#writephoto — The Perfect Tree

2B5433D4-9F88-4FF7-9F71-C0ABFC709848”Dad, let’s go. I’m cold,” Doug said.

“Yeah, me too, Dad,” Dana said, echoing her older brother.

“Steve please,” Arlene said. “We’ve been out here for hours and you still haven’t found your ‘perfect’ tree. It’s going to be dark soon, the kids are tired and, quite frankly, so am I.”

“Just a little while longer, hon,” Craig said. “I don’t want to have to come all the way back out here again. I’ll know it when I see it.”

Arlene looked at her watch. “Kids, let’s give Dad another 15 minutes,” she said. “If he hasn’t found his perfect tree by then, we’ll go.”

“Aw Mom!” the kids said in unison.

After about five minutes of walking deeper into the woods, Steve stopped abruptly. “Look,” he said excitedly. “Look at the way the late afternoon sun is shining directly through the branches of that tree and down upon us. It’s a sign from the heavens that this tree, this perfect tree, was meant to be our family’s Christmas tree this year.”

Steve took his portable, gas-powered chain saw out of its sack, and went to work on the base of the tree. It was almost dark by the time he had the tree down and was able to maneuver it onto the large sled. He hauled the tree-laden sled back to where they had parked the family’s pickup truck.

The drive back to town would take a few hours, and both of kids and Arlene had fallen asleep shortly after Steve started driving. Despite having poured himself a cup of lukewarm coffee from the thermos he almost always had with him, Steve, himself, was struggling to keep his eyes open.

It wasn’t until mid-morning the next day when the park rangers discovered the overturned pickup truck at the bottom of the steep ravine.

Written for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt. Sorry about the dark turn this story took. I didn’t expect it to go in that direction, but that’s where it went.

#writephoto — The Glow

49FC3C58-6BB3-46BE-BB6A-F6846B8535B7“Do you hear that?” Denise asked, shaking her husband awake.

“Hear what?” Claude asked.

“That loud humming sound,” she said, “and occasional pounding noises.”

Claude listened. “Yeah, I hear it, too. But I don’t understand. We’re so far out in the wilderness that all we should hear are the sounds of nature.” He crawled out of their sleeping bag and opened up their tent’s front flap.

“That’s strange,” he said, looking out. “It’s not even dawn yet, but the sky over that ridge is glowing, making it look like the sun has already risen. Grab your backpack, Denise. We’re going to investigate.”

Claude and Denise grabbed their hiking gear and headed off in the direction of the humming sound and the unusual lights. It took nearly half a day for them to reach the ridge. By then the noise was very loud and the pounding sounds was like that of pile drivers.

They slowly made their way to the edge of the ridge and surveyed what they saw. “I don’t get it. This is federally protected wilderness land,” Denise said. “How can they have permitted this land to be used for an oil field and for fracking? This is horrible. And isn’t it illegal to drill on these federal lands?”

“I have a two-words for you, Denise, and you’re not going to like it,” Claude said.

“I am pretty sure I already know,” Denise sighed. “Donald Trump.”

Written for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt.

#writephoto — Wildfires

A1264AC8-030A-4711-9549-D7C0FFF460EE Debra could feel the heat from the fire that was engulfing her house, the only home she’d ever known.

“Come on, sweetie, we have to go,” Debra’s father, Greg, called out to his daughter. “We need to evacuate now.”

Tears were flowing down her cheeks. “I don’t want to go, Daddy. Why is this happening to our house?”

Greg walked over and grabbed Debra’s hand and started to lead her away from the burning house. “It’s wildfire season, sweetheart,” he said. “The lack of rain all summer has made all of the grasses and underbrush very dry. And high winds blew down some trees, which fell across power lines. These power lines fell to the ground and sparked brush fires. Then those same high winds rapidly spread the flames of the fire.”

“Why do we live in a place that has wildfires, Daddy,” Debra asked.

“It’s close to my work, baby,” Greg said. “Besides, no matter where you live, there are weather-related risks, whether it’s blizzards, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, thunder and lightning.”

Greg was interrupted by a firefighter. “Sir, you need to get yourself and your daughter out of harm’s way before we lose control of the fires in this area.”

Debra looked up at her father as they ran to his car. “We’ve lost everything, haven’t we?”

“No Debra, sweetie,” Greg said. “We lost stuff, but it’s all replaceable. But we still, and always will, have each other.” The two of them hugged, got in the car, and Greg started the engine. “Now let’s get the hell out of here,” he said, “while we still can.”

Written for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt.

#writephoto — True Nature

9E1BF740-AC0F-4023-85C2-93B5EEA070AAAs a child, the little princess had always been a handful for the king and queen. Once she turned eighteen, her parents decided that the best way to deal with her would be to find a suitable prince and to marry her off. “Let her be someone else’s problem,” her father, the king, lamented.

And so the king and queen sent the word out far and wide that they were seeking a suitable suitor for their daughter’s hand. She was, after all, royalty, and along with her came a royalty-sized dowry.

The princess, eager to get out from under the clutches of her controlling parents, welcomed the opportunity to be swept off of her feet by some charming prince from an exotic land far away. But as time went by, she was introduced to no potential suitors and grew quite impatient.

On her twenty-first birthday, the princess confronted her parents. “It’s been three years and you have yet to introduce me to a single suitor. Surely at least a few have been suitable.”

“We are looking for a young man of high moral character, integrity, honesty, who is pure of heart, and who possesses a strong and sense of responsibility. Only then can we determine who is worthy to be your husband,” the king explained. “But none of the potential suitors have met our requirements.”

“But how do you know these things after only one interview?” the princess asked.

“We have our ways,” the queen said. “You must trust us, daughter.”

The frustrated princess stomped off to her room and sat on her bed crying hysterically. Her lady in waiting came into the room and tried to comfort the anguished princess. The princess explained why she was so upset. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this,” the lady in waiting said, “but the king and queen take each prospective suitor to a secret pond deep into the woods and they make the suitor gaze into the pond’s still waters. The mystical pond is supposed to have a mirror-like surface and when anyone looks into the pond, what is reflected back shows the person’s true nature.”

The princess was livid that her parents could be so stupid as to manage her fate by using some mythological pond to screen potential suitors. The next morning, the king and queen were found dead in their bedroom, apparently the victim of poisoning. The princess was immediately crowned queen of the realm, and her first order of business was to be taken to this pond that could allegedly reveal the true nature of anyone who gazed upon its mirrored surface.

The knight of the queen’s guard reluctantly led her to the pond, but knowing the princess, he begged her not to look at her reflection in the pond water. She pushed him aside, stood at the edge of the pond, and looked down to see her reflection.

The new queen’s chilling screams could be heard for miles around.

Written for this week’s Thursday Photo Prompt from Sue Vincent.

#writephoto — The Fool on the Hill

AC40970F-B894-48C5-A7FA-ABE5222E1C15Day after day, the man on the hill slowly walks alone with his walking staff in hand. Nobody knows who he is, or why he walks the hill day in and day out. He walks there all day long until the sun goes down, watching as the world spins around and around.

Most of the townsfolk refer to him as the fool on the hill. Some of them have tried to talk to him, but he never listens to them and he never has an answer to their questions. In fact, he never even seems to notice them. He just smiles with what they call his foolish grin. Hence, nobody wants to join him.

He knows that they don’t like him and they really don’t want to know him. They think he is just a fool with his head in the clouds. But he doesn’t care about them. He actually feels sorry for those townsfolk, who live their hectic lives without making the time to explore nature and to appreciate all that it has to offer.

They may think of him as the fool on the hill, but in his heart, he knows that they are the real fools.

Written for this week’s Thursday Photo Prompt from Sue Vincent.