Already Gone (Fiction) & Photo by Emilio Pasquale

Each month, I team up with Emilio Pasquale – he gives me a photo and I write a story inspired by it.  I barely made it for April, but what follows is the photo he chose, and then my story.  His photography is impressive, so if you haven’t checked out his site, you really should (but I hope you will read the following story too – it’s less than 500 words 🙂 )

Photo by Emilio Pasquale (story by me)

Photo by Emilio Pasquale (story by me)

ALREADY GONE

I shift my weight to relieve the pressure throbbing in my heels. I don’t know how long I’ve been standing here because I lost all concept of time… well, I don’t know how long ago. Minutes, hours, days and weeks carry no meaning for me anymore. I hear muted voices and whispers at my back, a brush fire threatening to consume me. I lean toward the porthole window so I can’t see any metal in my peripheral vision. Had it not been for the scraping of forks on plates behind me, I could imagine being alone on a raft drifting into the ocean. As it is, I feel the shoreline pulling away.

“Has she eaten today?”

“Probably not. She’s been standing there for hours.”

I have a name. My thought doesn’t translate into words because I deem it unworthy of the effort.

I squint and focus on the clusters of palm trees. I start counting, just to prove to myself I’m not completely gone. My vision always blurs around eleven; that’s when I cease to differentiate tree trunks from sailboat masts. I begin counting again, my unblinking gaze moving across the horizon.

“I don’t think she’s right.”

A laugh. “None of ‘em are. It’s called job security.”

I’m not crazy, I’m lost. Again, my thought doesn’t earn the privilege of spoken words.

I can’t discern if I am running away from or toward something. I decide it really doesn’t matter as I lean forward until my forehead rests on the glass. The drumbeat in my chest grows to such intensity that little room remains for my breath. I take what I can get. The glass warms beneath my skin until it feels like an extension of me. I’m mesmerized by the fogging and un-fogging caused by the interplay of my breathing and evaporation.

I hear shuffling feet behind me and voices fade. Isolation envelops me, clutching my insides in a twisting grip.

“Dinner’s over.”

My muscles twitch beneath the hand resting on my shoulder. I close my eyes and inhale, although I can’t claim much air. I want so much to take in the dampness and taste salt from the ocean. Instead, I realize that hopelessness smells like meatloaf and Pine Sol. Desperation has a taste: the sour bile that creeps up my esophagus and stings the back of my throat.

I don’t resist the tug on my arm and we both stumble. My right hand knocks the picture off the wall and the glass shatters. Shards dig into my bare skin when I land on the ground. I don’t feel anything. My muscles spasm, as if separate from me. I watch, intrigued. I hear a panicked call for help. I don’t care. My eyelids grow heavy as I search for white light or shadows. I see nothing. I half-expect to feel fear or anticipation. Instead, I’m indifferent toward death and life. Commotion surrounds me and I almost pity them.

Why can’t they see the futility of saving what is already gone?

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

This time Emilio almost stumped me.  I was drawn to the obvious with this photo, and if you have read my fiction before, you know I do try to avoid obvious!   It’s not exactly an uplifting story, but I thought finding out the character was lost in a picture and not out to sea may have been unexpected, although clues to the setting are there.  Thanks so much for reading 🙂

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Color Me Hopeful

I am a firm believer that my attitude is the crayon that colors the blank white paper of my life.  It’s no coincidence that on my cranky days, I see “idiot” drivers, rude people and inconsiderate actions everywhere I look.  On these days, my life is three shades of gray, accented by swirls of darkness and anger.

I seriously doubt that the world saves their worst behavior for my cranky days.  It would be egocentric of me to assume the world cares enough about what I think to go to such trouble.  No, I think less-than-flattering human behavior is always there and the severity doesn’t vary greatly from day to day.  The difference is me.  When I have my “Mauvelous” crayon in hand, I also see “Carnation Pink,” Cornflower,” “Mango Tango,” and “Vivid Violet.”  Gray still exists but is not focus of my attention.

Attitude can be a struggle for me.  Sometimes being positive isn’t as easy as plucking a brightly colored waxy stick from a cardboard box.  Seeing the good in a world full of evil, or hope in a time of desperation takes conscious effort.  Sometimes things happen that sour my attitude and force my life into gray dullness.  Those things make me doubt the presence of goodness in man and drain hope from my heart.  Luckily when I’m at these low points, I often see something that will allow hope back into my heart.

Let me explain.

Last week, I wrote about my heartache about the famine in Africa.  My sadness turned to disgust this week after I read another news story about famine aid being stolen and sold on the black market.  Children (and adults) are suffering on a long, miserable road of sickness, weakness, and finally death and these “businessmen” are out to turn a tidy profit for themselves.  Have they not seen pictures of the emaciated children?  Are their bodies devoid of souls?

My belief in human decency and hope in humanity were on empty when I read another article, which restored some hope.  A man in Albuquerque, NM witnessed a kidnapping and followed the van in his own vehicle.  Eventually, the van crashed and the driver ran away, but the child was safe.

Did the man who followed the van save the child?  Probably.  His presence may have rattled the driver enough that he crashed.  I don’t know what the kidnapper planned to do with the child, but I’m fairly certain he didn’t intend to take her out for ice cream and bring her back home unharmed.

The man who followed the kidnapper restored some of my faith in humanity.  Despite the danger of tailing the kidnapper, he did it anyway.  In this one act, he proved that selflessness and caring may be on the endangered list, but there is still hope for survival.  His actions cut through the bleakness of a selfish world, stirring in me a deeper appreciation for goodness.

I see that gray has a place and a purpose in my life.  If nothing else, it makes me celebrate the vibrancy of the other colors even more.  If the world didn’t have evil, I would take the good for granted and not give it the thankfulness it deserves.  Yes, there is beauty in the gray, because if I look close enough, I see hope shining through.

Did anything disappoint you this week?  What made you appreciate the glimpses of goodness in the world?  Your thoughts/comments are always welcome!