So Carl left. One brief email accepting the scholarship – as easy as that. Dad watched as he drove off.
Four hours on the road, in a daze of uncertainty, and now these stupid sheep with their blank eyes and manic bleating had brought him to a stop and set him remembering.
Nine dry years. They’d battled on, the two of them, till all their stock was dead or sold for a pittance.
“Go,” he’d urged. “I’ll be okay.”
The road cleared. Carl started up, then turned, stirring up dust. He’d be back home before dark.
For 27 years we lived in Dubbo, in the central west of New South Wales, and although we lived in town, the struggles of the farmers were never far from our minds, especially during the nine long years of drought that finally broke not long before we moved away. This week’s prompt took me back to those years and the struggles faced by farming families.
The sheep in Sandra’s photo look well fed and healthy, but during bad times farmers here will take their starving sheep along the roads, letting them graze on the grasses that survive along the roadside. It’s known as ‘the long paddock’.
Xue felt the child move and was comforted. A boy perhaps – and strong. She thought of their overworked field and crumbling cottage, of mother-in-law, always watching, blaming.
Beside her, Zhao, grim-faced, strode purposefully through the dark night, their tiny daughter in his arms. Lin-Lin whimpered. Soon she would have rest, and medicine.
They arrived in a cold, damp passageway between high stone walls. Xue resisted a feeling that she would forever be surrounded by these walls. Zhao opened a small door and gently placed Lin-Lin inside. She wailed at the strangeness of the place, but they were already gone, running.
This story is for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Each week Rochelle selects a photo and writers respond with 100 word stories. You can read the other stories here.
Firstly this week, I must share my little bit of good news: I’m happy to say that my story ‘Snared’ has won the flash fiction competition for the month of May on an excellent website, Magic Oxygen, where entry fees go towards planting trees, a ‘word forest’, in Kenya, and building projects in a nearby school. My story will be read on radio and the winning story for each month will be published in their 2017 anthology.
Rochelle’s lovely photo is the prompt for this week’s Friday Fictioneers flash fiction event. You can find the other 100 word stories here, on Rochelle’s blog ‘Addicted to Purple’. My story follows the picture.
Photo Copyright – Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
I am struck by the beauty of lace against an icy window. Just a curtain, just another midwinter morning. It’s the delicacy that fascinates. Fragile threads. Intricate twists and knots enclosing the emptiness and holding it together, patterns bestowing meaning and purpose on spaces where nothing is.
A call from the bedroom and I go to her. She’s looking at the photos on her nightstand – our children and grandchildren. She’s worried they’ve forgotten.
“Forgotten what?” I ask.
“It’s important,” she urges, gripping my arm, “not to forget.”
Delicate, twisted threads. Holding it together. Her hand like ice on my skin.
Seatbelt fastened, luggage stowed – just enough for the trekking holiday that had impressed everyone.
Back at headquarters it would be business as usual for her colleagues. She chuckled, then got a grip. Don’t draw attention. A lifetime of undercover policing had taught Monica how to blend in, even disappear altogether when necessary.
The Erikson case had ended her career – a million in cash and jewellery vanished, and the culprit dead without telling.
Retirement! How would she cope? They’d all wondered.
“Quietly and competently, as usual,” she’d assured them.
Three stopovers for withdrawals, then Monica would disappear again. Thank you Mr Erikson.
There’s been some discussion recently among Friday Fictioneers about the frequency of gruesome endings to stories. Please accept my apology for adding to the murder tally this week. In my defence, I can only say, firstly, that I haven’t really killed off many of my characters so I’m sure I’m still within whatever quota exists. Secondly, I couldn’t think of anything else.
In case you’re wondering about the connection to the prompt, I’ve wanted to write a story to go with the following song for so long that when I saw those feet in the picture I couldn’t resist. The video’s a classic – I hope you’ve got a couple of minutes to have a look.
“Remember we used to play the monster game? Mum would grab us and hide us. ‘You’ll be safe from the monster here,’ she’d say, finger to lips, and I’d giggle and shush you.
Dad would charge in the front door, playing along, and we’d hear them downstairs yelling and crashing about. Dad would ham it up for us. I remember him stomping upstairs, calling, but Mum had told us, no matter what, we weren’t to give away our hiding place.”
“Is that how you remember it, Elise? Really? Well, you hold on to that. Good memories are a precious thing.”
Three youngsters stalked by a homicidal monster? Don’t believe it. It was war. Young hotheads were everywhere, out to prove themselves.
Most were pushovers. We just had to puff on them and they’d run away squealing. A few got tricky – barricaded themselves behind brick walls and started playing mind games. Some of us got burned trying to dislodge them, but not me. I had a plan. I spread the word down in the valley and waited.
Soon every man with a gun was scouring through our woods. The promise of a free supply of pork chops and bacon was irresistible.
It’s time for Friday Fictioneers again, where writers contribute 100 word stories in response to a photo prompt posted each week by Rochelle on her blog ‘Addicted to Purple’. You can find all the other stories here.
And here’s a cute little video if you’ve got time for a trip down memory lane.