Week 23 Flash Fiction Challenge: Early Start

Sunrise on Lake George, New York
Photo by K.S. Brooks

The first rays of the morning sun turn George and his old motorboat into a silhouette. The vapor rising from the cold water make it even harder to see him from the western shore.

He’s far enough away that the sound of the motor barely reaches the the few cabins here.

George has something to put in the lake—someplace deep in the lake. He’ll need to make sure it will not be found for a good long while.

He picked a good day for it. This time of the year the lake is pretty much deserted. George got an early start. Nobody is awake this time of the day. Nobody but me.

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

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until 5:00 PM Pacific Time on Tuesday, June 5th, 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 23 Flash Fiction Challenge: Early Start”

  1. I try to stay focused. When I must breathe, I will my chest to stay flat – will my body to not ripple this damp, itchy tarp. I command my lungs to expand, but only laterally. And then – so slowly, so slowly – I exhale through a taut slit of widened, flattened lips.

    Because if George sees any movement beneath this tarp puddled in the boat's stern, he'll know the blow didn't kill me. He'll know I'm still alive.

    I didn't ask for this. I was fine at the shelter – just fine. I didn't exactly beg to help this bitter man get over the loss of his "best friend." But I settled in, empathized, nudged. Watched him pace, watched him talk to himself, watched him dissemble as the weekend hunters from the mainland stopped coming, and the empty brown bottles began to pile up.

    And then the kicking started.

    I didn't ask for this.

    I took another breath – slowly, slowly. George muttered, dropped the oar, then I heard him start making those staccato-sucking chk-chk-chk noises with his tongue that I'd learned to fear.

    George kicked back the tarp and stared at me. He scratched the side of his neck, exhaled heavily, and then reached for the rope and the clay-stained foundation block.

    And that's when I lunged.

  2. Before the first sun set in the north, the second began to rise in the south. The water temperature lowered to a slow simmer but would soon begin to boil again. Constant bubbling slapped at the metal hull. The only sound in this silent world. Not even a breeze ruffled the mist hanging over the lake. The little water craft couldn’t take much more of this persistent, steaming heat.

    Jarris tugged his boots from the deck, the rubber soles sticky, melting into a soft, caustic scented goo against hot steel, leaving a bitter taste in his mouth.

    Will the land I see in distance be a refuge or will I be jumping from the pot into the fire.

    Jarris smiled at the imagery despite the possible futility of his situation.

    What was to be a simple routine mission to assess a planet rich with mineral resources had deteriorated with a swift and unpleasant end. His smile dropped.

    The hull scraped sand, slowed, and tipped to the right before continuing. Twenty more feet to solid land. He could jump five, six feet, but anymore than that was sure to land him face first in scant inches of boiling water. The stern bumped against the bottom. Motion slowed to a crawl. Ten feet. Nine. Eight. The sandy shore glittered like flakes of gold. Seven feet. The boat stopped, listed to the left, broke loose and began to float back out into the lake.

    Jarris’ scream of frustration broke the deep, unrelenting silence.

  3. Something felt wrong as I spotted "Grandpa" George in his rustic little motorboat through the haze of the early morning fog. Sure he could be seen in that old boat of his on any afternoon with a fishing rod, a beer, and a smile, but never this early. And never talking to himself.

    His voice was intense, insistent, but the words seemed like nothing more than gibberish. I could make out the shape of his arms as they gestured widely as if to someone sitting in front of him. Only, his shadow was the only one visible in the boat.

    I set down my ritual morning coffee and crossword, squinting into the wall of fog. The fog before George seemed to swirl unnaturally, slowly at first, but picking up speed as his voice rose and his gestures intensified. I wanted to call out, to make sure he was alright, but something about the situation froze me in place.

    Suddenly, there was a loud splash followed by a maniacal laughter, a sound incongruous with George's typical warm, friendly laughter. George turned the motorboat and drove further into the mist, his laughter fading.

    George was never seen again after that night. His boat was found moored at his cabin-side dock as usual, but there was no sign of where he went.

    I told authorities of what I had seen and a diving team was sent out. All that was found was a mysterious, lidless metal box…

  4. First was the fishing pole built from twigs and twine and too many summer days to remember. George held it in his gnarled hands then dipped it in the water and lifted it to the sunrise. Our boyhood rolled in droplets along the bark then fell into the mist over the water. He released the pole into the lake.

    Next were the matching compasses, engraved with words from our father: Never forget your True North. When George lost his wife, he lost his direction for a while. We both did. But those words always had a way of bringing us back together. He put one compass in the pocket of his faded workpants and dropped the other over the side. It hit the water with a plop then quickly sank to the bottom.

    Third was his wedding ring and the secret I never told. He had known anyway; I could see that now. The wrinkles on his face showed the ache he carried–my heart, never fulfilled, because her heart was pledged to him. He dropped the ring, and it flashed gold before disappearing beneath the surface.

    The final item was the urn. My ashes. He scattered them slowly and stayed to watch their descent as they mingled with hers, waiting for years in the depths of the lake for our togetherness in eternity.

    He raised his head and started the motor. I barely heard it as I evaporated into the sun with the mist.

  5. George killed the evinrude engine and let the little boat drift on the water. The morning air was cool and damp. The sun had just peeked out over the horizon and it's first rays shone through the early morning mist. It was time.

    George had carefully chosen his latest playmate. A local high school guidance counselor who had strange proclivities to say the least. He followed him around for weeks, watching his comings and goings. He had to be sure he was the one. Accusations and rumors were one thing. But truth be known, George knew the type. It didn't take long for George to see all he needed to about the middle aged counselor. Seems the counselor abused his power over young girls, giving them very bad advice indeed. Getting his confession was a simple matter of persuasion.

    George was in his favorite spot on the lake. It was where he took all his playmates after a “session.” Well, the pieces of them that were left that is. George opened the cooler and one by one removed the garbage bags, each containing a small cement block, plus a little bit of his friend. Five packages in all.

    One by one, he quietly dropped them over the side to join his other past, shall we say, acquaintances. Power tools had certainly made life simpler these past few years. George smiled as he restarted the motor. Evinrude, Black & Decker, and George. Quality law enforcement products.

  6. I had a very peculiar feeling I would be witnessing something on the lake this morning. Hunkered down behind a large boulder on the western shore with my coffee thermos, I watched with my trusty high powered binoculars.

    Once or twice I thought I heard a faint but distinct sound – George’s vigorous Bombardier outboard motor. I raised the binoculars and barely distinguished the silhouette of George and his skiff against the mountain shore; the sun just coming up and the moisture rising made it difficult.

    As I sat there observing George, I recollected him as a very likeable, older fellow. He had a wonderful, friendly wife, Peggy, who made the best homemade yeast biscuits. I remembered from the many times I’d been to their cabin, George was always tinkering in his small wood shop making furniture, and Peggy was always baking something that smelled out of this world.

    When Peggy suddenly passed away, George was devastated. I recalled seeing a small wooden box George had made for a neighbor whose son had passed away, and the box was for the son’s ashes. I had asked George if Peggy wanted to be buried or cremated; if cremated, would he make a box for her?

    Movement through the lens made me scrutinize what I saw – George maneuvered a medium-sized, oblong-shaped package to the edge of the craft and after a brief pause with bowed head, he pushed it into the water and I watched it sink. I believe I had my answer.

  7. The first rays of sunshine on a brand new day are causing the vapour to rise off the water, just like that first morning after the graduation dance so many years ago. It was a rowboat then, not too many motorboats around in those days.

    It was the first time they had made love, a never to be forgotten night. He didn’t want that night to end, but as those first rays warmed their faces and she said, “This is an early start to the first day of rest of our lives, George,” he welcomed that sunrise with open arms.

    So much time, so many events since that sunlit entrance to the rest of their lives; their wedding, the long, endless summer bumming around Europe that they called their honeymoon, the births of their two children, their children’s weddings, their grandchildren. He would not change one minute of their life together.

    Tears run down his old, weather-beaten face but he’s smiling as he opens the little ceramic jar, lifting it briefly to his nose as if to savour some exquisite aroma, and then with one sweeping motion he casts its contents onto the still, deep waters of the bay.

    So, here he is again for an early start, this time embarking for eternity. Sitting on the railing he swings his legs over, and then picking up the anchor, clutching it to him like a lover, he’s still smiling as he plunges into the depths.

  8. EVERYONE HAS PRIORITIES –

    I should have given more thought to how I was going to get up off this cold ground.

    I pictured my share of the gold for twenty years since the day they sent me away.

    Thank God they had good medical because I needed it.

    Who knew you were going to be this stupid? Good old George, you never did have a full load, but what the hell are you thinking? If you dump those gold bars in that part of the lake nobody is ever going to see them again.

    I considered yelling, but it would just send me into another coughing fit. Besides, you couldn’t hear your own fart years ago. I tried to focus the crosshairs but I never sighted with bifocals.

    You knew I was getting out of jail, why didn’t we just dig up the gold and split it. If I had known you were going to be this stupid, I would have told the sheriff you were my accomplice. At least, I would have had someone to play cards with.

    I don’t need money at 86, what I need is someway to get up.

    I felt the cold metal press into the back of my head.

    “Harry, take your finger off that trigger or I’m going to blow your head off.” I recognized the sheriff’s voice and heard the hammer cock. “I thought you two would go for your stash.”

    Oh good, I have a way to get up.

  9. I emerged from the lake and grabbed the side of the boat. George jerked toward me, shining his flashlight against the surface of the dark water. “Could you see her down there?” he asked as I removed my scuba mask.

    “Yeah. I don’t think she’ll come up. Not for a while, anyway.”

    “Good. It’s better if she stays under. At least until we can come up with some sort of explanation.” He took a gulp of coffee from his thermos. “Thanks for helping me keep this quiet, David. Folks around here won’t understand.”

    “It’s starting to get light. Don’t you think we better go ahead and take care of the little one?”

    George laughed. “Little one? I’ll bet this thing weighs close to 50 pounds.” He slid a cooler to the side of the boat and opened it. Inside, a giant egg shone purple-grey in the early dawn. “You sure you can handle it?”

    “I got ‘em both out of Loch Ness, didn’t I?”

    “Don’t you mean ‘We’?” George rubbed the smooth surface of the egg. “So Nessie has the nest ready down there, does she?”

    I nodded. “Looks good to me. Now if we can just get the male out of Scotland before they start dumping sewage in the lake.” I put on my diving mask and braced against the side of the boat.

    George handed me the egg. “Don’t drop it,” he said with a grin.

    I took it to the nest.

  10. George shifted the throttle on the old motorboat and disappeared into the mist forming over the cold water of the lake. The first rays of morning sun tried to penetrate the vapor, but were repulsed, leaving only a sickly glow. Chills ran down George’s back as he glanced at the bundle on the boat’s floor. Chains and weights crisscrossed the pink floral sheet. No one could know what he was doing, no one. Traveling by instinct, he reached the deepest part of the lake where the shoreline was hidden from view. First his little boy, then his wife, all dead.

    “I wish I’d never found you.” George said as he grasped the bundle.

    The package twisted and wriggled in his hands, knocking the industrial ear muff he wore from his head. George released the package and clamped his hands over his ears as a voice, taunting, singing, filled the air. It would be so easy for him to sink into the soothing waters, silent and dark. That’s what he wanted, wasn’t it?

    George froze, one leg already poise to jump into the icy water. The sleek trout gleamed at him from its mounted plaque as it lay unwrapped on the floor of the boat. George jammed his ear muff back on and rewrapped the wriggling singing fish, making sure the weights were well clamped. His hands shook as he threw it overboard and he prayed no one would ever find the thing again.

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