driving the car?’


In response to The Sunday Photo Fiction – May 20, 2018 challenge.
Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

It Doesn’t Happen To Me

They assure you that these things are safe. All that weight hanging off a cable, moving pulleys, friction, wear and tear, but they assure you. And when they assure you with such confidence, you just have to believe them. Yet, I watch the gondolas creak and sway, and the cable trembles ever so slightly, and there is a little part of my brain that tells me ‘Don’t believe everything that they tell you.’

I stare up. Focused. Unblinking. Until everything starts going out of focus and fuzzy. Until there is a loud snap, like thunder, like the sky has been rent asunder. I watch as the first gondola starts falling to the ground. The next gondola balances precariously for a moment, teetering, and then like the great curtain has fallen and the crowd is rising up one by one in applause, they all start falling. The only applause, the screaming of its hapless victims and helpless onlookers.

I stare until I’m rudely shaken. I’m startled awake. The gondolas are still moving like ants on a cloud scouting mission. Nothing snapped. Nothing fell.

Had to be. Nothing really exciting ever happens to me.

I shrug and turn away.


Written for Sunday Photo Fiction: April 15, 2018

Caged

“A beautiful creature like her should be left free. She should run wild, go where ever her mind takes her. Its wrong to confine her like this.”

“But father, it says here that she was born in captivity. She does not know the great outdoors that you speak of. This zoo is the only world that she knows.”

“Two wrongs do not make a right. Its wrong that her parents were bred in captivity. Its wrong that she lives in captivity.”

“She’s part of a conservation program. They are working to improve the population of snow leopards.”

“Well, then she should be in a reserve. Not a zoo.”

I watched the firm set of father’s jaw line. That expression meant that his mind was firmly and immovably made up. It was the same expression that he had when he told me that women in our family do not wear revealing clothes, do not stay out late, and most certainly they do not go to big cities and live alone.

A sudden laugh bubbled up my throat. “Father, do you think that she looks at us and wonders why we are standing behind a barbed fence.”


In response to The Sunday Photo Fiction challenge of 14th January 2018 hosted by Al Forbes

The World’s Best Brother

He adored her.
To him, she was the world’s best sister. Anything she wanted, she got.

When they were four, mama asked her, “What do you want for Christmas, Annie?”
“A doll house for me, and a tea set for Adam.”
“Don’t you think Adam should choose his own gift!”
“A tea set for me,”
Adam affirmed.
“You’re the world’s best brother,” she said, giving him one of her bear-hugs.

For her 8th Christmas, she got a pink bike, while Adam got one in red. When she decided that his was better, he swapped without hesitation.
“You’re the world’s best brother,” she swore.

Before her 12th Christmas party, he spent the entire day with her at the mall, helping her pick her special dress, and accessorizing it.
“You’re the world’s best brother,” she squeezed his hand.

On her 16th Christmas, she caught him wearing her favourite red lace panties.
“You’re a sick freak,” she screamed. “Get out of my room.”

They did not celebrate Christmas next year.
Mama went to the cemetery after church. Dad just stayed at the bar.


© Eric Wiklund

In response to the December 10th Sunday Photo Fiction challenge