So Close, and Yet…

They say the journey is more important than the destination, but you’ve been planning this trip for months, dammit!

The Prompt

You have nearly arrived at your dream destination. Thus far, the trip has been uneventful, and there’s only an hour’s drive left between you and vacation bliss—when suddenly the vehicle breaks down, leaving you stranded. Where are you, and what do you do?

Post your response in 500 words or fewer in the comments below.


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55 thoughts on “So Close, and Yet…

  1. Witt.Stanton

    Gentling pulling her husband in tow behind her, Alex DeLarouse made her way through the gallery with wonder-filled eyes and a voice hushed with awe. “Simon, we are standing next to La Belle Jardinière. I want to get closer.”

    Simon tugged her closer to himself, interlacing their fingers. “Let’s not get arrested, honey. We’re on a date.” He paused when he felt her wrap an arm around his shoulders. Resting his head against her soft-knit jumper, Simon said, “Tell me what you see. Tell me how Raphael imagined the Madonna.”

    “She’s flawless. There is a garden and cloud-filled sky in the background but Raphael muted the colors and blurred the lines. Everything pales in comparison to her. She’s seated in the center of the work, looking down at the two children playing at her feet. Composition-wise, the painting is a classic.”

    “Honey, I can get the textbook definition anywhere. I want to know what runs through your mind when you stand face-to-face with Raphael’s work. Visceral, knee-jerk reactions. Don’t think about what you’re saying; just give me an emotion. Make me feel what you’re feeling.”

    Alex started again without missing a beat. “Kindness. Intentfulness. She’s drawing the two children upwards and into her lap. My eye keeps returning to her face. Purity and grace and a strong sense of self. It’s a candid of her as a mother. Nothing feels forced.” She gently pulled away from him and took a step closer to the painting. “It makes me very happy.”

    “Relative to the painting,” said Simon, “we’re standing where Raphael stood. Just imagine it. He must have absentmindedly wiped paint across his forehead once or twice, or even splattered his shoes. He was just a man who loved to paint yet here we stand, centuries later, marveling at his work.”

    He couldn’t stop smiling. Simon felt Alex tilt her head back to look at him and they laughed. “I love you,” said Simon. “It’s exhilarating.” He adjusted his sunglasses.

    His wife kissed him on the lips, leaving him breathless. She laughed again. “Simon, I can’t imagine how dull my life would be without you.”

    “You know,” he said, pulling her into his chest. “I’ve never been so grateful for a car crash. I would never have met you if my brakes hadn’t locked the moment they did and my car hadn’t crashed into your veranda.”

    She paused for a second before replying, “You would still be able to see if you hadn’t crashed, Simon. Doesn’t that bother you?” but her husband was already shaking his head.

    “I don’t want to see a world without you in it.”

  2. rimaelboustani

    The lines blur yellow and white. The grey becomes black. The fog dims everything around me. My car is going too fast. I brake but the car won’t stop. Trees on either side – should I try to crash? I need to stop but fear grips me. There is no one in sight and night is setting, I am stranded in a car that won’t stop and I am very much alone. This isn’t the vacation I wanted. This isn’t the way I planned things. At last the car comes to a peaceful halt. I wonder why? The brakes are still faulty. Then I see the fuel gauge – it’s empty.

  3. Kerry Charlton

    AVALON CALLS ME HOME

    All the years he’d been away from the shore stretched in front of him as an endless view and now, today, he had broken the chain that had kept him away. His younger brother had drowned that day, so many years ago trying to keep up with the mighty and famous, Robert Caldwell Prescott. He kept telling himself, it was a fluke to find that kind of shark off the Jersey Coast A giant man-eater who ignored the blows from Robert’s fists striking the shark’s head, while it snapped his brother to death with his jaws. ..

    His eyes brimmed so quickly he couldn’t see the road clearly and he pulled to the side to let the traffic by. Mysteriously, the car door opened and an unknown force pushed him away from the Jaguar he had just been in. He swung his eyes to the sky and noticed a large rain cloud. And he heard a rumble or two tease his ears. Robert looked up and down the two lane, no car It started to rain and he ran to an ancient oak to shied himself from the storm.

    Down the highway, cruised a ‘49 Ford coupe, similar to one Robert had in high school. A gentleman stopped the car and called out through the window.

    Need a lift son, the shore’s only a few miles away. I take it, you’re headed for Avalon beach. Butt be prepared, it doesn’t look the same as the last time you were there.”

    Robert froze at the stranger‘s last sentence but climbed in anyway since he felt no harm. The inside of the coupe looked strangely familiar but the next sentence gave him a chill. He judged the man to be in his late seventies but looked to be in marvelous shape.

    “Where are you from boy, possibly Philadelphia?”

    ‘What is wrong with this?’ Robert thought, ‘I’m eighty two, why the “boy” and what is it that’s so familiar about him?’ He settled in silence and could smell the familiar scent of the bay as they approached the ancient turnstile bridge that he and his brother fished from so many years ago.

    “Are you surprised Robert about the bridge?”

    “How do you know about it?” I was told it had been torn down years ago and replaced.

    “Think about it awhile, old man Morris is still operating the bridge.”

    “He just can’t be, he was old sixty years ago. And who in hell are you anyway”

    “I’ve give you a clue, you used to call me ‘Piss Ant.”

    “Bill, you went to a lot of trouble with the car and everything Does this mean I died.”

    ‘It does you rascal, in your sleep and guess who the gatekeeper is?”

    ‘Do we still have time for the shore and surf fishing like the old days/’

    “Of course, if I can finally use the big rod and reel.”

    [Two brothers with a special bond.]

  4. Pete

    I can’t say why we left in the middle of the night. I asked but Mom was in too much of a hurry to stop stuffing clothes into a trash bag to tell me. All I know is that one minute I was warm and cozy in my bed and the next she was jostling me awake. Her breaths were shaky, her eyes wide as that time she lost me in the grocery store. She kept telling me to put my shoes on even though I was still in my pajamas. She said we were leaving for Granny’s. The best place in the world.

    My granny’s house was like something in the movies. Everything was clean and all the food was fresh and the bread was soft and without the hard crust and blue spots. She always had my favorite sodas and cereal—even if she never did let me eat snacks before dinner. Sometimes I stayed with her for weeks at a time for summer, playing in the creek behind her house and exploring the woods that came out on that hill over the expressway where all the cars and trucks zoomed past on their way to places in a hurry. But Granny went to sleep with the sun, so I knew she was asleep then—everyone was. Not only that, it was pouring and thundering outside, so I had to tuck Mr. Boodles under my shirt to keep him from getting wet. But just as soon as I sat down the back of my shirt was soaked through from where the window of our car never shut all the way. But that didn’t stop Mom.

    She drove like a race car driver, never hardly looking at me. Maybe if she had she would have seen I was wet and shivering and I didn’t have my shoes on. Instead, we tore off down the road, Mom wiping her face and talking to herself, saying how great it was going to be, how wouldn’t have to worry about nothing. No landlord threatening us, no extra shift so it could be us more on the weekends. Just her, me, and Granny.

    We came screeching to a stoplight. The car conked out like it always did. Mom kept turning the key like she wanted to break it in two. And I asked about Dad. That’s when she turned and looked me full on. Her face was a mess. The stoplight blushing on her cheeks, lips quivering and her eyes so wet that I wished I’d kept my mouth shut. She said that one day I would understand. But that day wasn’t waiting on dawn, because I was realizing we weren’t on some vacation. We were running.

    The red light turned green, then eventually to yellow—sort of like the bruises on her face always did. We never moved. Mom kept looking at me and kept quivering and kept saying how great it was going to be now. But her eyes kept drifting over my shoulder. And it was then that I knew she’d been lying all along. That Dad wasn’t a ballplayer like he’d told me. Like she’d let him tell me. That she wasn’t as clumsy as she’d said. That the headlights on her face meant that Dad was somewhere behind us. Getting closer. The light turned green. Mom turned the key, slapped the steering wheel and let out a scream.

    And I knew we weren’t going to Granny’s.

    1. snuzcook

      You had me hooked with the first sentence, and your narrator revealed the true scenario at just the right pace for a high intensity ending. Well done, Pete.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Pete, this is another powerful story that tells volumes in a few words. The image of the light changing color is perfect. Very, very well done.

  5. snuzcook

    Woke early with a second story in my mind…

    ***Luck***

    I can’t believe my luck. I mean, I’ve never won anything before in my life! I don’t even remember entering a drawing at the mall. Of course, I probably did. I enter anything just in case. You can’t win if you don’t play, right? But I don’t expect to win; I mean, who does?

    And I really need to get away, after all the sh*t going on. First there was that creepy guy from the bar that followed Gillian and me out to the parking lot. She thought he was cute, but I got a bad vibe from him and I was driving so we got out of there.

    Then I lost my wallet. It must have dropped out of my purse that night, when I was in such a hurry to leave. I had to cancel my credit cards, get a new driver license—man, what a hassle! And I had to take time from work to deal with it, and that didn’t make my boss very happy.

    Then that crabby guy next door complained about Roscoe barking all night and said he was going to tell my landlord. It’s not like I didn’t try to shut him up. With Melissa working graveyard shifts so much, I like having a big dog around but sometimes he does seem to bark at shadows. He did it three nights in a row—I think there’s a new cat in the neighborhood. Melissa said he went nuts during the day once when she was sleeping and someone come up on the back porch, but it was probably another raccoon; we had a raccoon that tried to move in under the porch one year and it drove Roscoe nuts.

    So when I got a phone message that I won the drawing for a free weekend at that new spa resort in Marysville, I was pumped. Melissa said she thought it was one of those come-ons where they try to sell you a membership or something. But what the hey– I don’t have to buy, right? And then the letter came by priority mail with the date of the reservation, and coupons for dinner and free massages and stuff. Melissa said it was strange it was just for one person, but I figure they’re trying to get money for a second person because most people won’t come alone. I don’t have a problem being pampered all by myself!

    So here I am, heading out of town on a Friday night, a wonderful weekend ahead and no dog, no roommate, no cranky boss, no nosey neighbor to worry about. I just hope I don’t get lost. The resort’s in a pretty remote area, and there’s not a lot of traffic on this road. My car’s acting funny, and this would be a terrible place to break down.
    ‘* * * * * * *
    “What’ve you got?” The investigator approached the scene, taking it all in.

    “It’s her car, all right. Must have parked here last night before 10:00; it rained but the ground under the car is dry. Her jacket and purse are still on the front seat. There are signs of another vehicle that pulled up behind her and then left, but no clear indication that she left with it.”

    “Did you check the resort? Maybe she got a ride?”

    “That’s the thing, Sarge. Her roommate said she won a spa weekend, but the resort never heard of her. They don’t have any give-aways connected with mall drawings. And no one answering her description ever checked in.”

    “No, it looks like she was lured out here. Poor dumb kid. She chanced to cross paths with a clever and methodical predator. Let’s hope her luck hasn’t completely run out.”

  6. snuzcook

    It was all my nosey neighbor Myrna’s fault. She hates to see a man happy and alone.

    All I said was I like to go fishing. It was an innocent remark. The next thing I know I‘m driving her step daughter, three kids, a dog—a freak of nature, by the way—and a bowl of anemic goldfish up to Lake Skokomeeha. AND I’m driving Myrna’s rusted out tuna boat of a station wagon. To say it was a wreck would be an insult to wrecks. The front end was so loose I felt like I was staying in my lane by telepathy. The rear shocks were so soft when we went over a bump the tail end dipped and bounced like an incontinent coyote.

    Step daughter being a neo-progressive parent, she didn’t believe in electronic babysitters for her little flock, so the drive was choreographed complete with resurrected camp songs, games of I spy, and various magnetic board games to keep them busy. It took about 20 miles to take the enthusiasm needle from ‘full’ to ‘bored’, and the rusty old heap rocked with screeches, howls and seat pounding that brought to mind the ape exhibit at Woodland Park Zoo.

    Finally the two-lane asphalt rollercoaster we were on ended at a crossroads at the base of a hill. A sign indicated LEFT on another stretch of patched and potholed asphalt to Lake Skokomeeha, to the State Protected Bird Habitat visitors’ center, and eventually the Solid Waste facility. To the RIGHT, newly resurfaced blemish-free pavement led to the Silver Firs Hotel and Casino.

    I found myself drawn to the right, the road to a paradise of food, comfort, and the relative peace and quiet of the casino gaming floor. My higher nature demanded that I make the sacrifice and turn to the left.

    The station wagon, however, possessed no such higher nature. As soon as I turned the wheel to the left and nudged the accelerator, a noxious cloud of steam and smoke rose from under the hood, The old rattletrap gave one last coughing gasp and died.

    For a moment, silence descended on our little band. Then step daughter started a steady stream of speculations, admonitions and suggestions stating her displeasure at the situation in general and me in particular. She dug into her bag and started poking and prodding at her phone. “There are no bars!” She stated, shoving the phone close to my face accusingly. “There are no bars!”

    “Best you and the kids stay here with the car. I’ll walk up the road a ways.” I got out of the car, pressed my hat to my head, and hiked up my britches. “There might be a store with a phone, or at least a better signal.” I squared my shoulders. “Pass me my phone — and that thermos there, will ya? I don’t know how far I’ll have to walk and it’s hot out here.”

    It was a pleasant walk along the new roadway, my friend James Beam and I and the beauty of nature. Around the first curve, I had enough signal to contact Myrna, and she arranged a rescue party for both the car and the kids. I thumbed a ride with an investment banker and his girlfriend on their way to spend some of their money at the black jack table. The casino hotel was great, the food was great, I took in a show and even won a little money at the tables. All in all, it was the best fishing weekend of my life.

      1. snuzcook

        Thanks, Reatha!

        BTW All — I’m having teknikal difficutees with typing direct on this site–my keyboard stutters so badly that I have to type, back up and retype every other letter. My absence of comment or acknowledgement to your posts simply is a matter of preserving my sanity, my fingertips, and delaying the inevitable tossing of electronics out the nearest window. (Typing this message has taken 5x the needed keystrokes probably close to 2 min.s).

      2. Kerry Charlton

        My kind of fishiing Snuz, I won’t pretend to be anything I’m not. I.loved Vegas and made anout 4 trips there. Now that was fun. You’ve given.me a great lead in for another story.
        The line about the incontinent coyote was fabulous. The whole thing was funny and so realistic it hurt

  7. Madhuri Karra

    I hate my counselor. I hate Dave. And I hate myself for marrying him.

    But of all, I hate that my car has to break down just 90 kilometers shy of my destination. And I am stuck in the middle of nowhere with the pest of my husband. I sit on the gravel off the road and lean against the milestone.

    If only my mother hadn’t forced me to go to marriage counseling before filing for a divorce. If only my counselor hadn’t politely forced me to take my husband along on my own personal vacation. Up until then, the trip had been fine – if not great, it had been fine. Dave shut his ears and me, my mouth. We were good until my car gave a startling jump, growled and sneezed before dying completely.

    A puff of smoke from my car brings me back to present.

    ‘We need a mechanic for this’, Dave yells over his shoulder, still bent over the engine.

    And did I say this – I hate you, God.

    I look around and above. The sky is starting to blush to a shade of pink and I begin to feel moisture settling in the air. Even the wind is picking up speed like it is rushing home. Except for the grey road, everything else in my line of sight is green. Dave returns from the car and looks at me, his hands stuffed in his pockets.

    ‘I think we have no choice but to wander around and see if we can find someone for help’, he says, trying to avoid eye contact. I want to hurl my handbag at him. The only thing stopping me is that it’s a Gucci. Even a nasty husband is not worth a damaged Gucci in my view.

    ‘It’s all because of you. You had to squeeze your way in and ruin my trip!’ I say, the words coming out like a snake’s hiss.

    ‘If you’d rather be stuck here alone, then yes’, Dave says, looking into my eye and raising his brows. Damn it! ‘Let’s walk, Ann. Don’t want to wait till it’s too late and the wild beasts start their day.’

    A shudder passes through my spine. Wild beasts? We are just 90 kilometers from civilization. Will the beasts come out in places like this? I didn’t even get my pepper spray. Crap! This is it. I am probably going to be mauled by a bear or something.

    ‘I can almost hear your brain screaming’, Dave says, stifling a laugh and walking up to me. I shoot him a glance of pure disgust and he falls silent. Having no other choice, I follow Dave into the woods. It isn’t as dense as I feared it would be. The ground is scattered with brown leaves that crackle when you step on them. I look up. The sky is completely covered with trees, except for a few places that are showing hints of purple. I pull my coat tighter and hug myself. The falling dusk reminds me of the cold air I have forgotten till then.

    ‘Ah! I see a hut there!’ David says suddenly, almost making me jump out of my skin. The silence makes his voice boom. I steady myself and follow his gaze. True enough, there is a cottage a few yards away and a lantern hanging on the porch. Meaning there are people there. Dave and I run to the cottage and almost bang the door open, panting like dogs. Seconds later, the door opens and an old man stands behind it. He smiles and lets us in. I let Dave do all the talking. It’s a man to man thing, I tell myself. Minutes later, I hear the old man welcoming us and telling us we can stay till we can find a mechanic.

    At the moment, I can almost kiss God’s feet.

    The old man leads us to a spare room, shows us around and leaves. I think I might die with an overdose of wood. The floors, walls, chairs, tables, and bed – everything is made of wood. Saving the mattress. Wait. Mattress reminds of some unpleasant things.

    ‘I am not sleeping with you’, I tell Dave. He shrugs, slips off his coat and jumps on the bed.

    ‘You are welcome to sleep outside. I’m sure you’ll have company’, he says and pulls the covers over him. I stomp my feet. And I finally throw my bag at him. I stand corrected. Nothing is better than seeing your soon-to-be ex-husband sport a bump on his head – not even Gucci.

    ‘Ow!’ he yelps and snaps his hand over his temple. ‘Easy, woman! Just one night, can’t you let it go?’

    ‘Fine!’ I say, and cursing my fate I slip into the bed next to him. I look at the ceiling – wood again – and close my eyes. Tomorrow will be better, I tell myself.

    But when I wake up the next morning, the wooden ceiling is replaced by trees. I blink. Sunlight is streaming right into my eyes. I scramble out of the bed and almost shriek. Instead of the wooden floor, my feet hit a bunch of dried leaves and mud.

    ‘Dave’, I scream and turn left towards the bed.

    He’s gone.

  8. Jennifer Park

    41. The Vacation

    [Follows “40. The Demonstration” under “Timelessness”]

    Does one need a break from boredom? Absolutely. There is a thin boundary around the triple point between boredom, ennui, and depression, and Barbara was determined not to fall into depression. Boredom is endurable. Ennui is tolerable. Depression is… well… dangerous.

    For once, Barbara’s subambassador was a gorgeous white-maned woman Barbara’s age, not one of those starry-eyed young things that were hot and cold in bed, or those those jaded veterans of the diplomatic corps that were weary where they should not be. Aisha, more than anything, was eager for some stimulation, but not a wholesale adventure. A month of peace and quiet on a newly-terraformed, as-yet-unpopulated planet, soaking in unspoiled, albeit artificial, nature, before…

    There was a shake. And a stall. And some more shake. Barbara startled awake.

    Thankfully, Aisha was real, and was also waking up. “What the?”

    The pilot also woke up, in the little pilot’s room up front. “Ummm…”

    “What’s going on?” Aisha demanded.

    “I think… we’re… stalled… Ummm… Oh…”

    Barbara asked for clarification, “What?”

    “Looks like we’re out of… catalysts… I will put out a distress call. Sorry ab…”

    Aisha cut off the intercom, and let out a sigh. “Mng!” She wasn’t sighing, actually. She was moaning.

    * * *

    The ship that came to their rescue was an Earth-bound transporter. They had plenty of extra fuel and catalysts, and were glad to not only share them, but also tow Barbara’s shuttle toward its destination until the reaction restabilized, which took about 12 hours.

    Mostly, it was because Ambassador Hu Jianglai wanted to impress Barbara with his passenger, sleeping on a couch. “This is our next tribute from Kryzlak, Princess Eze-eze.”

    “Kryzlak? Why are you in this part of the…”

    “Ah, well, you see, she had gone on a ‘vacation’ to Putiakmb.”

    Barbara frowned. Putiakmb was a disreputable hellhole. Then, she realized what he meant. “Oh, I see.”

    “Took us three subcycles to locate her. Her Kingdom will pay for the expenses, of course.” Not only did they have to send their princess as a hostage to Earth, but had to pay for it.

    “What’s going on in Kryzlak? Why do we need… a…?” Aisha asked.

    “Well, this and that.” Resentment. Restlessness. Rebellion. The usual symptoms of prolonged exposure to imperialism, Barbara had been informed.

    Aisha sighed. “They were such well-behaved people…”

    “Yes, they still are. There are… elements… who object to the three kingdoms’ acquiescence to… you know… us…”

    Barbara’s reaction was mixed. She had been the one to usher Kryzlak into the Galactic Union as a model member. Whose fault was it that they had so quickly become ungovernable? Should she be disappointed? Sad? Furious?

    “Keme! ZuKeme maEe!” the princess suddenly screamed, still asleep.

    Death to the Angel.

    Angel, as in the messenger, as in the ambassador.

    Ambassador Barbarella.

    For the second time in her life, Barbara felt a pang of fear run down her spine.

    It was… her fault?

  9. ReathaThomasOakley

    (Two weeks after Marie tells Frank she’s pregnant, last fall in Prompt Time)

    “Starke?” Marie crumpled the fabric in her hands, but didn’t turn around. Her grandmother’s words made no sense. “What do you mean, Starke?” She smoothed out the piece of linen stamped with the outline of flowers, a toaster cover she’d been embroidering for when she had her own kitchen, with Frank.

    “You heard me. He’s already gone, him and his wife.” Granny stopped as Marie gasped. “Didn’t think you knew ‘bout that. Girl, they’re all married.”

    Granny moved into the bedroom, sat heavily on the bed across the room from where Marie had stacks of underwear and shorts and skirts stacked on her cot, ready to pack.

    “How’d you know?” Marie carefully slipped the piece under her good blouse, next to the tiny bib she’d finished the night before, and turned around. “Who told you?”

    Marie hadn’t heard from Frank since the night he’d driven her to behind the Alligator Farm and she’d told him. He’d said he’d take care of everything, so she’d been making decisions and planning for the future. At Mccrory’s Dime Store she used money she’d been saving for lipstick and mascara and bought things she’d need for later.

    “How’d I know?” Granny sighed as if saying more words would exhaust her. “I knew some, knew you was sneakin’ off in the night, heared you sick in the bathroom mornings, knew the what, just didn’t know the who ‘til I got a telephone call three days ago.”

    As she listened Marie felt like she was on a trip to someplace nice and the car she was riding in just stopped moving.

    “Who called you?”

    “Frank’s wife.” Marie grabbed the chest of drawers as the room, the house seemed to tilt around her and she slid to the floor. “Seems Frank got religion, confessed all his sins, well, all that included you. I suspect you ain’t the first, just the one got caught.” Granny took her handkerchief from her sleeve, wiped her mouth. “Get up off the floor, that ain’t doing neither a you any good.”

    “They’re moving?” Marie sat up, leaned against the wall.

    “Yeah, I called my sister Alice over Starke way, her son-in-law’s police chief, he called Frank, it’s all taken care of.” She stood, handed Marie a brown paper lunch bag she hadn’t noticed before. “Here, soda crackers. If you ain’t over the sick, they might help.”

    1. writer_sk

      Whoa. In a way I’m relieved since I hate Frank. I’m not crazy about granny either.

      I am looking forward to the next installment! Great work, Reatha.

    2. Jennifer Park

      I finally caught up to all your posts from when I’d dropped out a few month ago! You are able to convey such deep depth with just a few words. I keep rereading your passages to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and am often rewarded with even more depth.

      And, yes, I appreciate Granny’s evolution.

  10. jwismann

    I sat staring at the wide open swampy highway in front of me. We were only an hour away from the beach. Sand, sun, and Coronas all within grasp and we were stuck on the side of the road with a dead sedan.

    We chose the secluded beach resort in southern Florida as a last minute vacation to escape the summer doldrums and to get our daughter away from her boyfriend for a week. She had been seeing the boy a lot lately and (whether it was him or something else) was becoming intolerable. What was worse, another boy had been hanging around, parking on an off street so that her boyfriend did not see his truck there. I was young once and I know what a girl is like if the boys start coming around like that. It did not sit well with me.

    So I made her take the trip with us. She had planned for us to be gone for a week so she could work through the boys like honey bee queen and I would have none of it. She would just come on vacation with us and leave “Dudly” and “Studly” behind.

    Instead, she was walking, sweaty, down the road with her mother, brother, and father looking for cell service or a gas station. I was leading the charge, whining son coming next and reluctant mother with her leering eyes on the swampy alligator-haven berm along which we trudged. I had the simple satisfaction that this was better than other sweaty positions she might find herself in at home.
    “I’m tired of walking,” said my daughter after only about one mile.

    “There has to be something close,” I said.

    “You know what I would be doing if you hadn’t…” she began.

    “Don’t even start,” I said. “This might be the last trip we get to take together and, besides, I do not even want to know what you would be doing.”

    My son made a face. “Gross!” he said.

    “Henry,” said my wife with dismay.

    “I hate you. I hate this family. I am so ready to get the hell away from you!” she had stayed where she stopped as we walked on and screamed this at me when a truck pulled up. The driver yelled something to her and she suddenly climbed in. She was about one hundred feet from us and none of us heard what she said. I began running toward the truck, screaming.

    As the truck turned with a squeal I saw her stick both middle fingers up to the rear glass. That was the last time we saw her until she showed up standing on our stoop in the pouring rain about two years, a police search, hundreds of dead end leads, and her mother’s nervous breakdown later. She had a child in her arms and was skinny and dirty and wearing clothes that stunk.

    “Maybe I should have let you stay home,” I said, hugging her tightly.

  11. writer_sk

    GLASS JARS PART 1

    Thomas always drove on their trips which Murray quite enjoyed because the 50’s style music from their youth came in great when Thomas pressed number 7 on the classic Chevy’s radio. Anyway these days Murray didn’t drive much and perused the old paper road map on which they’d highlighted their route in orange crayon earlier.

    “Aah let’s open the window and feel the world’s wind blow past us, huh Murr?” Thomas was already rolling down both windows from his side. The car was made in the 80’s so it had some electronic features. Murray liked how his friend described things. The two widowers had begun the trips after both realizing sheer boredom had taken them. First they found they could take a day trip and be back in time for church bingo. Next they surmised skipping it and finding a place to eat on the road would be more enjoyable. Then Thom began booking them overnight. He’s just recently been going on about frequent flyer miles and how it would be nice to “stretch their wings and head west.”

    A storm bubbled up on the horizon and dark clouds formed over the Western Massachusetts mountain range covering the warm sun and bringing back the cold air of winter. Thunder rumbled as large drops hit the windshield like an impatient man rapping at the porch door. Thomas saw the worry wash over Murray’s face and body.

    “Tell ya what Murr. I know of a diner up ahead-coffee so black it’ll knock your socks off and the pie?” He paused for dramatic effect.

    “Well you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted their key lime.”

    Murray’s demeanor relaxed some.

    “Okay.”

    They were silent as the sounds of The Glenn Miller Orchestra filled the car.

    “I bet they have pecan.”

    “What’s that now, Murr?” Thomas was fiddling with the wipers trying to get them to go faster than the fastest speed, which they were already set to.

    “I said I’ll get pecan pie if they have it.”

    Thomas couldn’t see any longer and the sheets of rain were intense. They’d been headed to a museum in North Adams but they would need to pull over now, even before the diner.

  12. writer_sk

    GLASS JARS PART 2

    As they sat in the car, surrounded by rain Murray felt kind of isolated and looked to his normally talkative friend but Thom didn’t say anything as he was suddenly seized by visions of his time in Vietnam. As gunfire hailed from a location he couldn’t identify, he’d become separated from his platoon. Mud seemed to be everywhere. Why was there so much mud?

    He snapped out of it when a fellow tapped the window with a flashlight.

    “Car trouble?” He opened Murray’s door and the cold wind and rain saturated his coat edge.

    “No, we just couldn’t see in the driving rain.”

    “You want to pull your car up alongside my house and come in for coffee to wait it out? Wife’s just put some on.”

    While they were surprised at the hospitality the young man said several cars had gotten stuck in front of his house.

    Inside, the television blared and the man’s wife reminded Murr of his daughter-in-law with whom he lived. His bed and things were in her basement apartment. She gave them the coffee and set out a dish of delicious chocolate-covered treats.

    “Why these look just like the confections my late wife used to make, remarked Murray taking the largest one.

    “I got them from the bakery in town.”

    Murray closed his eyes and bit into the rich dessert. He thought of the glass jars. Years ago they’d housed Jasmine’s chocolates. Why didn’t it feel just like yesterday when they’d arranged the jars beneath the cabinet filled with bulk chocolate chips? Now the glass jars sat empty with no light to shine on them, collecting dust on the rarely-used kitchen counter in his apartment. He wanted to leave and go home where Jasmine’s cookbooks and rocking chair were. He had had enough adventure, driving, frequent flyer miles and talk of pie. He stood then.

    “Well, thank you,” Thomas spoke, his bright voice breaking through the melancholy of it all, “looks like the rain has let up.”

    The sun parted the dark clouds and Murr could see a very faint rainbow up ahead

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Beautiful story of a long friendship. I like how you developed the personalities of the men. The rainbow gives me hope for Murray.

  13. smwrites

    The car was quiet except for the steady whoosh of the tires on the pavement and the drumming of his fingers.

    Sterling extended long graceful fingers across the top of the wheel, drumming along to a beat only he could hear.

    “Babe, you’re staring.”

    Sterling never shifted his eyes from the road, but his smile grew.

    “I think you’re starting to remember how much you like me.”

    My breath caught at his words. My heart fluttered, a familiar panic upon me.

    “I-I remember,” I stammered. “I remember the hospital. I remember you being there when I woke up and…I’m sorry I don’t remember anything else.”

    Guilt flooded me as I looked at the man who had taken care of me for months in the hospital. The man who gently broke the news that my family had died in the same car accident caused my memory loss.

    “It’s okay, babe. This vacation will help. A few weeks on the beach, soaking up the sun and drinking a beer, perfect right?”

    Our vacation did sound perfect. I couldn’t wait to feel the sand between my toes and let the sun work its magic.

    And yet, something nagged at me. No, screamed at me that there was something wrong.

    “Sterling, this beach. Have we been there before?”

    “Of course, love. That’s where we went the last time we had fun together.”

    “The last time before the accident?”

    Sterling smiled and looked at me.

    “Are you starting to remember the cottage and all the fun we had, dear?”

    I squeezed my hands together, trying to quell the unease the road around us brought me.

    “Why do I have such a bad feeling about this?” I blurted out. “I just feel like I’ve been on this road and something…bad happened. Is this where the accident happened? Is this where my family died? This road?”

    Sterling gave me a sly glance.

    “No, darling. They died at the cabin.”

    “The cabin? I thought-”

    “Shh, you’ll strain yourself,” he said patting my hand.

    My head throbbed as I looked at Sterling gripping the wheel. Nothing made sense. All I could think about was the blinding hot pain of the accident. Why was Sterling gripping the wheel so tightly? As I stared, the steering wheel melted away and Sterling was gripping a hammer instead.

    “Come here little darling, I’m not finished with you,” he yelled through the trees. The hammer was dripping blood. My family’s blood. My blood. I couldn’t see past the blood pouring down my face. I could only hear the crunch of the leaves as I ran.

    The same leaves on the trees we were driving past. The same road that led to the killing ground.

    Before my brain could register what I was doing, my hand snaked out and grabbed the wheel jerking it violently towards the trees.

    “What the-”

    Sterling’s words were cut short by a thundering crash. His body slumped against the wheel, the horn blaring. Smoke poured out of the engine. Neither Sterling or the car would be going anywhere.

    Shakily, I unfastened my seat belt and pried open my door. Thoughts of my perfect vacation were gone. In their place were memories, the memories Sterling had stolen.

    1. writer_sk

      Scary! Good concept. Nice build to the reveal. I whipped right through your story because you did a Good job capturing the attention of the reader.

  14. Smileyface256

    Rain pelts against the windshield, accompanied by the slap of the wipers. The clock on the radio reads 7:45pm, one more hour until I get to see Kelly again. It’s been awhile since we were roommates in college. A lot has changed for both of us, but we’ve kept in touch through it all.

    I adjust my speed for yet another small town with a gas station and a few small shops. I check the fuel gauge; still have enough to make it over the mountains. I’m almost to the edge of town when the check engine light comes on and my car makes a sound that it’s not supposed to. Ah, boy. I pull into the parking lot of a small local diner and pop open the hood.

    “Something the matter, traveler?”

    I turn around to an old man seated on a barrel, smoking a pipe. “I don’t know.” I check all the fluid levels, which seem to be fine. I get back into the driver’s seat and turn the key.

    Nothing happens.

    I pull out my phone, but there’s no reception. Great. Having my car towed through the mountains would be too expensive, and I doubt any busses go through here…

    I jump at a knock on my window. It’s the old man. Cautiously, I roll it down two inches.

    “You seem to be having a mite of trouble, young missy.”

    “Heh, do you know anything about cars?”

    The old man leaned back and took a pull on his pipe. “No but I know this town, and I know that if you go in there and tell Betty at the counter how you like your coffee, you’ll at least feel a little better.”

    I glance at my phone. Still no reception. “Well, why not.”

    The old man smiles and returns to his seat under the eves.

    I lock my car and enter the dinner. A tiny bell announces my arrival and I go straight to the counter. “Betty?”

    The plump woman with graying curls smiles and nods. “That’s me.”

    “Can I get a latte with extra cream?”

    “Of course, dear.”

    I sit at the bar while Betty busies herself with a copper coffee pot. The diner, with its log walls, pot-bellied stove and dim yellow lighting, looks straight out of the 1800s. Still, it has a nice cosy feel. I idly wonder why I’m the only one here.

    Betty hums a tune I’ve never heard before, lilting and pleasant like an old lullaby. I almost want to close my eyes and fall asleep. A soft thud startles me awake.

    Betty smiles over a steaming mug. “Your coffee is ready, dear.”

    I breathe in the scent of milk and coffee beans, and take a sip. It’s perfect. “Where did you learn to make a latte?”

    Betty’s smile broadens. “I’ve been serving coffee for a long time, dear. I know what my customers like.”

    “But I’m not a regular.”

    She winks. “You don’t have to be.”

    I take another sip. “What’s it like, living here?”

    Betty tells me about the regulars. Lars, who exaggerates every story he tells. Tina, who always leaves a tiny bit of coffee in the bottom of her mug, and her husband Jed who always leaves a few bites of food on his plate. Charlie, who comes in to listen to the gossip but never says a word.

    Before I know it my mug is empty and I’m warm inside.

    Betty points outside. “The rain has stopped. Want to see if you car starts?”

    I stand up and dig in my back pocket. “Yeah, what do I owe you?”

    Betty waves her hand. “Now don’t you pay me dear, it costs next to nothing to make a cup of coffee.”

    I lift an eyebrow. “You sure? I could at least leave you a tip.”

    “I don’t want to hear it. You just go on out and enjoy the rest of your journey, dear.” She smiles and pats my shoulder.

    I smile back. “Thank you, Betty.”

    I get in my car and turn the key. The engine starts and the noise is gone. With one last wave at Betty and the old man, I pull onto the open road.

    The clock on the radio reads 7:46pm.

      1. madeindetroit

        What a cool take you have here. Love the uplifting and positive vibe you created along with a touch of Twilight Zone..Great story and writing!

  15. jhowe

    Breath labored, eyes stinging, Joe almost mows down the woman waving her arms. He swerves and swears out loud, pulls to the shoulder and puts the Lexus in park. Through his tears he sees the woman at his side window, blonde, beautiful, disruptive. He’s not through yet. He needs to grieve. He doesn’t need this. He rolls down the window, the raindrops pelt his face.

    “Am I glad to see you,” she says, soaked to the skin, shivering. “My car broke down and my phone’s dead.”

    He pinches the bridge of his nose, discreetly wipes at his eyes. “Get in before you freeze to death.” He cranks up the heat and hands her his jacket to dry off with.

    “Thank you so much,” her smile is radiant. “I think you might’ve saved my life.” She brushes wet hair from her face and looks into his red eyes. “Uh oh, what’s wrong?”

    “I’m fine,” he says, looking away.

    “And here I thought I’d be the one doing the crying.” She puts a hand on his shoulder and pulls it away. “Sorry, bad habit.”

    Joe sniffs and takes a deep breath. “I’m fine, really.”

    “It’s really kind of awkward,” she says. “I know this is a bad time, but I’m robbing you.” From somewhere a gun is in her hand.

    “Funny.” He suppresses a chuckle.

    “It’s no joke.”

    “I know, but it’s still funny.” Joe holds his own gun and they stare at each other. He’s surprised by her smile.

    “I think they call this a Mexican standoff,” she says, hand steady. “I’m not sure why.”

    “I’m sure there’s an origin somewhere.”

    “Why were you crying?” Her eyes are electric blue. “You don’t seem the type.”

    “Is there a type?” he says.

    She shrugs. “What now?”

    “Well, for one thing, I know you won’t shoot me.”

    She applies pressure on the trigger. “Bold assumption.”

    “I know you won’t shoot me because you don’t want to die.” He touches the barrel of his Glock to her forehead. “I know that because I kill people and I can tell.”

    “You kill people,” she says. “Talk about poetic justice.”

    “Ain’t it though.”

    “Of all the people to flag down.”

    “You want to know why I was crying?” He watches as she nods. “I mourn my victims.”

    “You mourn the people you shoot, how nice.”

    “I do it because nobody else will.”

    “What about me?” she says, lowering her gun. “Do you think I have anyone who’ll mourn?”

    “Forgive my assertiveness, but no.”

    “Will you mourn for me?” she says, tears streaming.

    “It’s what I do.”

    “Thank you.”

    “Don’t thank me yet. I’m considering letting you go.”

    “No. I want to be mourned.”

    “They all do.”

    “Then I guess I’m no different,” she says.

    “I think you are.”

    He slips the gun under the seat and puts the truck in drive. After a while, he flips off the wipers and the sun peeks from the clouds.

    “Maybe we’ll see a rainbow,” he says, taking her hand. She nods and tries not to smile.

    1. smwrites

      I really liked the easy conversation with veiled tension. Both characters leave me intrigued and wanting to know what happens next. Great job!

    2. writer_sk

      Neat idea. This felt Quentin Tarantino to me with the fast dialogue and likeable bad guy.

      Eh I copied your rainbow at the end of my story but I swear I hadn’t read yours yet! It’s such good imagery to end on…

  16. rlk67

    STRANDED

    Tommy was still staring at the doorman in front of the St. Regis as we made our way to the front desk. Ariella tried to slide across the polished lobby floor, and Anne was just grinning like she were in Heaven. I felt sick.

    “And you are…?” asked some dude with a little too much oomph.

    “Uh…we’re not anyone,” I answered, trying to pry my eyes away from the billion dollar chandeliers. “You see, we just…”

    “Yes, of course, sir. Now then, are you here for the free ten-day writer’s convention, sponsored by the Balsam Foundation?”

    “No, no. I…I only…” Oh, man. All this luxury. It was sickening. How did I get here?

    “Sir, let me look for a room…”

    Ariella was yelling. “Daddy, Tommy keeps saying I love the elevator man! Tell him to quit it!”

    “Tommy! Please!” But he didn’t hear. He was too busy jumping on the leather chairs and peeking at the patrons in the restaurant. They were waving to him.

    “No, I don’t want, I mean…look, it’s like this.” I took a deep breath. Mr. Check-In folded his arms. “My family is from Connecticut, and we’re on our way to a camping trip at Roadkill County Park in New Jersey. We came through Manhattan and our car broke down in front of your hotel. I…I don’t want all this. We want a simple vacation, out with nature. Away from the opulence and sensationalism. We want to be human. Could you possibly help me find an auto service to tow me away from this ostentatious place?”

    Mr. Check-In laughed. “Bravo! Bravo, sir! That was excellent prose! I have no doubt your works must be firmly entrenched in the international writing community. Now let’s see about your room…”

    “No! I’m serious!” I cried, as Anne gently put her arm on my shoulder.

    “Max!” whispered Anne desperately. “Tell him I dabble in writing! Just do it! They have a spa!”

    “No! Please, Anne! I hate this! Nature is so much nic–”

    “Here you go, sir! The Astor Suite. Now the pool is available to the children…”

    “POOL?” yelled Tommy. “YES!! I’m getting my bathing suit!”

    “Get mine, too!” shouted Ariella.

    “NO! NO! We need them for Dung-doo Lake!” It was too late, Tommy ran out, his eyes on the doorman again.

    “Sir, your beautiful wife may use the spa while you work out at the gym.”

    Anne took my hands. “Yes, Max, your beautiful wife may use the spa while you work out at the gym. HAVE-A-NICE-WORKOUT!” Suddenly she wasn’t there.

    I groaned. Tommy came running in with some well dressed men holding our bags andthe kerosene oil stove. “Dad! This is Gregory and Dominic! They’re takin’ in our stuff!”

    Ariella jumped on a fancy luggage cart. “Whee!” I needed to sit down.

    Oh, my vacation was shot. Plans gone. What a horrible experience.

    Would my family ever forgive me?

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