Photo Prompt Story: The Perfect Holiday

This is a short story, in 1120 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, sent to me by Janet Gogerty.

It wasn’t often that their annual week away went so well. There hadn’t even been much traffic on the long drive down. And instead of wondering what they were going to do when it was raining, they had enjoyed the hottest summer since records began.

The owners liked to call it a holiday camp, but it was just forty large caravans in a field, with a camp shop, and a social club open in the evenings. The big attraction for them was that it was next to one of the largest and most beautiful beaches in the country. All you had to do was walk to the end of the site, and go down some steps. Once through the sand dunes, it spread out as far as the eye could see.

“Better than abroad”, Steve said. He said that every year.

The main thing was that they could afford it, and Steve and Julie didn’t care if they went to the same place every year, on the first week of the school summer holidays.

Julie looked around her, the happy smile had been on her face all week. Jane was lying on a towel, looking bored. Her big bug-eye sunglasses were all the rage, even if they looked stupid. She had been listening to her Walkman all week, which considering she only had three cassettes, was good going. But thirteen was an awkward age. Julie remembered how that felt. Just about.

Sally was chasing Steve with a crab shell she had found, and he was pretending to be terrified. He was a good Dad, and Sally was a Daddy’s girl. Six years old, and thought she was already grown up. Times were changing, and Julie wished her kids would stay kids for as long as possible.

She had promised the girls an ice cream sundae in that place along the main road. But it was such a lovely afternoon, she decided to wait a bit longer before packing up their stuff. Last day tomorrow, so make the most of the time left. She stretched out, feeling the warm sand under the towel, and Steve came back to sprawl out beside her. Sally tried to scare Jane with the crab shell, but she waved her hand away, still trying to behave with that cool attitude that she never managed to carry off. Leaning back, Jane looked up at the sun.

This really had been the perfect holiday.

Steve had been resting his head in her lap, and it was him turning over that woke Julie up. They couldn’t have been asleep very long, she thought. It was still bright sunshine, and very hot.

Jane was still listening to music with her headphones on, so Julie reached over and lifted them off her daughter’s head. “Where’s Sally?” The girl jerked a thumb, indicating the dunes. “Back there, playing near the steps”.

She wasn’t by the steps though.

Julie was up in a flash, spraying hot dry sand over Steve. Instinct told her something was wrong. Very wrong. Terribly wrong. She started running toward the steps, shouting her young daughter’s name “SALLY! SALLY!”

Her Dad ran straight into the sea, splashing past startled bathers as he also bellowed Sally’s name. Jane was sitting up now, and had taken her headphones off. She cupped her hands around her mouth, to amplify her voice. “Dad! Dad! She wasn’t in the water. She was near the steps”. His legs pumping like pistons, her Dad ran back past her, sand stuck to his feet in clumps, and his trunks saturated and dripping water.

When she heard the screams, it didn’t even occur to her that it was her Mum making that noise. She stood up and turned to look, seeing Mum at the top of the steps clutching one small red rubber beach shoe. It was the same as the ones that Sally had been wearing.

Everyone was very good, they had to admit that. The site manager phoned the police, and organised a search of all the caravans. Steve was still running along the coast when the police arrived. It was only a small seaside town, but they sent everyone they had, and called for more. The lifeboat crew launched too, searching right over into the small coves around the headland. A friendly policewoman tied to reassure Julie. “This happens all the time, love. I’m sure she will show up soon. Probably just walked off somewhere. Do you have a photo of her? A recent one?”

She wanted to scream at her, ask who would bring a recent photo on holiday. But then she remembered Steve’s Kodak, and handed it to her. “There will be some in here”.

It was almost sunset when her husband got back. His feet were in a shocking state, covered in dirt and blood. Julie looked at him and shook her head. She was still clutching the small red shoe.

Glaring at Jane, he walked over and grabbed her shoulders, starting to shake her without saying a word. The girl burst into tears, and Julie put her arm between them. “No, Steve. Leave it”.

The manager let them stay on for a few days, no charge. They put Sally’s photo on the front page of the local newspaper, and it was even shown on the evening news. Steve had hardly spoken since, and was out from before first light until it got dark. He must have walked every single inch of that coast, as far as the eye could see.

Over a hundred people had helped in the search. The police brought in dogs from around the county, and the air force supplied a helicopter from the search and rescue base. Julie knew they would have to go home eventually. They had telephoned both of their jobs, and received sympathy and understanding. They would have to go back to work, or the money would run out. Julie thought about staying there on her own, just in case Sally came back looking for her. But they both knew they couldn’t afford it.

None of them said a word on the way home.

A different company owned the site now. The metal caravans had been replaced by smart lodges. They had televisions, and nice decking areas to sit on. She came back every year, and on the same week too. At first, it had been the three of them. But Jane was married now, and the cancer had taken Steve almost four years ago. Not even bothering to unpack, Julie made the familiar walk across the site to where those same steps still led to the beach.

Then she sat on the top step, holding the red shoe.

Photo Prompt Story: Not for sale

This is a short story, in 1185 words.

It was prompted by this photo sent to me by Maggie.

As she was hanging the washing on the line, Rosa smiled at little Luis trying to chase Skipper. He loved that dog, but he wasn’t yet old enough to know that Skipper would always get the better of him. He was such a happy boy, and had been a wonderful baby too. Never any trouble. She knelt down and opened her arms. “Come on, little man. Time to go in and have breakfast”.

Emilio was walking to the car carrying his lunchbox. Luis spotted him and rushed over to receive his morning kiss. “Papi, papi, ¿cuándo estarás en casa?” Pepe smiled. “Speak English, my son. Don’t forget what Mah told you now.
I will be home this afternoon. Today is an early shift. Be a good boy now”.

When they were shopping in town that morning, Luis stopped by the window of the toy shop. The car was still there, right in the front. Although it looked nothing like their old station wagon, Luis would always say the same thing. “If I could have a car like that, I would be just like Papi”. He never asked her to buy it, and seemed to know instinctively that it was far too expensive.

Still, he always stopped and looked.

When their son was sleeping that evening, Rosa talked to Emilio about the car. “You could ask old Mr Drew if he does lay-away. Maybe have it paid for in time for his birthday. It would be good for him to have it before he starts school. What do you think?” Sipping the cold beer, he nodded. ” I could get extra shifts easy enough. It would mean two late evenings, and one Saturday a month, but it will only be until we have paid for the car”.

Three days later, Emilio gave Mr Drew ten dollars as a deposit, and shook hands on the deal. Then he helped the shopkeeper remove the car from the window. The old man was relieved. He had been wondering if anyone would ever buy it. The Martinez family were respectable people. He worked hard at the plant, and his wife took in washing. He knew they would pay him.

Rosa tried to steer her son away from the toy shop when they were next in town. He managed to pull away though. In front of the window, his face was a picture of dejection as he saw the space where the car had been. There was now a huge teddy bear in its place. Luis didn’t say a word, just slipped his hand back into his Mom’s comforting grasp.

His birthday was on a Monday, and Emilio would have to work. So they had the small celebration on the Sunday morning instead. When he saw the car, he made no noise. He was speechless. Turning to look at his grinning parents, Luis tried hard to take it all in. “For me? Really? It’s my car now?” Rosa fought back the tears as her husband lifted the little boy into the seat. He turned to smile at her, his brown eyes wide with delight. Then he started to pedal, with Emilio walking behind him.

He rode in his little car all that day, refusing to come in for lunch, and almost having to be dragged out of it to go in for dinner. It had been worth all the extra work, they both agreed.

Luis never tired of that car, and never once asked for any other toys. He drove it around the yard whenever he could, and they even took it with them in the back of the station wagon when they went to visit relatives, or to the picnic grounds by the river. Uncle Mano took a photo of him in it, and sent them a copy. Emilio got a frame for it, and it took pride of place in the little boy’s bedroom.

One day, Rosa noticed that he could no longer sit inside. He was getting too tall for it, and had taken to perching on the back, and leaning forward to grip the steering wheel. Although he had started school, he still asked her to get his car out every afternoon when he got home on the bus.
It was a little battered now. A few small crashes into the fence, and driving too close to the boundary rocks. The wing mirror had been broken off one day, and Emilio had never got around to fixing it.

By the end of that year, even Luis had to admit it was too small for him now. It was put away in the outhouse, covered by an old throw.

They had never heard of Vietnam when it started to make the news. Emilio went to get the encyclopedia, and they looked it up. It seemed so far away, so exotic. Rosa couldn’t imagine why the government was sending soldiers all that way to fight for another country. Emilio reminded her that it had happened before. “Don’t forget France, Rosita. We sent soldiers to France twice. And there was Korea too”.

It had been agreed that Luis would get a start at the plant. His Dad had arranged it with the foreman, and they could travel in together in the station wagon. It was very old now, but still reliable, and Luis had been driving it around the property for over a year.

When the draft papers came, they tried to act positive. “It’s a good thing, Luis. You will serve your country, see something of the world”. When they drove him to the bus, they managed to stay smiling until it left.

Then they cried all the way home.

Father Montoya was with the smart soldier when the car drove up outside. Rosa knew what that meant, and began to make a strange noise in her throat as Emilio wrapped his arm around her. But her legs gave way, and she was sobbing on her knees before the priest got to the porch.

Her husband was never the same after that. He looked up Da Nang in the encyclopedia, and bought every newspaper sold in town. One day, he went and got the old pedal car from storage, and cleaned it up until it looked just as it had the day Luis could no longer drive it. He put it in their son’s bedroom, and would sit in there looking at it. There was no consoling him, and the sadness changed both their lives forever.

Living out there on her own wasn’t working for Rosa any longer. Her son was buried in some place she would never see, and her husband in a cheap plot in the town cemetery. The moving men were friendly, and appreciated the cold drinks offered by the quiet elderly lady. One of them pointed at the car. “Is this going in the truck, Ma’am?” She nodded. “And please be careful with it”. He smiled. “I have a boy just about the right age for that old car. How much would you take for it?” She was already shaking her head.

“It’s not for sale”.

Postcards From Blogging Friends: Part Ten

This will probably be the last in this series for 2019.

I would like to once again thank everyone who took the time and trouble to post the cards to me, and to let you know that this series was incredibly popular. The posts have been some of the most-read during that past year.

Scottish writer and blogger Mary was kind enough to send me two views of her holiday destination, Gomera.
(She has a new book out, here’s a link)

Eddy Winko (made up name) is British blogger who lives in Poland.
He included a postcard in a box of soaps I ordered from his wife.
(Gosia makes wonderful soaps! Here’s a link to those)

Looking forward to lots more cards in 2020!

Why Don’t Followers Follow?

Back on my blogging soapbox about followers again, sorry!

Today is the 19th of November. In the nineteen days of this month, I have already been notified of 114 new followers.

Naturally, this is a nice feeling, and I am very pleased to welcome any new follower to this blog. If they have their own site, and good links, I thank them, and usually comment on one of their posts too.

However, with six notable exceptions, none of those followers has left a single comment on any of my posts during that period. A large percentage of them have not even bothered to so much as to ‘Like’ a post.

That is their business of course, and it is not up to me to criticise them. But why are they bothering? Presumably, they want to grow their blogging experience into something worthwhile. Hopefully, they want to become part of the wider community of blogging, and perhaps get more satisfaction from being a blogger.

If so, that will not happen. Not unless they interact with comments, and also reply to the comments made by others.

It could just be that they expect me to follow them back, without realising that I have been doing this for a long time now, so already follow more than one hundred other blogs. Even so, I might be a lot more inclined to do that, if they could be bothered to leave so much as one comment.

Once again, I am going to repeat myself, as a message to anyone else considering following this blog.

Blogging is not Facebook.
Blogging is not Twitter.
Blogging is not a ‘quick fix’ Social Media platform like so many others.
Not everyone you follow can just follow you back.
Blogging is not just about numbers of followers.
Blogging is about engagement, interaction, community, and friendship.

My sincere thanks to all those followers who have taken time to actually ‘follow’. To leave likes and comments, or links and discussion topics.

For the rest of you who follow for reasons best known to yourselves, I understand. You may not feel confident enough to comment. My blog may well have proved ultimately disappointing for you. The fact that I didn’t follow you back might have caused you some offence. Maybe you just followed far too many blogs at once, and became overwhelmed?

Do you need help, advice, or encouragement? I am here for you. My contact email is on my about page. Feel free to use that more private method to contact me, anytime.

Until then, before you click to follow another blog, think about what that really means.

The Books of my Blogging Friends

I am always happy to buy most books published by my friends in this blogging community.

I never ask for free copies, but sometimes take them when available.
Mostly, I buy them. That way, I can review them as a ‘Verified Purchase’.

That’s a small price to pay (usually) to promote anyone I respect as a writer, and consider to be a friend.

But I thought I would add a note, for your information.

Just lately, I have purchased or pre-ordered quite a few of your books, albeit on Kindle editions only.
It is going to take some time to get to them all, in between the books I have bought that are not by bloggers.
I only read in bed at night, so how much I get through depends on how tired I am, and how early I go to sleep.

So just to let you know, in case you wonder why I haven’t reviewed them yet.

Postcards From Blogging Friends: Part Eight

This is the last post in this series for now. Thanks again to everyone who sent them. If you want to see more, keep sending the cards! I promise they will feature on my blog.

Fraggle sent me this one, her third card. An English fortified tower.
Great history, from the north of England.

Two from Maggie in America.
She sent views of her home state, North Carolina.
The trees looking wonderful in Autumn.

A rock in a river, much loved as a slide by tourists.
It is called (what else?) Sliding Rock.
(Sorry I chopped off the top of this card. It looked OK in the viewfinder!)

The next selection is that something extra I told you about.
German blogger Michael could not find a card of his home town, so instead he sent me a parcel of local souvenirs.

This is a sticker, promoting his town of Eslarn.

And next a small metal badge, designed to be nailed onto a walking stick.

Last but not least, an impressive cloth pennant.
Front view.

Back view.

You all know how happy I am to have this collection, and to see something of where you live, or your trips and travels.

Keep them coming!

Postcards from Blogging Friends: Part Seven

I am very happy to feature Part Seven in this series, and to let you know that I have enough for a Part Eight too! I want to thank everyone who has taken the trouble to post these to me, and let everyone else know that it’s never too late to send me one. 🙂

American blogger John Rieber sent me this classic tourist postcard from where he lives. Hollywood!

Pit from Texas sent me one of an angry rattlesnake. The card gives instructions on how to cook and eat the snake. Sadly, the US Postal Service obliterated this, with one of their ubiquitous stickers!

British blogger Janet went on holiday to the historic coastal town of Whitby. She sent me this classic tourist image of one of the town’s features.

Wilma had previously sent me a card from her home town of Chicago. When she went on a trip to Barcelona, she very kindly sent me another one.

It was nice of my good friend George Clooney to send me a card from Hollywood too. He is an actor of course, not a blogger. But it was still appreciated.

(Not a fake, honest!)

Next part coming soon, including something ‘Extra’!