The following piece of flash fiction was my entry for the Federation of BC Writers competition. Flash fiction is a story told in 500 words or less, so it's a quick read. Enjoy!
The news wasn’t good. They had been warned about the possibility of a second wave, and now it was here, the numbers climbing rapidly. Infection rates and deaths were published daily, like the score of some morbid game, with the US clearly in the lead, while Canada proudly lagged far behind. This was not a game one played to win.
The months of social distancing were beginning to wear on people. Nerves were frayed, tempers short, the world suffocating under a shroud of anxiety, as humanity held its collective breath, waiting. Waiting for their lives to return to normal. But with each passing day, normal seemed further away. Lock downs were threatened. Not normal. Even trips to the grocery story were fraught with tension - too many people, too many rules, and heaven help you if you remember something you need from aisle 4, once you’re in aisle 5. Easier to order in. But today Nancy had to go out, she had packages to mail at the post office.
Nancy had sewn face masks for her four grandchildren, now they were back in school. Not that she thought school was a good idea, it was like using the children as fodder for the much touted ‘herd immunity’ that would apparently end the pandemic. Nancy worried about that almost as much as she worried about Mr. Trump winning a second term. It seemed the whole world was spinning towards oblivion these days. Nancy put on her face mask, tucked her hand sanitizer into her pocket, and set out to face the world.
It was sunny and hot, too hot, which was just another thing to add to Nancy’s list of things to worry about - climate change. She decided to walk anyhow, easier than trying to find a parking spot at the Post Office. The sidewalks were busy and Nancy actually had to step out onto the street twice, to maintain a safe social distance. ’Inconsiderate bastards’ she cursed under her breath at the mask-less pedestrians who crossed her path. Just another block to the Post Office and then she could scurry home. She would be safe again, at home.
Nancy stopped at the crosswalk and waited for the WALK sign. A gaggle of mask-less teenagers were waiting too. Nancy stood with her back to them, breathing as shallowly as possible to avoid inhaling their COVID-ridden spittle. The light changed to ‘WALK’ but the teenagers didn’t notice, so continued goofing around. Nancy waited. The light started flashing DON’T WALK, as the teenagers suddenly darted across the street. Nancy hesitated a moment, wanting to be sure that the breeze had cleared the air, then turned and stepped off the curb, oblivious to the oncoming truck.
Well we have been on the road for a month already and have made it as far as San Carlos, Mexico. We left Qualicum Beach with snow flakes and autumn leaves falling all around us. Quite beautiful, especially with the yellow and red leaves mixed in with the snow flakes. Lovely as it was we were glad to be heading south to warmer climes and boarded the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles with a sigh of relief. The wet, cold weather followed us as for several days but we made it to Bend, Oregon without any major snowfall, although according to weather forecasts we were only a few hours ahead of the storm.
We spent five days in Bend, having some service work done on the motorhome to prepare for the long drive south. Met up with Rod, from Fort Langley, and spent several lovely evenings drinking wine and dining out with him as we waited for our respective repair jobs to be finished. Arranged to meet up again in Nogales towards the end of November, so that we could caravan together through the maze of border stop points and red tape necessary to drive a vehicle into Mexico.
We then spent three days in the Palm Springs area where we spent many frustrating hours trying to get the Mexican road maps downloaded onto our Garmin. Three chat sessions and two phone calls to Garmin finally got us set up for the journey ahead.
Next stop Borrego Springs where we checked in for a week for some hiking, rest and socializing. Good to see our 'winter friends' again and especially enjoyed spending time with Marlene and Richard in their new Borrego home. Before leaving we hosted a 'hello and goodbye' potluck happy hour gathering for 12 friends - sorry to leave so soon but Mexico beckons!
Rod met up with us, as arranged, at the rest stop just north of the border at Tupac. We approached the Mexican/US border crossing with Rod as our trusty leader [he's been to Mexico for the last 12 years and knows the ropes], plus explicit written instructions from Anne [who made the crossing a few weeks ahead of us] and a screen shot of google maps expanded to show every twist and turn in the somewhat convoluted route through Immigration check points, customs and whatever other road blocks the Mexicans decide on that day.
At the 21 km post we stopped to purchase our import visa but alas, despite my best planning efforts, I did not have a copy of the Tracker insurance papers and, horror of horrors, was unable to find them when I went back to the vehicle to look for them. It took almost two hours to persuade them to let us bring the Tracker into Mexico after Jim had the brilliant idea of taking a photo of the licence plate which shows Canadian insurance and registration has been paid.
We bumped and crawled our way along the road to San Carlos which is under major reconstruction and the sections that have been completed are excellent but alas, they are few and far between. We arrived at San Carlos shortly after 5 pm and settled in for two nights. Unfortunately I came down with a bad case of Montazuma's revenge so we suggested to Rod that he carry on without us as I needed time to recover. After 36 hours in bed [thank goodness the loo was close at hand] I ventured forth and we did a little exploring around San Carlos. It's beautiful here so we decided to check in for a month and then decide whether to continue our trek south to La Penita. Apparently it gets quite cool here in January and February so we are keeping all options open.
At a recent book launch event for 'A MATTER OF ISSUE', I was asked how I decided on names for the various characters in the book. I have to admit that this is one of the more interesting, and fun, challenges of writing for me, and I make frequent use of the 'search and replace' feature - a character can change names as often as I like at the click of a button!
Anyhow, this made me think that maybe readers would like to know a little about the characters I have developed in 'A MATTER OF ISSUE', so over the next few blogs I will introduce them to you.
Let's start with the head of this fictional family - Charles Wentworth. Charles is elderly, recently widowed, and has two grown sons and four grandchildren. Charles has done well for himself; from humble beginnings he worked his way up the corporate ladder and landed on one of the top rungs. He and his wife always lived frugally and over the years accumulated quite a nest egg. Charles always liked to say that his favourite place to live was below his means.
Charles was an avid golf player before he started having back problems, but now he mostly stays at home. His doctor has encouraged him to get out and walk, said it would help his back, but Charles didn't much like walking - he said it was what poor people did, people who couldn't afford cars or the gas to put in them.
But lately Charles is becoming a little forgetful and he tends to flare up if provoked. He is also becoming very lonely ...
June 15 marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. Organizations around the world are planning to mark the date - from barbecues to workshops and more.
The Austin Bank offers the following tips for stopping elder financial abuse in its tracks.
In 2010, when I published my memoir entitled "Raised by Committee", I was overwhelmed by the number of women, and men, who approached me to say that they had had similar experiences. Many had told no one about it, until they opened up to me. I would listen to their stories, feel their grief, and encourage them to seek professional help, if needed. I only started opening up about my experiences when my first marriage broke up. The minister at the church I attended would talk about my 'family of origin' and the impact our backgrounds have on our daily lives. I was slowly able to open up about my childhood experiences, and only then was I truly able to deal with the demons and put them to rest.
'Raised by Committee' is a celebration of recovery, and a dedication to the hidden angels that take care of the children who, through no fault of their own, have become the flotsam of our society. We all have our stories to tell. Let's share a few.