From our ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’ Series: A 1950s Cold-War-Era-warning inspired flashfiction piece.
First, an explanation. It is as Rod Stewart sang: “Every picture tells a story, don’t it.” An image or photo has often caught my attention and imagination and soon became one… a story. And I’ve had several people send me pictures and ask if I could write something about it for them. I did; many stories have resulted. Have a photo or image you’d like to test what story it holds? Contact me.
Bob and Jane sat at the table with Sandy and Timmy that Friday morning. When the work and school day ended, it was the beginning of a holiday weekend, and they had special plans.
Just the day before, Bob had picked up his new 1958-model Edsel from ‘Big Jim’ Axelrod’s Ford dealership in Union City. Jane knew he looked forward to the drive to the Poconos over the weekend. Bob wasn’t the kind—because of the ‘gaddam idiots’ driving through the neighborhood—to park his car on the street. He’d insisted on moving the Oldsmobile to get the new Ford under the carport. That he’d have to back the Olds out of the driveway each time to get to the Edsel hadn’t sunk in yet. But then, Bob wasn’t much for long-range planning.
Jane worried that bills—this new car added to them—were getting out of hand. She followed his admiring study of the new debt through the kitchen’s carport-side windows. She wore a not-quite-latest-fashion-but-still-nice gray dress with a broad white collar that perfectly framed her strong, lean neck and high cheek-boned face. Jane smelled of lilacs this morning. A fresh scent she’d found that Arturo, the pool boy at the club, liked a great deal. He called it ‘Lilicks…’ and would laugh as he burrowed his head between her—.
She blinked away the memory of what she loved so much, but Bob wouldn’t do and looked at him. He had shifted his face around the edge of the newspaper to look at her. “Yes, dear?”
“Are you okay?” He almost seemed concerned.
She canted her head, felt her hand rise to her ear, and then stopped. She’d almost tugged at her right earlobe. Bob knew she only did that when she was nervous. He’d be on to her. Instead, she brushed a lock of hair—that hadn’t fallen out of place—back from her brow with the heel of her hand.
“I’m fine, dear.”
He grunted. His usual response when he didn’t quite believe something he’d heard someone say… or, more often, didn’t really care. But then added before ducking behind The Daily Courier, “You’re kinda flushed; you running a fever?”
“Really, dear… I’m all right.” She felt a catch in her voice and hoped he hadn’t heard it with Timmy and Sandy fighting over the last slice of buttered toast. Jane was meeting Arturo early that afternoon—between the Church Planning Committee luncheon and picking up the kids from school—at the Golden Pavilion motel where 6th Street ended at Highway 9. She felt the warmth rise again. But not on her face this time; she clenched her thighs. “Anything in the paper?” Getting him to talk about the news always worked.
“Hmmph… if someone—and I mean the gaddam president—doesn’t do something about them Russkies… they’re going to take over Europe.” Bob had fought in World War Two, serving in Patton’s 3rd Army, and was still pissed the US had let the Russians enter Berlin first. “And then they’ll be landing in New York.”
“Yes, dear.” It was automatic and came out of Jane’s mouth without thinking, her mind still on Arturo singing, Return to Me, to her last weekend. He so looked like Dean Martin. Then he had put his mouth on her… and his tongue— “What’s that, dear?”
He had the paper down and surveyed her again. “What are you humming?”
Then, like God had taken their picture, a bright light whitened their faces.
Bob, Jane, Sandy, and Timmy turned toward the picture window onto the backyard; a thick, twisting column of smoke climbed and darkened the early morning sky.
“Honey, get that book, you know… the one about—” Bob started and stopped when the lights went out.
They felt the house shiver and groan. Just before the window blew in, Jane saw the frown on her husband’s face and knew Bob’s thoughts must be on the Edsel… and them ‘gaddam’ Commies.
# # #
NOTE FROM DENNIS
Someone who enjoyed this flashfiction story asked me if I planned to expand it because he wanted to know what happened to this family. I answered:
“Thanks, Damon; you never know. The saga of Bob, Jane, Sandy, and Timmy in the aftermath might continue. Does Jane leave to search for Arturo (her true love, so she believes)? Does Bob dig the Edsel out of the rubble to turn it into a shrine, memorializing what he’s lost? Does Sandy live long enough to get her braces off (or does their metal become radioactive through exposure to fallout)? Does Timmy ever tell his mom and dad what really happened to his pet hamster? So many loose ends to deal with, and we haven’t talked about survival yet.” 😊