Wednesday 4 November 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 173

This week's prompt photo was taken by Swiss Photographer Rene Burri, in Luxembourg Gardens, Paris in 1950. He died in 2014 at the age of 81. 

I had this story in my head for a few days, but it's always finding the time to write that is my problem. And not really just that, but to actually get started and stop procrastinating! 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.


He pushed the shovel into the ground leaving a mark. It was soft at this time of year, so it wasn’t difficult – not like it had been last year. He left a line all the way round until he had the shape he wanted. Then he put his foot to the edge and pushed in deeper, digging the earth up, and shovelling it off to his right.

There was something therapeutic about digging in the ground; Gus felt at one with nature, breathing in the forest air, hearing the birdlife in the trees. It was how it was meant to be, man out here in the wilderness doing his thing, not bothering anyone.

He’d been ‘off grid’ before the saying was fashionable. No one could find his place; there were no roads, no defined paths. He’d built the place with his own hands. He loved it up here. He’d tapped some of the water coming down from the mountains, which in turn powered what few apparatus he couldn’t live without.

He went into town occasionally, a handful of times a year, and was reminded why he’d left civilisation. People weren’t kind. They didn’t really care about the guy next door. They liked to think they did; they pretended to, to feed their own need to feel good. They needed to feel connected to each other to give them purpose. Gus didn’t need that. He felt connected to nature, and himself up here. That was all he needed. He didn’t like people. He didn’t want to see them or be with them, but there were certain items he couldn’t live without.

His dislike of people went way back, and if he really thought about it, it came back to one instance, one moment that had decided it all for him and brought his existence among the herd to a close.

He remembered it like it was yesterday. He’d spent a long time trying to fit in, and by the time he’d finished college he’d managed a pretend life. He existed in so far as showing up to events and places where others were, but that was all. If he’d dared to engage he was shunned. He was the nerd they didn’t want to notice. He was good for things like rides, going round his house and eating his cupboards empty, and borrowing money – money they didn’t think they had to give back.

But that day on the square it changed. He’d arrived late which meant a seat on one of the outer tables on the terrace the cafe occupied. It made it hard to keep up with what was going on and feel a part of it. And then he’d had to shuffle back to let someone get their chair out, and one of the legs of his had moved onto a metal grate and slipped through. He’d gone down with a crash.

They’d all noticed him then. They’d laughed and laughed. Not one of them got up to see if he was okay, or helped him. He’d cut his arm quite badly and grazed up the side of one leg, but they weren’t interested. Just lots of jeering and pointing until the entire square were looking.

He’d got up and pretended all was well and chuckled a little too. But once they had died down and gone back to their chatter he’d slipped away and gone home. He’d nursed his cuts and scrapes and nurtured his bruised ego.

But they hadn’t let him forget; ‘Gus the Grate Lover’ became a nickname, one he couldn’t shake. And each time it was explained to someone new, he was humiliated again.

During the term break he’d come up to the mountains on a hike to get away from it all, and decided to make the move. He’d never looked back since.

But he hadn’t forgotten, and every visit he’d take a momento back with him. He’d smuggle it up here in the back of his car, and lug it the last quarter of a mile, unless it was awake. Sometimes he’d keep it alive a while, but never too long. Then he’d bury it out here. Some of them were close, but most were further afield. He knew where each one was; he’d marked their graves in his own way. And this was the last one – the last of the group that had been there that day. He was relieved, but also a little sad. He liked being out here digging.



  1. The Park Chair, by Joseph P. Garland, @JPGarlandAuthor, 426 words.

    There was something peculiar about it. I was on my first trip to the city. I must have been ten or eleven, and I recall exhausting my parents, insisting we go here and we go there. They were so much older than me then, though far younger than I am now, and they complained about needing a rest and we were all quite warm from the walking. There was a park up ahead, and I said we could stop there.

    It was such a magical place, and we eyed chairs randomly placed along the side. “Did I want an ice cream?” my mom said. There was a small man with a white apron dangling down his front beneath a red and white umbrella. The umbrella displayed a row of chocolate, and vanilla and strawberry cones dancing around it and it covered a small cart with large, spoked wheels in the middle and a pair of smaller ones up front. It was hot and we were overdressed, and the ice cream man stood in the shadow.

    When I said yes about the ice cream, my mother told my dad to get one for me. He was not happy being ordered about like that but he took it with his normal good grace when it came to her and up he went to the vendor. While we waited, I noticed that one of the park’s chairs had fallen through a grate above the subway station. It was a most peculiar thing, and I used my Brownie camera and snapped a photo. In those days, one was careful about photos since there were only so many pictures on a Kodak roll.

    I’d forgotten about that photo, and much about the trip, until I found it among a shoe box filled with pictures from when I grew up. I remembered that my dad brought me a strawberry ice cream cone that afternoon and a vanilla one for my mom and we sat for a goodly while until we collected ourselves and continued our sight-seeing. Just from the snapshot, I could almost taste that strawberry cone, biting off the tiniest bit from the bottom to drink the melting ice cream until the ice cream was all gone and I ate the cone and tried to clean my hands on the small napkin that encircled it and then with my mouth. My mom laughed, and pulled a handkerchief from her purse to try to clean me but my fingers would not be clean until I used the bathroom back at the hotel.

    1. A nice simple depiction of how the photo may have been created. Nice work. Could almost taste the ice cream too.