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This is part of my ongoing project of flash fiction typed onto vintage photographs using an antique typewriter. If you’d like to see more keep looking here or visit my Etsy.
As Ethyl turned the VW bug down the dirt road, Bertha shuddered a little.
“What is it, Berth? Something the matter?”
“I’m used to cities is all. This road trip has been adventure enough without you taking this shortcut through the woods. This road is dirt, for the love of Pete!”
Ethyl smiled at her city friend. They’d instantly connected at the school where both were studying to be receptionists. Ethyl had left the family farm in search of bigger and better things, and Bertha was just killing time until her fiancé, Jasper, got back from the war.
“I grew up on roads like this. Relax, hun.”
The VW blew up a cloud of dust as Ethyl drove it a bit manically around a turn, the wheels scrambling through some pebbles and shooting them into the woods.
“Well could you slow down a bit, at least? At least consider the paint! This car is new!”
Jasper bought the car a few months before he found himself shipped out and trusted his future wife with his most prized possession.
“It’s Jasper’s most prized possession!”
“Where do you come in on that list?” Ethyl asked with a smile and a bit of attitude.
“Just under the car, darling. You should know that. Men and their toys…”
Ethyl relented and let go of the gas a little, taking the turns a bit easier.
“Thank you, dear,” Bertha said as she reached into the back seat. “Care for some coffee?”
“Actually, I’m famished! How’s about I find a place to pull over?”
“Here in the middle of nowhere?”
“Here’s as good as anywhere else!”
They drove the little powder-blue bug another mile or so until she came up to a bend in the road just before an old bridge. A picturesque clearing filled with wildflowers lined the grassy spot where Ethyl stopped the car.
“Oh look Bertha! What a place for a picnic. What do you say?”
Bertha smiled and grabbed the wicker picnic basket from the backseat. “Good thing I packed these sandwiches! God knows how long we’ll be lost out here!”
“I’m telling you,” Ethyl said with another smile, “The man at the station said this here was a shortcut. Said it would cut a good hour of driving. You want to be at your cousin’s by evening, don’t you? Or shall we camp out for the night –“
“Lord no! I’m not sleeping in a tent. We’re making it tonight if it kills us.” Ethyl let a knowing smile grow on her face. She knew just how to manipulate her city friend. The woman was clearly afraid of nature.
Bertha got out of the car, removed her cardigan and fixed her flower-print dress. After checking both shoulder straps, making sure they were just right, she threw her cardigan onto the car and pulled a blanket out of the back seat.
Ethyl loved watching this girl, an enigma to someone who grew up on a farm, as she carefully placed the blanket on the grass. “You know, there’s a perfectly good log over there.”
“You must be joking. This is an expensive dress! It’s Chanel!”
“Chanel! As in Coco?”
Ethyl raised an eyebrow. “Okay…”
“Oh you country bumpkin…what do you know!” Bertha smiled, and Ethyl laughed quite loudly, letting it echo through the trees. She was relieved to see her friend loosen up a bit.
“Well, this fabulous ensemble I’m wearing is official Wanamaker’s. The top was on sale!”
Bertha giggled as she sat down on the blanket with the basket. Meanwhile, Ethyl took out her satchel and started rooting through it for a pen and paper.
“Oh no, is the master author at it again?” Bertha teased.
Ethyl stuck out her tongue and sat on the log. Her scribbling on the pad of lined paper reverberated through the woods, disrupted only by the occasional sound of wrapper rustling as Bertha set up their lunch.
Once she had the sandwiches out and spoons in the small container of potato salad, she waited patiently for her friend to finish. She put her hands behind her head and leaned back against the car, looking up at the perfectly blue sky. Ethyl finally finished and joined her on the blanket.
“Say what you want about the city, and I will, as you know, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the sky such a beautiful blue,” Bertha said. Ethyl dug into the potato salad and nodded. As she tried to speak a small piece of potato fell to the blanket.
“That was what I was writing about.”
“Mhmm,” she said as another piece fell to the blanket. She picked it up, inspected it and popped it into her mouth.
“Such class. It’s a wonder you were raised on a farm! I would think you came from the most fabulous finishing school in Paris!” Bertha raised an eyebrow at her friend, waiting for a response.
“Just wait until I go pee in those woods right there, then we’ll see who is refined,” she said, watching Bertha shudder a little.
“You will not!”
“I will so!”
“Don’t do it, Ethyl. There must be a ladies room around here somewhere!”
Ethyl smiled again at her friend.
“So what was your poem about?”
“Actually, it was about returning to a perfectly blue sky after spending a few months in the smoggy city.”
“That’s…kind of lovely, Eth. It really is beautiful here, I must admit. I can hear the birds and a breeze, rather than cars and yelling. And what is that sound? The one that is fairly constant?”
“Ah. Crickets. They’re kind of loud.”
“Funny, I didn’t even notice them until you pointed it out.”
“Well, it really is quite lovely.”
They continued to eat when a bug landed on Bertha. She screamed and dropped her sandwich onto her plate as she rushed to get it off her arm, flailing like an insane person. Ethyl just remained calm and continued eating. Bertha finally got rid of the bug and stood.
“I’m eating the rest in the car.”
The Boating Trip is part of my ongoing series of flash fiction stories typed onto vintage photographs using my antique typewriter. If you like it, enter the contest to win a personalized piece here. And check out my Etsy for original prints and the book collecting around fifty of my images.
Sunday Walks is part of the upcoming book Capturing a Moment, a collection of my flash fiction stories typed onto vintage black and white photographs, published by Wrags, Ink.
The dilapidated railroad station, aged after years of disuse, loomed above them like a ghost as they trudged up the hill.
“I always come up here when I want to be alone. You’re the first person I’ve brought here.”
She smiled, a little out of breath from the steep path.
The rusted rails disappeared into surrounding woods as she looked left, then right.
“The tracks are unused now, right?”
“Are you nervous?” he said with a smile. “They’re retired. Look at them.” He kicked a bit of rusted metal off the top. “I doubt they’d be safe run a train over them.”
She took his hand. “Thanks for bringing me here. I know this place means a lot to you. Do you ever go inside?”
“There’s a broken window around back, but it’s pretty dirty in there.”
A sound, far off in the distance, made her look to the right. “What was that?”
“I don’t know, but I hear it all the time.”
“It sounded like-“
“No, never mind.”
He bent down and put his hand on the track. “Feel it.”
She did as she was told and felt the slight vibration. “What is that?”
“You were going to say it sounded like a train was coming, right?”
She nodded, a little unwillingly.
“I hear it all the time. And after I hear it, I can always feel the tracks vibrating the tiniest bit.”
She quickly removed her hand from the rusted metal. She wiped the brown dust off her hands onto her jeans as he stood back up. She stood as well and watched the tracks coming from the woods to the right, waiting.
“It won’t come,” he said, breaking the silence.
She took his hand, and squeezed it tight from fear when they heard the sound again, this time closer. It sounded like the echoes of the horn of a train, but not the actual sound itself. She continued to watch, waiting.
Photograph taken by Nessa Skotnitsky of Ethereal Fine Art and Photography.
New typography with my brand new (vintage) typewriter! Here’s a few shots of the typewriter, too! Check out my last post for news about my upcoming book, Capturing a Moment, collecting fifty of my works together in one volume! Some are also available on my Etsy for a limited time!
Coming soon! Wrags Ink., a new publisher in the Philadelphia area, is putting out a collection of my typography on vintage photographs! You’ve seen some of them before here and possibly on my Etsy, but this collection has about fifty images and more than half of them have never been seen before! So get ready, readers! My work is also being featured in a few magazines coming out this summer, and I’ll be sure to let you know about that as it comes up!
Also, once the book is out the prices will probably be going up a bit on my Etsy, so if you want any, better get them soon!
Thanks for reading!
Margaret and Isabel were both quickly sketching the scene as the boy stood at the bridge staring at his reflection.
“Looks like we figured out what our drawings were missing, huh Madge?”
Margaret agreed. The water churned a bit, making her wonder what the boy was really doing since the current was making reflections difficult.
“Ready for our lunch?” Margaret asked her. She nodded and pulled the wicker picnic basket over to their little folding stools. “Mind if I look at yours while you get lunch together?”
Belle was always agreeable and nodded as she pulled out the ham and cheese sandwiches, potato salad and some fruit. The final item, a jar of pickles, proved difficult. She strained against the lid as Margaret flipped through her rough sketches.
“These are beautiful, Belle. I still don’t know why you didn’t finish art school with me.”
She gave up on the jar and handed it to Margaret, who easily opened it. “Musta loosened it for me, doll.”
Belle took the jar back and pulled out a pickle. “You know I loved Mitch. He found a job so fast and wanted to get married and all, I couldn’t say no. And who says I can’t create art without that piece of paper? An artist doesn’t need it, necessarily. Did Van Gogh have a degree? Did Rembrandt?”
“I’m sure I don’t know. Did they?”
“You’re the one who finished art school, you tell me!” Belle said with a laugh as she took a large bite of the pickle she’d been holding. “Now let me see yours, then we’ll dig into these sandwiches!”
Margaret handed over the sketchpad. “Now don’t go getting pickle juice on them!” A quick wipe of her hands on her long pleated skirt took care of the juice and she flipped through.
“These are just beautiful, Madge. A bit dark for a nice day, but lovely. Will you paint them?” Margaret nodded. “Watercolors?”
“No, I think oils, you know how I love to paint in oils.”
“Think the boys are having fun at the game?”
“Only if the Red Sox are winning, darling. Otherwise we’re going to have two grumpy gusses on the ride home.” The women giggled and ate their lunches. They both looked up at the boy, who was still standing on the wooden bridge.
“What do you think he’s doing?”
“Why looking at his reflection, silly!” Belle said.
“But look at the water, no way he could see his reflection! I’ve seen that look on a man before. That boy is deep in thought about something.”
“Probably a lovely girl he wants to ask out,” Belle said with a smile.
Margaret shook her head in disagreement. “I dunno…he doesn’t seem to happy to me.”
“Really? He seems downright amiable to me. Isn’t it funny how artists see things so differently, even from one another?” She smiled and pulled an apple out of the basket. “Apple or banana? We have one of each.”
“Apple, dear. Bananas are always bruising, and I can’t stand that.”
Belle handed her the apple and started peeling the banana back. “A few little bruises never hurt anyone, I’m fine with this banana.”
At that a loud crack could be heard coming from the ballpark, and the women turned to look in its direction. Cheering could be heard from the crowd, even from where the two artists were sitting.
“Sounds like a home run.”
“The boys will be happy then, hopefully.”
“Yes,” Margaret said as she picked up her sketchbook. She stared at the dark charcoal sketches she did of the boy.
“Well I’ll be, our subject!” Belle said, forcing Margaret to look up.
The boy had gone.
I’d already waited in line for thirty minutes, thinking I would be first if I showed up an hour before the store opened. I was wrong. There were a good number of people ahead and the store was around the corner. But come on, how many could possibly be looking for The Beach Boys’ album, right? I mean, record store day is about the indie music…isn’t it?
The doors opened at ten, a full hour before their usual time, and by eleven I was finally at the door. Eleven fifteen finds me released into the crowded den full of hipsters and gross unshowered balding men with combovers, and as I approached the wall dedicated to record store day releases, I saw the royal blue cover, golden rays shining from the words, The Beach Boys in that hard-to-miss 60s font. As I closed in someone snatched it practically from under my nose, and here I am in line, waiting to purchase the runners-up on my list of top ten special releases. Peter, Bjorn a John, not a band to ignore. Of Montreal, only a thousand pressed. New Pornographers. Decemberists. But the prize, the number one on my list, The Beach Boys including the songs Good Vibrations and Heroes and Villains, an early and alternate take, respectively, my only chance to hear them on vinyl, gone. I tried to hide my dissatisfaction with the day, my disappointment, and I noticed the register girl was the one who always remembered me, knew my music tastes with such perfection that I would blindly buy a record based on her recommendation without even listening to a single song.
“Hey! You made it!” she said to me with her usual winning smile, and I tried to smile back, but the most I could muster was a half-hearted grin.
It was my turn, and she took my records and looked through. She flipped through a second time and reached under the counter.
“Looks like you’re missing one…” she said as she produced a copy of The Beach Boys album, my holy grail for the day. My half-hearted grin turned genuine in a heartbeat. “You want it?”
I nodded, speechless as she rang up my total and I handed her my card without even looking at the price. Who cares, right? It’s record store day.
As I walked toward the door I looked in my bag and once more saw the golden rays shine at me, and I smiled. A quick look at the register and she waved goodbye to me with a huge smile before she took the next person in line.
I love record store day.