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Shannon’s Story -Response to Billybuc’s Photo Prompt Challenge

Shauna's preferred genre is fiction. She particularly enjoys rising to a challenge posed by fellow artists. Picture prompts spark her muse.

Family gathering at our house.

Family gathering at our house.

I hadn’t heard from her in weeks. That wasn’t like my daughter. We spoke at least a few times a week in order to touch base. Yeah, we’re both busy, but blood runs deep.

The last time I’d seen Shannon was at a family gathering at our house, a couple of weeks before this gawdawful pandemic hit and we were forced into self-isolation. What an oxymoron, huh? Mandated self-isolation? Have our politicians even taken – or passed – an English course?! Mandated and self-chosen are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

But I digress.

So many possibilities run through the mind when life comes to a halt. Fear is the prohibitor of faith. At least that’s the way it seems until you say “Hell, no!, You ain’t stopping me, you sonovabitch!”

The cops were no help. “She’s an adult. We can look for her, but your case will be at the bottom of our priority list. Sorry, ma’am, but with limited resources, our focus is on murders and child abduction.”

So, the rest of us don’t matter? Fuck you!

Shannon needed some air.

Shannon needed some air.

The Need for Air

Shannon was going stir-crazy in her small cottage. Sure, she kept herself busy for the first few weeks of quarantine, but seriously, how many times can you clean out the fridge, scrub toilets, and wipe down every surface in sight? Even her writing had come to a halt.

Fine time to take a vacation, Ms. Muse! How can you abandon me now? Here I am stuck inside these encroaching walls and you decide to go on a freedom spree?!

Kenny Rogers’ “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille” was playing over and over in her head. She couldn’t shake it no matter what she did to distract herself.

Okay, enough of this shit. I’ve got to get out of here!

Kenny Rogers "You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille"

Shannon grabbed her camera, notebook, and pencil, stuffed them, some water and a few snacks in her backpack and headed out the door.

The sun was just peeking through the treetops as she made her way to the stone path that meandered through the forest north of her cottage. Kenny’s bombardment of her brain cells parted ways, allowing the cacophony of songbirds to permeate her mind, bringing a much-needed sense of peace.

She absent-mindedly strolled through the trees, allowing nature to guide her footsteps as her thoughts were set free to drift with the gentle breeze.

Nature was alive in all its glory. Shannon’s pulse slowed with each breath of fresh air. Her soul was once again set free with no constraints of the pandemic and forced shutdown to squelch her creative spirit.

Meanwhile….

“Ralph, I’m really worried about Shannon.” Elise placed a heaping plate full of biscuits and gravy on the table. Her husband dug in hungrily, but she was too nervous to eat.

“Elise, I’m sure she’s fine. You know how Shannon is. Sometimes she gets so involved in her creative projects that time escapes her. We’ll hear from her soon, honey. Now, please sit down and join me for breakfast.”

Ignoring her husband’s plea, Elise stared out the kitchen window as if willing Shannon to appear on the walkway. “Something’s wrong. I feel it in my bones, Ralph.” Her voice was barely a whisper.

“Have you tried calling her?”

“Yes. Several times. There’s no answer. This morning, her phone went straight to voicemail. I’m telling you, Ralph, something’s not right!”

“Give it a few more hours, my love. If you still can’t get through, we’ll drive over to the cottage. I’m sure we’ll find her holed up in her office banging away at her latest novel.”

“I hope you’re right, Ralph. I hope you’re right.”

Sadie waits in the front yard.

Sadie waits in the front yard.

That Afternoon….

As they rounded the bend that led to Shannon’s cottage, Elise let out a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God! Her car’s here and Sadie’s outside. She must be here.”

Elise didn’t even wait for Ralph to park the car. She bolted out the door and nearly ran to the front door of the cottage. “Hey, Sadie! Where’s your mama?”

As she let herself in, Elise called, “Shannon! Hi, sweetie. Where are you?” She made her way to the office, but her daughter wasn’t there. She searched the rest of the house, calling Shannon’s name, but got no answer.

“Ralph! Ralph! Come quick! I found Shannon’s cell phone on her bed, but she’s not here. I can’t find her anywhere. And why is Sadie here? Surely, Shannon wouldn’t have gone for a walk without her girl!”

“Don’t jump to conclusions, dear. Let’s go out back and see if she’s in the garden shed.”

The gardening shed

The gardening shed

It Happens Every Year

It’s been ten years since our girl was found dead in the woods. COVID didn’t get her. Nor did a bear or wildcat. We think it was a simple case of not paying attention. Shannon apparently slipped on some wet moss, fell and hit her head on a path stone. She bled out. Our poor girl bled out.

Every year on the anniversary of Shannon’s death, we go through the motions of driving to her cottage in a panicked search. Sadie comes with us every year. She’s still mourning the loss of her mama and has never been the same. She always looks so sad.

Shannon was our only child. The pain of losing her never gets easier. Now that Alzheimer’s has taken Ralph, he doesn’t realize she’s gone. So every year we relive that fateful day.

And every year, Shannon dies again.

© 2020 Shauna L Bowling

Comments

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on September 07, 2020:

Thank you, Mark. Much appreciated!

Mark Tulin from Ventura, California on September 07, 2020:

Nice mix of humor, sadness, and nostalgia, Shauna

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on September 07, 2020:

Mar, it's so good to see you! I know how busy you've been this summer.

I'm pleased my story prompted an emotional response, even if it was a tearful one. I agree with you, though; sometimes a good cry can be very cleansing.

I hope you and the Jordan clan have a wonderful Labor Day. Are you planning to cook out?

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on September 06, 2020:

Dear Sha,

This story gave me an overdue cry session in the best of ways. This tugged at my heart big time.

"And every year Shannon dies again." That sentence pushed me over the edge.

Love this and love to you on this Labor Day weekend, mar

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 28, 2020:

Box, your comment makes my heart swell and my muse smile. Each time I answer one of Bill's challenges, I'm a little insecure about the outcome because I don't write as frequently as I once did. Normally, with picture prompts, I go the paranormal route. This time was different. Who am I to second-guess or question my muse?

I'm pleased that this one took you by surprise. I love a story that keeps the reader in suspense and hits from behind.

Thank you so much for your awesome comment!

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on August 28, 2020:

Oh, Sha...this crushed me. Didn’t see that one coming at all. It’s so very well written that I couldn’t even see the threads spinning on the curve ball at the end. Heartbreaking. But what a great read! Sorry it took me so long to find it...have a great weekend!!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 25, 2020:

Peg, your comment means the world to me. I so respect you as a writer. I feel my talent pales next to yours, so you've really made my day.

I'll be smiling for the rest of the day.

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 25, 2020:

Oh my, you really had me going on the missing person's case and then, WHAM! You packed a wallop of a surprises into those final few words. Well done my friend. Well done. Intriguing story full of sensory prompts, character development and a nice twist at the end.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 24, 2020:

Imagine having to relive that event year after year, RoadMonkey. How on earth can Elise ever make peace with her daughter's death? Then there's Ralph. I'm sure she's mourning the past when his mind was clear. And poor Sadie. At least she and Elise have each other for comfort.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it. Your comment made me look at my characters as real people. Damn! What a fate I gave them, huh?

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 24, 2020:

Imagine having to relive that event year after year, RoadMonkey. How on earth can Elise ever make peace with her daughter's death? Then there's Ralph. I'm sure she's mourning the past when his mind was clear. And poor Sadie. At least she and Elise have each other for comfort.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it. Your comment made me look at my characters as real people. Damn! What a fate I gave them, huh?

RoadMonkey on August 24, 2020:

What a sad story and yet, so possible.Hopefully Shannon never realised she was gone, just her poor mother and her dog left behind and a dad who no longer remembers.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 24, 2020:

Thank you, Linda. The dementia twist at the end came as a surprise to me. I had a completely different ending in mind as I was writing, but my muse took the story in a different direction. She has a habit of doing that!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on August 24, 2020:

Wow Sha, you really grabbed this one and ran all the way. Like you, I know the background on each photo but you overcame those notions and developed a seamless story. Very real, very sad. Dementia's a bitch.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 24, 2020:

Aw, Bill, you just made my day! Leaving an emotional imprint is what writers aim for. At least this one does.

Thanks for your kind words, my friend. Have a great week!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 24, 2020:

Oh boy! That was painful! I wonder how many people go through the same kind of pain today? I wonder how many relive the fateful moments when they lost a loved one? This story doesn't tug at the heart strings...it yanks them out of their mooring and leaves the reader with a raw wound.

In other words, well done, my friend. Well done indeed!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 24, 2020:

I look forward to it, as always, Ann! Enjoy our time away.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 24, 2020:

Flourish, that must have been so sad for you. I can only imagine the heartache seeing a loved one lose his memory causes.

Thanks for reading and sharing your story. BTW, I left a comment on your Pomodoro Chicken recipe.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 24, 2020:

Thank you John. Your unfailing support is much appreciated!

Ann Carr from SW England on August 24, 2020:

That's very kind of you, Shauna - what a compliment!

Now I've got to live up to it! Story not quite sorted and I'm away for a couple of days but will tackle it when I'm back. Take care.

Ann

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 23, 2020:

This fit Bill’s photos well and was a sad but well crafted story. The dementia element was particularly heart rendering. It reminded me of an elderly uncle I recently visited who after 20 minutes of conversation asked who I was then introduced me to my husband.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on August 23, 2020:

What a sad story, Shauna. You wove it expertly to fit Bill’s photos, and to capture the reader with Shannon’s disappearance. Well done as always. Your stories never disappoint.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on August 23, 2020:

Ann, I so appreciate your awesome comment. Yes, it's fiction, my favorite genre.

I wasn't sure how I'd build a story around this set of Bill's photos because I know the origin and/or subject of each. I had to let go of what I know and pretend I'd never seen them before.

I'm looking forward to your response. You're such a visual writer. Your words grace the page as an artist's brush kisses the canvas.

Ann Carr from SW England on August 23, 2020:

What a fantastic story, Shauna! (Well, I hope it's fiction...).

You have a knack of building the suspense, letting it go and then, wham! the punchline. You've moulded the stories around those photos so well, they were made to fit together.

I enjoyed this read, sad though it is. But I guess Shannon was happy with her freedom. But what an awful thing, for parents to have to relive something like that, especially with alzheimer's.

Great response to the prompts!

Ann