A Picture and a Story

Couple Embracing

On a whim I decided to try out a weekly writing challenge. This is my story based on the picture above.

Dear Melissa,

Mom and I were cleaning out your old dresser and we stumbled across this. You know that song by  The Pretenders that starts out with the words:

I saw a picture of you, whoa oh oh oh oh oh

When I came across this picture of you I turned it over and saw your handwriting in loopy scrawls, still somewhat juvenile in form, which wasn’t surprising as you were only seventeen. Class trip to Lisbon June 1998. 

I can still remember the tram ride that day; hot and stuffy. That was a bit unexpected, given it was nearly summer. The passengers were a mix of locals and tourists, mostly from our school. I’m wondering if you even noticed anyone else on the tram that day. You had wedged yourself into a seat and he  had his  arm around your waist. Your forehead nuzzled against his as blond strands of hair fell across your cheek. I  had to look away because you were my daughter. I stared at the others in nearby seats. It was not hard to pick out the  American tourists. They stood out like they always did in foreign places with their casual shorts, backpacks, gym shoes and cameras. I laughed to myself at how much I blended in with the locals.

It was the first tram we had taken since we arrived in Lisbon five days before. Senor Brito  insisted we visit Rossio Square and see the ruins of an old convent that suffered damage in  some earthquake years ago. I tried hard to concentrate on his words, the details of the tragic event, but instead concentrated on the old buildings passing by, the walls filled with graffiti.  I wasn’t comfortable seeing you kissed in public. I wondered if what you had with him was serious. I heard rumors he was going away to college in September, but not to Ball State like you.

As we neared the end of the tram line at the top of a hill, I saw you had turned away from him slightly. When the tram stopped, you hurried to the front with him close behind. He reached for your hand and you let him take it, intertwining your fingers in his. I wanted to grab your arm as you went past, but my parental instinct told me to let you be, enjoy this time with yo.  I exited with the others and walked further up the tiled stairs to resume my obligations as  chaperon and unofficial trip photographer.

As others milled around waiting for the entire group to  disembark, I saw him approach you. At first you turned away from him and crossed your arms in front of your chest, just like you used to as a little girl when you did not get your way. Then he pulled a small, green  wrapped package from inside the pocket of his cargo shorts. You opened the tape and parted the tissue paper on the inside, a slow smile spreading across your mouth. You held out a delicate necklace and let him fasten it around your neck.  I kept my eyes behind the lens and watched the two of you,  an excuse to see what you saw in him. When you flung your arms around him, I snapped this photo.

I always think of the words later in the song:

Those were the happiest days of my your life

As you go through this difficult time in your life, remember the good times.



I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Fiction Friday: Part 3

A heap of old and unwanted cassette tapes.

Image via Wikipedia

This is part 3 in my Fiction Friday series. The 2 previous parts can be accessed via For Your Reading Enjoyment under Fiction Friday.

It is in serious need of a title. Leave a suggestion for one in the comments section below…

Will took a deep breath, stepped forward and pressed the money into Gertrude’s hand before running through the alley, back where he came from. He knew he shouldn’t turn and look back, but he couldn’t resist. What he saw was surprising. The old woman who smelled faintly of coffee, mothballs and his drunk Uncle Leo  lifted the lid of a trash bin and tossed the money into it. He couldn’t wait to tell his mom about the garage sale lady and twirl his index finger in the air by his head to show she was crazy.

Will wasn’t the only one who had seen Gertrude throw money into the garbage can. Wanda had gone to the garage to ask her mother a question. She heard voices around the corner in the alley and went to see if it was Gertrude. Wanda too was bewildered at the behavior she saw, and wondered if her mother was hiding things, like she tried to hide the vodka in the linen closet.

~ ~ ~

All through the summer, Wanda and Gertrude could be seen preparing the items for the sale (or gifting as Gertrude had a habit of engaging in when her daughter was not around). The odds and ends were often borderline junk: Looney Tunes bowls and glasses, scratched records, 8 tracks and cracked cases with cassette tapes in them, tacky costume jewelry fit only for children’s dress up, gaudy scarves that smelled like mildew, and Mary Tyler Moore era clothing fashioned on a rusted antique dress form.

The summer sun shone into the garage where Gertrude sat, covering her lined face with it’s warm blanket. The old woman dozed in the quiet neighborhood while the traffic on nearby Western hummed. Her head like a roladex, sorting through memories of cakes and candles, turkey and tinsel that she had shared in the house among family and friends. The outdated filing system was getting smaller and the one with her name on it was lost. She breathed in even inhales and exhales, except for the occasional sleeping snort. Gertrude awoke when the gate opened, unsure of her surroundings at first. She looked around at the garage as dust particles danced in front of her eyes. Maybe it was Myron.

Every now and then, Wanda’s son Myron would show up, move some of the larger items in the garage for the two women, then go inside the house to drink the piss that his mother kept in the refrigerator under the name of Old Milwaukee. Sometimes he would try to repair things around the house, like adding yet another shade of brown to the multicolored siding and side fence. Gertrude didn’t mind because she would not have to pay him for his help, if that’s what you called it. She knew he wouldn’t amount to anything, just like his father. Myron had worked at the same gas station in Cicero since he was 17. He was still living with his girlfriend, (whose name Gertrude could never remember), who still lived with her parents.

Gertrude got out of her chair and crept towards the house that she despised. She heard low voices, and knew they were talking about her.

“… you should just put her into one of those homes somewhere down south, so it would be too far to drive for regular visitations,” Myron said. “Then we wouldn’t have to bother with her that much.”

“She would never go for that. I’m sure there’d be kicking and screaming every inch of the way,” Wanda told him.

“Well, how else are we gonna unload this place if she’s around?” Myron said.

Wanda paused before answering. “Well, we could plan a trip to St. Louis on the train and take her around for the weekend. Make a big production out of it. Maybe we could see if Aunt Gwendolyn would want to meet us. If it involved family, I bet she wouldn’t be suspicious. Then we could check her in somewhere before we headed home.”

“And we would  buy her a one way train ticket, but she wouldn’t find out until it was time for us to leave,” Myron said.

Gertrude couldn’t believe her ears. They were planning to send her away! As much as she despised being around either of them, she had decided that she would leave according to her own terms. She had a will and a DNR all ready to go, but wasn’t going to share it with those two idiots. Too bad she wouldn’t be alive to see the look on their faces.