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Gina, Sal and Gladys: Short Story in Response to Lori Colbo's Photo Prompt Writing Challenge

Author:

Ann loves to write stories and poems and is always eager to meet challenges issued by other writers or herself, to exceed her comfort zone.

Oof!

Oof!

Gina

Gina didn’t like pumpkin. Being a traditional English woman, she didn’t like Hallowe’en either. She regarded it as an unwelcome intrusion from the US, wriggling its way into British culture.

‘Pumpkin soup’s really tasty,’ her friend Tina had told her. ‘You should try it!’

‘I’ll stick to ham and pea, thanks, or good old tomato; nothing like the tried and tested.’

The next day, Gina was astounded when a woman she’d never encountered before approached her with a remarkable request.


Gladys

Sitting in the teashop, minding her own business, Gina saw the woman shuffle through the door and was struck by her shabby dress and wrinkled skin. In contrast, she was remarkably clean. Remarkably because her nails were immaculate, her hands had seen little if no work and the smell of carbolic soap wrinkled Gina’s nose.

To Gina’s surprise, the woman, bent over her stick, shambled towards her, sat herself at the same table and smiled a, ‘Good morning!’

Gina returned the greeting and returned to her tea. She soon realised, however, that her peaceful morning break was not to be.

‘My name’s Gladys,’ her uninvited companion continued, ‘I’m on a search for a capable person to carry out an errand for me. I have a large pumpkin and it needs to be delivered across town.’

With that, her piercing eyes pinned Gina to the spot with kind but stubborn directness. ‘It’s a difficult undertaking but,’ she added with a theatrical flourish, ‘is not without reward.’


The Challenge

Realising she’d already lost her moments of quiet escape, Gina allowed Gladys to pique her curiosity,

‘Why would you want someone to do that? Why not a delivery company?’

‘Because vans involve bouncing over holes and bumps, swaying round corners and sometimes drivers who don’t care about their load. This pumpkin needs to be rolled slowly through town, treated with utmost care, to be delivered to an eminent recipient.'

With alarm, Gina realised she was imagining how she herself could roll a pumpkin through town. ‘Now wait a minute’ she thought, ‘I’m not the one to do this.’

Gladys replied as if she’d read Gina’s thoughts, ‘You would be ideal for the job; sensible, kind, full of initiative and you would respect your mission despite not being particularly fond of pumpkin.’

‘How on earth did she know that?’ thought Gina.

‘I’ve never tasted pumpkin’, Gina found herself divulging to this mysterious woman who sat opposite, staring at her, stubborn in her striking surety.

‘The pumpkin has to reach Lady Cinders by early evening for a special event,’ Gladys continued. ’It will not exist beyond midnight.’

Gina was about to speak but Gladys hadn’t finished,

‘There will be some obstacles on the way. You might need to explain to the law exactly why you are conveying this object along the highway, for it is too big for the pavement; you must keep it moving at all costs - stop, and it will disintegrate before your eyes and two of Lady Cinders’ guests will never fulfil their destiny.’ She abruptly held up an index finger, ‘That is, unless you stop for someone else’s benefit. You must take it via Town Bridge, across Victoria Park, through the precinct and finally straight to the main door of the Town Hall. Do this and you will reap untold rewards.’


gina-sal-gladys-short-story-in-response-to-lori-colbos-photo-prompt-writing-challenge

Sal

Against all reason, Gina was captivated. Never one to shy from a challenge, she couldn’t see any possible problem, knew the route and couldn’t resist the prospect of rewards despite having no idea what they would be.

So, later that afternoon saw Gina pushing a preposterous pumpkin, awesome in its orangeness, through town on the prescribed route. People stopped and stared, moved out of her path in fear of being squashed, turned orange or worse! Cars veered to avoid her. She had the delivery address but had no idea regarding Lady Cinders, though the name seemed familiar.

Gina arrived at Town Bridge. Just as she was about to cross, a figure emerged from the sloping path beside the bridge, leading to the river. A young woman, eyes darting in fear, wrapped in a shabby raincoat and wearing shoes of tattered leather, grabbed her by the arm,

‘Come quickly, please help me! I don’t know what to do.’

Well, Gina didn’t know what to do with the pumpkin. Should she stop? Her instinct said the plea was genuine. Take it down to the river? No; she’d never push it back up again. Leave it? Where? Impulse decision; she rested it up against the river side of the parapet where it was the least conspicuous and followed the girl.

‘What am I doing?’ she asked herself. ‘This is one weird day.’

The uneven path made her stumble but she arrived under the bridge to see the young woman crouched over a boy.

‘I was walkin’ downstream, ‘e was lyin’ ‘ere, ain't moved, still breavin’, what do I do? I’m sorry, I dunno what to do, dunno what to do, dunno…’ her words faded into despair and sorrow as she kept patting the boy, stroking his hair.

‘Look, um… what’s your name?’

‘Sal.’

‘Sal, I’ll phone for an ambulance; that’s the best for him. While we wait, we’ll cover him with my coat, keep him warm.’ Gina smiled in an effort to give Sal some hope.


The Boy

The fair-haired boy looked about ten. His clothes were tidy, modern; he didn’t fit these grubby surroundings. The ambulance arrived, took the boy carefully on a stretcher and drove off to the hospital.

Not until then did Gina notice the unpleasant aroma under bridge archway; a mixture of outside toilet and vomit. They moved out into the fresher air. At least Gina could see the pumpkin from there.

Sal had no fixed abode. She spoke of raiding bins, skips, ‘out of date’ cages behind supermarkets and occasionally going to the ‘Sally army’ soup kitchen.

‘I’m sorry I can’t stay,’ Gina felt sympathy but her errand was nudging her brain. ‘I have to deliver that pumpkin though I’ve no idea why.’

‘C’n I ‘elp you?’ asked Sal. ‘At least I c’n do summink in return for your kindness.’


Town Hall

gina-sal-gladys-short-story-in-response-to-lori-colbos-photo-prompt-writing-challenge

Mission Accomplished

Over Town Bridge, more passers-by watched in disbelief as two women pushed a gigantic pumpkin. The terrain in Victoria Park was tricky. Obstacles of puddles, rabbit holes, fallen branches and abandoned bike wheels hampered their progress. At last, they were ringing the bell outside the impressive entrance to the Town Hall.

An old lady (whom Gina felt she knew from somewhere) answered the door. Seeing the pumpkin, she was overjoyed, ‘I’ll get Joseph to take it into the courtyard. You must come in.’

There was no refusing. Gina and Sal took a step into the foyer.

Neither had ever seen anything close to the opulence surrounding them.


Lady Cinders

A beautiful woman emerged from a long chandelier-lit corridor. She smiled a radiance seldom seen,

‘Can I help you?’

‘We were let in by an elderly lady, we brought the pumpkin for Lady Cinders.’

‘Well I am she’, she replied in puzzlement, ‘but I know nothing about a pumpkin nor an old lady. We have a few servants but otherwise it’s just me, my husband and our son. That reminds me…. Ah, Joseph! Can you find Peter, please. It’s his supper time.’

Turning to Gina and Sal, she continued, ‘Now, tell me about yourselves.’

Their conversation was interrupted by an agitated Joseph.

‘Ma’am, I’m afraid I have some bad news. Peter is in hospital. It seems he had decided to go fishing, told no-one, and fell by the bridge, knocking himself out. Some kind people helped him, called an ambulance and off he went. They say he’s recovering well but should be kept in overnight. Shall I arrange for a car for you to visit?’

‘Oh, yes! Whatever was he thinking?’ Turning to Gina, she added, ‘Boys will be boys, eh? I’m sorry, I’ll have to leave you.’

‘I think Peter might have been the boy we called the ambulance for earlier,’ said Gina. ‘He looked awful but I’m glad to hear he’s on the mend.’ The girls turned towards the door.

‘No, don’t go! We’re having a celebration tonight. Just a few friends and kind people who help us with our charities. Please stay. I’m indebted to you both.’


'You Shall Go to the Ball!'

Changes of Clothes and Kind Company

Gina and Sal looked at each other, then down at their clothes. Before they had a chance to say anything, Lady Cinders said with a smile, ‘I can find you a change of clothing as it seems the rain has got the better of you!'

So that was how Gina and Sal ended up being shown to a large dressing room where the same old lady who’d let them in fitted them out with exquisite outfits which fitted perfectly.

They mingled with kind, welcoming people, ate a delicious buffet bigger than Gina’s house and couldn’t believe it was all happening. The pumpkin had been hollowed out to provide a wondrous centre piece in the dining room, complete with coachmen and horses, all resembling, of course, the fairy tale of Cinderella. Guests had the option of giving a small donation to the local poor by leaving any money in the pumpkin.

Gina noticed that Sal had been talking to a rather good-looking lad most of the evening. At eleven o’clock, it was time to leave. Gina thanked their hosts, said goodbye to Sal, and was taken home by a chauffeur. Curtains twitched when she arrived at her little terraced house.


Rewards

Inside was yet another surprise. Slap bang in the middle of her kitchen table was a smaller version of the pumpkin, full of money, with a note that said, ‘This should cover your costs for materials and your own shop.’ Who knew about her secret dream to make and sell clothes? Her view of pumpkins had changed. Maybe Hallowe'en wasn't such a bad idea after all!

Sal, meanwhile, had elected to stay a little longer. She was attracted to the gentle young man who had been by her side all evening. Trouble was, now he wanted to take her home. She hadn’t told him there wasn’t one.

As they left the building from the rear door, they were confronted with a coach and horses which looked remarkably like the centre piece inside. This one, though, was as real as romance! The coachman said,

‘I’ve been waiting for you, to take you home.’

‘I’ll come with you to make sure you’re safe’, said the young man.

Sal was speechless. Where were they going? What was she going to tell this man who liked her company so much?

The coach pulled up outside a pretty cottage. As it did so, in the misty cold night, they could hear muffled clocks striking in the distance - midnight. The coach disappeared.

The couple remained at the gate. Sal walked to the door, pushed it open, and found possessions she had left behind long ago, long forgotten.

The young man left when he was assured she was safe at home, promising to return the next day.

He did. He returned frequently, until the day when he didn’t need to go, when they were married.


Happiness and Success

Sal never understood what had happened that evening of Gina and the pumpkin push, when they had met Lady Cinders, but she told her husband all about it. He just smiled and told her she deserved to be happy.

Meanwhile, Gina ran a successful business in her shop. Now and then, Gladys dropped by. Sometimes they shared the same table at the tea shop. When Gladys heard the story about Lady Cinders and what had happened to Sal, she replied,

‘Well, I am Sal’s godmother, so I had to look after her somehow.’


..................................................................................................................

Lori's Challenge

In her hub ‘Let’s Make it Fun Writing Challenge’ Lori Colbo gave us these guidelines:

  • Choose at least two photos (but certainly three if you want) from at least two categories. One must be a person. Any others are your choice.
  • You can make your piece any form of creative writing - short story, flash fiction, poetry, even song lyrics.
  • Make your piece either humour, mystery or fantasy.

I chose two photos and decided to concentrate on the ‘mystery’ category.

You can find the full hub here:

https://hubpages.com/literature/Writing-Challenge

Thank you, Lori, for the inspiration and apologies for taking so long to respond!


Postscript

No pumpkins were harmed in the making of this story.

I hope no US citizen takes offence at the reference to Hallowe’en as ‘an unwelcome intrusion’. My personal opinion is live and let live. I will never, however, dress up as a witch or ghoul - age having taken its toll, people might not notice the difference.

The ‘Sally Army’ is an affectionate term for the Salvation Army who help the poor, provide soup kitchens and usually have a brass band which plays Carols in towns at Christmas time. For me, they are an essential part of Christmas in a town centre.


What about a Challenge?

© 2017 Ann Carr

Comments

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 08, 2020:

Thanks, Peggy! I'd totally forgotten about this hub. Glad it made you smile.

Ann

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 08, 2020:

What a cute story this is and a innovative version on the classic Cinderella story with your twists and turns. I enjoyed this! (Smile)

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 16, 2018:

It is indeed Lawrence! Glad you liked this. Thanks for reading.

Ann

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 16, 2018:

Pumpkin soup is delicious! Loved this story.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 08, 2017:

Thanks, Nell! Yes indeed. Great to see you today.

Ann

Nell Rose from England on December 07, 2017:

Aw what a great story! I wondered where it was going, and that pumpkin had to be heavy!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 07, 2017:

Gypsy Rose Lee: Thank you for your comment; much appreciated.

Ann

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on December 07, 2017:

Loved this! A great story in response to the challenge.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 07, 2017:

Thank you, Linda. Glad you liked this.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 07, 2017:

Hello Dora! Thank you for your kind comments. Good to see you this morning.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 07, 2017:

Thanks, Jo. Yes, the children like Hallowe'en but it just wasn't there when I was a kid so it's completely alien to me! I find the hype too much so I keep out of the way!

It's good to know the grandchildren have fun with it. We don't have a holiday for it here, just the evening of dressing up etc.

Good to see you today.

Ann

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 06, 2017:

I love this story, Ann! What a great response to Lori's challenge.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 06, 2017:

No Halloween celebration for me either, but a good story like this with a Halloween theme is welcome. I like the mystery angle, and your postscript leaves the reader in a pleasant mood. Good job!

Jo Miller from Tennessee on December 06, 2017:

What a delightful story, Ann.

Next to Christmas Halloween was always my daughters' favorite holiday. Candy was not something I kept on hand very often and they were delighted when they received tons of candy on this night. It was a fun, fun time for them and I came to love the holiday also. It's just a fun time for children. What's not to like?

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 06, 2017:

Thanks, manatita! Yes, the pumpkin pic just had to be about Cinderella or at least a tenuous version of it.

Hope your evening is good too.

Ann

manatita44 from london on December 06, 2017:

Very charming story. I read most, then had phone problems and started again. You have woven it in a simple yet magical kind of way. Good to know that there was a fair degree of happiness or rewards, if you like, towards the end. A bit like Cinderella in its own way.

Nice to see you doing this challenge. Have a great evening.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 06, 2017:

Thank you, Devika, for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed this. Good to see you.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 06, 2017:

Thank you, bill, for your lovely comment.

Shame about the Sally Army but, as you say, nothing surprises.

Well done you! Pumpkin pie is not seen much here; we're not so versatile when it comes to that veg. More likely to see it in 'biggest veg' competitions which the nurturers of pumpkins take oh so seriously!

Hope you're having a wondrous Wednesday!

Ann

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 06, 2017:

You present this hub with confidence and passion. A great challenge shared here with a creative mind.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 06, 2017:

One of the things to look forward to here on HP is when you write a hub. It is always entertaining and/or educational, and this was no exception. Well done my talented friend.

Interesting note: The Salvation Army is under fire over here for poor use of funds gained. Seems to be a bit of scoundrel activity in the main office. Sad it should happen but then man fails to surprise me much any more.

I just baked two pumpkin pies. That's my favorite part of Halloween. :)

bill

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 06, 2017:

Hello, John! Thank you for your lovely words; I'm so glad you enjoyed this.

I'm sure you'd come up with a blinder of a response - you always do!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 06, 2017:

Thank you, Glenis, for your kind words. I love your comment re keeping the mobile charged! You never know!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 06, 2017:

Thanks, Flourish! Glad you liked it and thanks for the lovely comment.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 06, 2017:

Hi Chris! I'm not sure about Peter; I just pulled the name out of thin air as the object of a kindness done and therefore worthy of reward.

This was fun to do and I'm sure you could come up with an amazing response. I was surprised no one else had done so, especially as mine was so late!

Thanks for dropping by; always appreciated.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 06, 2017:

Thank you, whonu, for your kind words.

Best wishes to you.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 06, 2017:

Hi Shyron! Thank you for your kind words.

Hallowe'en's a thing for the children now but I find it a bit OTT. At least with my grandchildren, they are not allowed to go out of their close neighbourhood and usually get together with their cousins within a small courtyard. Then they're safe and so is everyone else!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 06, 2017:

Thank you, Jackie! It's a challenge from some time ago; I keep a note of them and get round to them when I can. It would be good if you could create a response as you have a flair for such things.

I appreciate your support.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 06, 2017:

Thank you, Nikki. I enjoyed writing this one and I'm grateful for your kind comments.

Ann

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on December 06, 2017:

What a delightful story, Anne. You did an excellent job of meeting Lori's challenge. I need to take another look at her hub again and see if I think I can accept as well. Loved this

Glen Rix from UK on December 05, 2017:

A creative mind at work! Congratulations, Ann. A charming re-working of the Cinderella story. (Gina and I are of like minds regarding Halloween, so I identified with her immediately. Reminder to self - keep the mobile phone charged at all times and unexpected benefits will ensue )

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 05, 2017:

Wonderful story! I thoroughly enjoyed your creativity!

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on December 05, 2017:

This is a fun story, Ann. The Cinderella angle was clear. Was Peter another fairytale star? Peter the Pumpkin Eater? My father grew pumpkins about that size. I have photos of him loading them onto wagons. This is a fun challenge. Maybe I'll have a closer look.

whonunuwho from United States on December 05, 2017:

Great story. Nicely done Ann and well received. Many blessings to you and yours. whonu

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on December 05, 2017:

Ann, I loved your unique story, and no I am not offended by your view of Halloween actually I do not celebrate Halloween either.

Blessings my friend.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 05, 2017:

This is good Ann and I did not see the challenge which probably means I have missed some of Lori's Gina story that I love. I will go check it out.

You did great. I have some hubs on hold so don't know if I will get time to respond but I will think about it and try!

Nikki Khan from London on December 05, 2017:

Hi Ann,,

Great story,,just loved reading it,,marvellous style of writing.

Thanks for sharing.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 05, 2017:

Oh! Thank you Lori! I'm very pleased that you like it.

I didn't realise I was the only one. I was bothered it had taken me so long and presumed others had come up with something, though I hadn't seen any notifications.

Thanks for setting the challenge and for the kind words.

Ann

Lori Colbo from United States on December 05, 2017:

Oh Ann, what a delightful tale you've written here, and so creative. You are the only one to respond to the challenge and you outdid yourself. Nice work.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 05, 2017:

Thank you, Linda! This one was a bit of fun. Thanks for your lovely comment.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 05, 2017:

Thank you, Emese! Glad you liked it and I appreciate your visit and comment.

Ann

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on December 05, 2017:

Ohmygoodness Ann, you have outdone yourself with this one. Your language and the story you wove are absolutely delightful. You really delivered on this challenge!

Emese Fromm from The Desert on December 05, 2017:

Wow, Anne, this was such a wonderful story! I enjoyed every moment of it. Love the fairy tale connection.

Thanks for a great read.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 05, 2017:

Thanks, Frank! You were quick! I've only just pressed the 'publish' button!

Good to see you and I appreciate you popping by.

Ann

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on December 05, 2017:

sometimes, yes I agree challenges really draw from all creative juices.. and I see you are always up for the challenge :)

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