Week 11 Flash Fiction Contest: The Last Season

Photo by K.S. Brooks

This will be the last season for the old lodge. Jess is getting on in years. The money from the developers must have been mighty tempting, too.

There is another reason Jess decided after all these years to sell that lodge—and a reason he’ll be leaving soon afterward. There is something no one else knows yet.

In 250 words or less, tell me a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until 5:00 PM Mountain Standard Time on Tuesday, March 13th, 2012.

On Wednesday morning, we will open voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Friday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted.

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Photograph by K.S. Brooks, used here with the photographer’s permission. Copying or reproduction of any kind without express consent is prohibited. All rights reserved.

For a more detailed explanation of the contest & its workings, please see the post called “Writing Exercises Return with a Twist” from 12/24/11.

By participating in this exercise the contestants agree to the rules of the contest and waive any and all further considerations or permissions otherwise required for any winning entries to be published by Indies Unlimited as an e-book, showcasing all the photos and with the winning expositions credited appropriately and accordingly.

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10 thoughts on “Week 11 Flash Fiction Contest: The Last Season”

  1. Wilma sat alone in the ski lodge’s giant lobby. A copy of Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” lay on the table next to the sofa she filled with her lanky frame. She had been looking for something else when she found it. She barely remembered the play from school and had no idea why she wanted to read this piece of literature she had hated thirty years ago.

    She stared into space. She had asked, “Were the springs polluted?” She knew she could not trust the lab downtown. They worked for the mining company on the other side of the mountain from her ski runs. If the mine was polluting the springs she might as well pack it in, because her business was ruined. The resort was as popular for its hot springs as for its ski slopes.

    Next to the copy of the play, Wilma had found her chemistry text books. She had tested the spring water with the chemicals she used to maintain the pool. The springs had become gradually cloudier and she was not comfortable going in them herself let alone making them available for guests.

    She had her test results. The mining company had her price to buy her out and for her to not tell the EPA what she found. Even so, she knew that they would find out long after she had left the country. Or at least that was what she thought until she heard the knock on the door.

  2. The last guest huffed down the pine stair lugging an overstuffed, soft-sided suitcase and dropped it by the door before joining my other guests at the table. I brought the coffee pot round and filled his cup. “I have bacon, ham, pancakes, toast and fried eggs this morning, Doug. What’s your pleasure?”

    He grinned at me. His double chin wobbled as he answered. “Ma’am, is that all yer offerin’?”

    I gave him a motherly pat on the shoulder. “A little of everything, then.”

    His grim widened. “Ma'am, ye do know how to please a man.”

    As I turned to get his plate from the kitchen my gaze lingered, taking in every detail of the place. This would be the last meal I served here. Just yesterday I had signed it all away. My son had offered to have me come live with him and his wife and kids. “You shouldn’t be alone,” he had declared. He was right, of course. But I loved the old place and the people who came to enjoy my hospitality. I would miss that.

    But I was glad to leave it behind. Very glad indeed. Especially now that Frank was gone . He’d come last season … to help. Yes, especially at night. When his cold hands crept around my neck. “You’ll pay for this.” he growled. “You’ll pay.” Then that familiar, cruel laugh.

    Hadn’t I buried him deep enough?

  3. The damned deer.

    Jesse’s father and grandfather took Jesse hunting for the first time on his tenth birthday. “In his blood,” Grandpa said when the boy had took his first buck without any hesitation. Jesse enjoyed the skinning, the gutting. He reveled in the blood and brains. Even the eyes.

    He went for deer every year thereafter and each year, he enjoyed the hunt more, the kills.

    Then, six months ago, while prepping for a private party, Jesse happened to glance up, to notice a thick layer of dust and cobwebs on the fur and antlers of his trophies, his babies. He got the ladder, climbed up, started sweeping.

    In the midst of his work, he happened to meet the eyes of his largest prize.

    Its gaze bored in to him.

    I had a family, you know, it said. A doe, a couple of fawns. I was just minding my own business and you traipsed into my woods with those barbarians. I was still alive when you shoved the knife into my belly. I felt every second of you tearing out my intestines.

    Unsure of how to respond, Jesse went about his business.

    After that, every time he was in the main room, they’d start shouting at him, sometimes just one of them, sometimes the whole lot. Expounding on his flaws. His sins.

    The damned deer knew him better than he knew himself.

    Eventually, it just got to be too much. The deer.

    Not to mentioned the freakin’ dinosaur…

  4. Jess Fowler woke up with a start! “How am I going to respond to such a lucrative offer, and still be able to cloud the facts of what happened here 50 years ago. I’m still relatively healthy and certainly able to take care of myself, but would I really be able to stay here after the sale?’

    Jess knew in his heart that his friends and family would not understand why he had taken advantage of that young girl back when he was 30 and she was 19. Her portrait is still hanging in the library and part of the sale was to include all of the fixtures, animal mounts and hanging pictures that have been displayed these past years. I guess I could advise the developer that I wanted to keep that picture, but I would probably then have to explain who she really was to my family.

    She was such a beautiful person; I truly loved her but could not and would not explain this affair away to anyone – let alone my family. “Did I really think my son would understand?” It must me a clean break, one where I would move completely out of this area to a supposedly retirement village I had been planning on going to for years. Mary was the secret love of my life and even though her death was caused by childbirth, I couldn’t bring out the fact that I fathered her child and my adopted son was that child.

  5. The Cherokee Rose

    She had been riding in the canoe for some days. Wrapped in a great, dark shawl, she sat with her chin against her chest, unmoving. The young-bloods kept their eyes from her, paddling from one side to the other against the shallow current.

    Only the old man in the back spoke, when prompting the young-bloods, or when a passing noise in the wood pulled her eyes toward it.

    "That was Possum. He’s been to the creek this morning to drink."

    "Only squirrels chasing one another from tree to tree. They are playing the game. She is fine."

    The young-bloods each kicked a leg out of the boat, one following another as the canoe banked alongside a rock shoal. Their hands gripped the side, and began to drag the bottom, lifting only slightly.

    "There is nothing to fear. Just sit still when the young ones step back in from dragging the boat over the stones."

    He paused and looked up the creek. Sunlight shone off of it. The surrounding trees hung dark canopies over the water, shadowing deadfalls like massive, black birds’ nests.

    Her hand felt the bag of seeds that hung close to her breast. Mother had tied the bag around her neck. She was to drop the seeds as she moved further from the homestead. Each would spring yellow centered rose. She hoped that she would not need their path.

    Cypress knees reached out from the cliff bank to bend down into the cool, flowing water.

  6. I miss Edna, my wife. She shot the stags for antlers on these walls, venison on our menu. Her moonshine’s better than store-bought. She tended our vegetable garden. Organic. Why regulars dine here.

    One spring morning, autumn’s leftover venison defrosting, she prepared the potatoes overwintered in the root cellar, carried peelings to the compost by the woods. The Lodge opens at 11:00 for Seniors— a lost leader, but they tipped nicely in their good years. I’m “senior” too but lotta good it does my lumbago—

    Two bucks rutting guessed she’d shot their daddies, wanted revenge, not become next autumn’s trophies on wall or grill.

    They stopped butting, joined forces, rammed her in the butt, killed her.

    Rain beginning, I dragged her indoors, laid her by the long table she’d polished earlier.

    No money for cemeteries, the developers hadn’t come through yet, where to inter her decently? Out the window I spotted our herd ringing the grove. They flicked white tails, fertilized the garden.

    No way with my lumbago was I burying Edna in that tempest.

    Her soup bubbled in the cauldron, ready for diners. The clock ticked.

    Couldn’t lift her in, or outside.

    The root-cellar door ajar, our CLOSED sign still on, I dragged Edna to that door and shoved her downstairs before the Seniors’ Monday Morning Bridge Club began tapping at the entrance.

    Cellar cold, she kept weeks. My lumbago worsened.

    Diners dislike odors. Even Lysol's inadequate. Anyway, the developers coming through, time to head to Florida. Outta here!

  7. Laying the pen down, Jess leaned back in the chair and studied his lawyer directly across the table, “You’re sure it’s fail proof… no one can change this?”

    Gathering up the documents that were lying in a scattered pile, Mr. Daggert peered over his glasses and assured his client, “I’ve taken all the necessary precautions to document your wishes within the perimeters of the law. They cannot be challenged.”

    Good, he thought, Ruby would have liked that. He may have chosen to live like a coward, but the time to right his wrongs was upon him. Masking his anxiousness he shook Mr. Daggert’s hand and walked him out.

    Going back inside, Jess couldn’t help but wonder what his greedy nieces and nephews would say. They thought they would reap the rewards of his lonesome solitary life, but when his doctors told him to get his affairs in order, he heeded their advice. Shaking his head, amused in his own thoughts, he looked around the massive front room.

    “Ah, Ruby, my sweet,” he closed his eyes and remembered those secret summers long ago when her laughter filled this lodge. He had loved her so much his chest still tightened at the mere memory of her. Clearing his throat and wiping his eyes, he knew he’d see her soon.

    He thought about Rose, his beautiful love child, and regretted all the years they’ve lost. His time was up now and even though he can’t change his life, he can certainly change hers.

  8. “Never forgive, never forget…..” Big Joe’s last words loved to play peek-a-boo with his mind. The insane characters crept up slowly, scaling the rigid wall inhibiting his conscience, gasping and flailing about at the top before falling to their death, unnoticed every time.

    After years of wayward existence, Jess had mastered the art of ignorance. In his world, ‘words’ led ‘action’ by the ear, taunting and teasing, driving people to surrender to their might. The unfortunate incidents testified this irrefutable reality.

    Big Joe’s consistent profanities eventually cluttered his mother’s mind, persuading her to seek solace in her own death. His mother’s shallow beliefs bombarded his sister’s thriving willful nature, forcing her to desert her own, in search of true happiness. She was destined to never return.

    The lodge had witnessed it all. Every inch of its congenial setting, extremely striking to the naïve traveler, withheld the secrets of a restless past. The ‘stone and wood’ structure consoled Jess, whispering terms of endearment, coaxing him to get even. The walls and floors supported his judgment; their soft words assisting Jess to slice Big Joe’s throat open with a butcher’s knife.

    The whispers escalated over the years, transforming to loud and shameless outcries, pushing Jess closer and closer to the edge of insanity. The Indian investor arrived out of nowhere, negotiating a deal unworthy of refusal. Jess packed his things, his eyes moist yet his mind at peace. The lodge no longer spoke to him. It would wait for its new master.

  9. Reaching up he straightens out his trophy, the head of a buck. Anxiety filled him. It wouldn’t be soon enough till he would depart the lodge, leaving behind his kill. It haunted him; it was as though each mounted head that hung on the wall was avenging him. For the third time this week he dragged a ladder out of the closet and righted the dead creatures hanging on the wooden walls. Jess never knew when the buyers would be coming by so he wanted all looking perfect.

    When developers came snooping around during the last few years, it had irritated Jess and he charged more for their stay. They wanted the old lodge to be turned into a fancy resort. For the last sixty years hunters had gathered and shared stories after a good day of shooting. The stone hearth had burned so many nights making for a comforting smell which still lingers. Jess remembers collecting every rock and helping his dad and grandpa create the massive fireplace.

    Tears creep into his eyes as he stands on the ladder above Ruby’s sign. She’s gone now and it’s time to get the hell out of here before the vents all blow and the place caves in. Ruby, would understand, he thinks, as he wipes his face on his shirt sleeve. She would have insisted that they leave, but she would have told them and not taken the money. “Shoot,” says Jess as the ground shakes and in walk the developers.

  10. “You sure about this, Grandpa Jessie? This place has been in the family for nearly one hundred years.”

    “You’re more important than wood, stone, and animal trophies,” said Jessie. “Great-Grand Papi and Great-Gram Ruby would understand. Sometimes you just have to say goodbye, and now is a good time. I have enough memories of this place to last a lifetime. Besides, the money from the sale will support both of us for years.”

    “Grandpa…”

    “You’re more like your grandma than you realize, Jackie.”

    Jessie smiled and squeezed her hand, the one with the new guardian ring. He had almost stopped hoping one of his offspring would be chosen. Last month Jackie showed up unexpectedly and he knew. In fact, he knew more about what to expect than Jackie did. Jessie never told his family about his wife’s secret life as a Dream Guardian. They never understood how she could lie down for a nap and wake hours later more fatigued than before. The truth was she traveled in a mystical dream world, projecting herself all over the planet.

    Now Jackie was part of that world and her safety and welfare was more important than the family lodge. She was more than his last living relative, she was hope where there was none, kindness in an unkind world, and courage where most would run in terror. Jackie was a Dream Guardian, protector of the weak and unsuspecting.

    And she didn’t even realize it yet.

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