This week's challenge from Flash Fiction Friday is based on a painting, Gray and Gold, by John Rogers Cox. From the prompt:
This week’s prompt is my favorite painting, that you can see at the top. It lives at the Cleveland Museum of Art, tucked off to the side of the modern art section, near the coat racks. Every time I go there, I seek it out and ponder it longer than anything else there. It’s captivating to me and suggests so many possibilities.
I’d like you to use it as an inspiration for a story and I’d like your story to feature this particular crossroads as a setting. Are you meeting someone? The devil, perhaps? Have you been walking aimlessly down a country lane and found yourself here, not sure which way to go?
Take a few moments. Absorb the scene and then decide to go down the write path.
Word limit was 1300 words, mine is short, at 745. I tried the second person voice for this one.
A Parent's Choice
You've been running for hours it seems, and just need to stop for a bit. You gasp in a few breaths, blood pounding in your ears, then hold your breath, just long enough to listen. No dogs, not yet. Once they realize they're tracking an alien they'll crank up the search. Maybe they'll panic and start making mistakes.
“Can we stop running now, Dad?”
You give your son a hug. “Soon, not much further. Just let's catch our breath for a minute. I'm not as young as you are.”
You don't know who gave you away – maybe it was that old man, Charlie. He hadn't like losing his job to some stranger. You suspected that he would have been even more upset if he'd known he'd lost it to an alien. He thought you didn't notice him, but you did – always peeking at you then ducking away. You noticed a lot of things, but were always careful to keep your head down, speak only when necessary, blend in with the natives. Maybe he heard you talking to your son in your own language, maybe he was just angry.
You'd arrived last week with your son, just passing through you told them, but said you'd be willing to work for a few days. They found you a room over the drug store, and gave you a job in the co-op warehouse – not that hard a job once you learned to run the forklift. Within a few days you'd made friends with most of the locals, even Hermit Dave. Charlie was definitely not friendly to you, as the co-op job had been his before you showed up. Not that he worked very hard at it, you'd heard he was always off sick – mostly after spending his pay check at the pub.
You need to pick a direction, time is running out. You've managed a good head start but they're catching up fast, led by Charlie no doubt. You hop up onto the fence, holding on to the weathered telephone pole, but it's pretty well the same view from up there. Straight ahead, hidden by the low rise, will – hopefully - be your friends, still waiting for you in the ship. That way could be a trap, though, if the others start to catch up. With wheat fields on each side, there'll be nowhere to hide without leaving a trail. To the right you can see some trees, and further off, low hills. Up there – somewhere – is Hermit Dave. Very skilled in staying not found, but too far away. To the left, less than a mile away, is the reserve. They're good people there, close-knit, protective, and not that fond of the townsfolk either.
“See anything Dad?”
You hop down and tousle his hair. “Yup, I think I can see the ship – but it's quite a ways off still.”
“I can make it dad.”
“I know you want to , son, but you're looking pretty tired already. What I'd like is for you to run down that way to the reserve. Ask for Danny TwoBears and tell him who you are.”
“I remember him,” says your son. “He's always joking with me, I like him.”
“He's a good man,” you say. “Tell him you need to hide for a bit from the townsfolk – he'll know what to do.”
“Can't you come too, Dad?”
“I need to get to the ship first,” you say. “I'll come back for you as soon as I can.”
He looks doubtful, but you give him a big hug, then a little push.
“Go on with you,” you say. “Show me how fast you can run. Look for TwoBears, OK?”
“Got it – here I go dad.”
You wait a moment, watching him run, then head up the road, between the fields. You can hear some cars in the distance, but you don't hurry. You wait on the crest of the hill until you see them approach the crossroads. There are a few puffs of smoke and distant pops as they spot you – too far for their rifles but they're eager. You turn and jog away, out of their site, toward the coming storm. You hear the car engines rev, and more shots in the air. They'll soon catch up with you, but you're confident you've distracted them long enough. Maybe you'll get lucky and they won't shoot to kill. Maybe they'll just send you back to Mexico.