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May — Portrait of Words

Every month Jeff presents a collection of photographs and asks us to write a story using them.  Below is my May offering.  If you enjoy my short story, please follow the link back to the Portrait of Words Blog, and check out the other players.  If you really enjoy my story, you might consider joining us next month.  A good time is always had by all!

Caught in Amber

CantrellCantrell knew that the best place to hide was in plain sight. He tied his hair back in an orange and purple scarf and covered that with a crazy blue and orange leaf patterned hat. Next he donned an orange, blue and purple paisley jacket, a pair of purple denim jeans and his bright orange sneakers. Then he hid his distinctive golden-brown eyes behind cheap plastic sunglasses. Dressed like that, he could stand right next to his own mother and she’d never recognize him — especially since he’d dyed his hair and beard an orange-ish-brown color. Now he was just another oddly dressed, aging hippie. San Francisco had plenty of them and he fit right in with the carnival atmosphere of the street fair.

He picked up a beer from one of the concession stands and let the crowd lead him past Miranda’s jewelry booth. She was just as fresh and beautiful as ever. He could have stood there all day and stared at her, but he’d long ago learned that was a good way to get arrested. He milled with the crowd, looking at this display and that, but he never wandered so far he couldn’t see Miranda’s smiling face and hear the music of her laugh.

After a couple of hours, his courage fortified with yet another beer — not that he was drunk, he’d only had two and sipped them very slowly — he approached the booth and fingered the jewelry, waiting for Miranda to notice him. She chatted up a customer and processed her sale. Cantrell was so close he could have touched her, but he didn’t. He didn’t want to frighten her, but he had to be close.

Finally, she turned to him with a smile and asked, “Are you looking for anything in particular?” Cantrell almost panicked. She spoke! How could he answer? She’d know his voice! He tapped his fingers to his lips and shook his head no.

“Can’t you speak?” She asked. Again Cantrell shook his head.

“Okay,” she said. “Then point at what it is you’re interested in.”

Cantrell sighed. He was interested in her, but he reached out and touched a beaded hoop earring. The amber beads were the same color as her eyes.

“Very nice,” she said. “These beads are real amber and there is a small insect captured forever in each of them. That makes these earrings pricey.”

Cantrell drew a question mark in the air. “Fifty-five dollars,” she answered.

Cantrell extracted his wallet from his back pocket and paid for the earrings. He stood trembling as she counted his change into his hand. It took all of his will to not grab her and tell her he loved her.grapes

His transaction finished, he no longer had reason to stay, but wasn’t ready to leave. He fumbled with the little velvet box she’d fastened the earrings in, and removed one of the hoops. He looked into the counter mirror and fastened the hoop to his earlobe. Miranda grinned and gave him a thumbs up.

Then he had no reason to hang around. Again Cantrell let the crowd move him, but not too far. He bought a tangle of grapes from a produce stand, and sat down on a bench in the shade to eat them. He heard her call out that she was taking a break.

VWHe watched as she approached a fast food concession and placed her order. Cantrell couldn’t believe his luck when, food in hand, she came and sat right beside him on the bench.

She ate beside him in silence. Cantrell simply enjoyed her presence. Finally she finished and gathered up the trash, then, as she rose to her feet, she spoke. “You know, Dad,” she said. “You’re never going to get your visitation rights back if you keep violating the court order. You better go before you get caught again.”

That was his daughter — beautiful and smart. Cantrell chuckled to himself over the scene as he drove his VW Bug across the bridge to the other side of the Bay and the cheap motel he called home.5

Charlene L. Amsden
All Rights Reserved.


  1. I never saw that coming I thought it was going to stalk her and do her in. Glad it ended the way it did. Excellent writing of course and as usual.

        1. Thom your story was Grand as well, I think the way you and Quilly have surprise endings are what make the stories.

          Bravo you both, if only I could make up stories like this.

          Heck I can’t even find a Bus Wench,

          Bill’s last blog post..It Felt As If Being In A Ghost Town

  2. Quilly – that was beautiful.
    Unexpected twist and just beautiful.
    It sprung tears to my eyes as she spoke to him. The love between them both I think I could almost touch.
    Very well written.

  3. I am sorry I wouldn’t pretend I have read it and write :l Beautiful story ! I just have no time. I have guests this afternoon ! My goats are coming. Goats are my friends who have the same chinese astrology sign as I.

    Gattina’s last blog post..

  4. What a beautiful story! I really enjoyed that. At least your character was faithful to HIS daughter, unlike mine!
    Thanks for your B/Day wishes!

    1. Maggie — and have you noticed that the “estranged children” theme is very popular in this month’s offerings?!

    1. Betty — I am glad the story charmed you. I wasn’t going for creepy, but I did want people to wonder and worry about what Cantrell was up to!

  5. Wow! Perfection. I didn’t feel like the man was a threat to the woman, but never saw the end coming.

  6. wow!.. cool story! I really enjoyed reading this, and again, was not ready for the twist, which was.. just lovely! Really felt for the character too, bless him.. cheers for sharing!

  7. Ohhhhhhhhh! You are sO darned good it PAINS me! You totally GOT me! I had NO idea it was his daughter! Quilly… you could be makin’ MONEY with this stuff! Ya gotta quit sharing it HERE for free….

  8. Just a wonderful story. Well developed characters. I loved that Cantrell was in cognito to visit his daughter and she was on to him. Priceless. I hope he gets visitation rights soon.

    Thanks for the comments on my blog.

    1. Pam — my other half said I didn’t develop the story enough for it to seem plausible. I am glad you and everyone else got it and liked it!

    1. Amber — if you can’t tell my serial from my short, I am definitely failing as an writer. Only my Thursday story is on going. I wrote this as a complete story.

  9. Akelamalu — I am so glad I was able to keep you interested and guessing! Educated readers are the hardest ones to catch! Thank you.

  10. That was awesome Quilly. I like the idea of using three photos, makes i harder I suppose for the writer. I also didn’t see the ending coming. Great fun.

    cooper’s last blog post..Minutia

    1. Cooper — I use the photos as inspiration. They aren’t set in concrete, they can be used as a mood piece. For instance one of the story tellers used “wine” as their grape offering.

      Thanks for the praise!

    1. Minky — I wanted it to be a positive and happy thing, but first I wanted to make my reader worry a bit that it wouldn’t be! I’m glad you were entertained.

    1. Tony — I have always been a fan of the twist, so you’re pretty much assured I’ll dance the dance again to another tune.

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