No one really knows how or why, all I can tell you is that few of us made it through, although some wish they hadn’t because there’s nothing left to smile about these days. Back in ’58 I was a regular kid, I went to school, played baseball and hung out with my friends. Shoot, I even had my eye on the cutest girl in school for the summer ball. I wonder what happened to Jess after everything went bad. I like to imagine she found a safe place with her family, far away from the crazy. Maybe we’ll bump into each other some day.
She wouldn’t recognise me, Jess barely knew I existed. I wasn’t part of the cool gang like her. No cool gang now. No gangs at all in fact, well, not the good sort.
It’s weird how we remember the little things, don’t you think? It was my 12th birthday when that photo was taken, my family were going to Little Belle’s Diner. I was so excited. Little Belle’s did the best burgers and chilli fries around. They had those revolving menus on the tables and the coolest music on the jukebox. I wore my new sneakers and jacket, it was a bit big but I didn’t care, it looked so cool.
We never made it to Little Belle’s. My dad made us watch an emergency broadcast on TV, funny how that was the last show most folks ever saw. Eisenhower gave a speech that made my mom cry and my dad shout. The main thing I remember was a cold scary feeling in my stomach. My dad seldom spoke about the war, the past belongs in the past he used to say. When the President finished and the test signal came on my dad changed from the loving, fun and always smiling man I had known all my life to a disciplined soldier rallying his troops on a battlefield.
It took less than 30 minutes to leave the home I would never see again. Our quiet street was chaos. Neighbours were packing up and leaving, people were screaming and crying. Mr Franklin tried to persuade us to join his family. My dad said no, we had to pick up my sister from college. Something in the way they solemnly saluted each other made me realise they were more than just neighbours. It made my mom cry.
Our big yellow school bus attracted too much attention. People wanted to get on but my dad kept driving. It got pretty ugly, the crowds threw bricks and things at the bus. Delia was waiting outside the college gates. She was taking photographs of the panic filled streets, and she snapped the last photo of me, man I look different now. My dad hauled her on the bus and we left the madness of the town behind forever.
Since that day my dad taught me everything he knew about survival. He said he knew one day the world would tear itself apart, that WWII was just a warm up for the Big One. He admitted he never imagined it would happen the way it did.
We live in isolation, out in the wilderness.
Perhaps when it’s safe we’ll go back to our old lives.
There’s not much to smile about these days so that was supposed to be a joke.
Like my dad says, the past belongs in the past.
This short story was inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press – a challenge to write a 500 word piece of fiction using one of 2 photos as a prompt.
I went over again with 583 words. I tried to cut it down but after editing I couldn’t bring myself to reduce it further. I’m not sure it needs an explanation, I quite like the story as it is. Obviously something bad happened, quite what isn’t explained, nor needs to be.
Once again 2 excellent picture prompts. If you want to join in and write a short piece of fiction clicky-click Indigo Spider’s link above and wrap your imagination around one of the photos!
The photo I used for the writing prompt is called Colorado Pop by Elliott Erwitt