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Toiling On: Billybuc Photo Challenge Edition 2


Alyssa is an avid reader, writer, and coffee enthusiast. She loves sharing thoughts, ideas, and creative writings with the world.


The Challenge

It's time for a second edition of Bill's photo challenge. Once again, he generously provided us with breathtaking photographs to inspire our muses. The following is my fictional short, and as you'll see, I strayed completely off the railroad tracks with this one. At first glance, the building set on a snowy mountain appeared to be a barn and for some reason, a story set in the plains came to me. Ha! I had a solid line and a fragmented skeleton in my mind, as well as a feeling I wanted to convey, but the meat of the story was difficult to pull out. So much so, that I almost turned this into a long, free verse poem -- something that is usually pretty easy for me to write. However, I didn't want to break the one actual rule of the challenge. Most of you know I'm passionate about fitness and there's a saying that I'm particularly fond of: if it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you. I think it applies to many areas of life and certainly in writing.

Thank you again, Bill, for taking the time to inspire us all.


Toiling On

Autumn fades to winter in a spectacular show of pomp and circumstance. Ancient trees stand proud, their leaves dance in the light breeze to the tune of birdsong until finally settling in their desired resting place. A sea of deep crimson, burnt orange, and brilliant yellow seems to wither and die within a moment's blink. Fields once filled with giant green stalks reaching to the heavens, now lay cold with just a hint of greenish-yellow life peeking out from the muddy white slosh.

And so it was, as it has always been.

The old man opens his eyes and gently taps the empty space beside him, a good morning greeting to his beloved, two years gone from this Earth. He slowly sits up and reaches for his spectacles, folded neatly on the small brown table. With a heavy sigh and stretch, he stands.

There's work to do.

After a pit stop and change of clothes, worn jeans and a thick red flannel, there's time enough for a few quick gulps of coffee. He sits and pulls on his old brown boots, reaches for his cap, and makes his way to the door.

A barn-esq building.

A barn-esq building.

97 years he's lived here and not much changes. The old oak tree next to the house still stands tall and as he slowly passes by, a memory of a broken arm back in the summer of '31 flashes through his mind. Further back, just beyond the snowy hill is the great pond, a summertime hot spot back in the day. Many memorable nights with his love come to mind as he makes his way to the barn.

The first signs of daylight arrive on the horizon and he pauses to take in the moment. He used to enjoy watching the sunrise: God painting the sky in rich, vibrant color, each morning a different masterpiece to behold. But it just isn't the same anymore. Everything is muted now, all the brilliant hues have transformed into various shades of gray, dull and weary, as if God himself felt the same tired ache deep in his bones.

The Great Pond

The Great Pond

The animals start to stir and he sets to work with his daily tasks: feeding the cattle, pigs, chickens, and horses; cleaning out the pens and replacing the bedding; tinkering with the old green Oliver; firing up the Deere to survey the property. Life on the farm never stops.

And so it is as it has always been.

Morning turns to afternoon, the sun high in the cobalt sky, trying to sell the illusion of a warm spring day. The frigid northeast wind quickly shatters any hope with reality. Bands of smoky gray clouds move in and fluffy white snowflakes start to fall, turning the whole area into a large snowglobe.

Still, the old man toils on.

Afternoon fades to night without warning. The old man slides the heavy barn door closed and slowly makes his way back to the house. A change of clothes and a microwave-heated can of soup later, he settles in for the night. Sitting in the worn, blue recliner, he opens his bible to read under the warm glow of the table lamp. The spirit of his beloved surrounds him, as she does each evening, offering a temporary comfort to mask the deep ache in his soul. There they'll stay until morning comes again and she calls him home.

© 2020 Alyssa


Alyssa (author) from Ohio on February 12, 2020:

Thank you, Bill! I was a little worried about how this one would turn out and I appreciate your feedback.

Alyssa (author) from Ohio on February 12, 2020:

Thank you, Lorna!

Alyssa (author) from Ohio on February 12, 2020:

Thank you so much, Pamela!

Alyssa (author) from Ohio on February 12, 2020:

Thank you, Nikki!

Alyssa (author) from Ohio on February 12, 2020:

Thank you so much, Lora! I'm glad you enjoyed the story. :)

Alyssa (author) from Ohio on February 12, 2020:

Thank you, Will.

Alyssa (author) from Ohio on February 12, 2020:

Thank you for your kind words, Rosina. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Alyssa (author) from Ohio on February 12, 2020:

Thank you so much, John! I really appreciate your feedback. :)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 12, 2020:

This is a style of writing we rarely, if ever, see from you, and it's a shame we don't see more of it. You are really quite a talented creative writer, Alyssa. The introduction was superb. Your pacing and your descriptions were superb. Not blowing smoke here, you have written an excellent piece here. I want more of this from you, please.

Lorna Lamon on February 12, 2020:

You have created a wonderful story which paints a vivid picture in my mind. A beautiful yet poignant ending within a very serene setting. An excellent piece and an enjoyable read.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 12, 2020:

Hi Alyssa, This is a very good story with an ending that is unexpected and very good. Your descriptions really gave us a picture of the old man's environment. You did very well in meeting Bill's challenge.

Nikki Khan from London on February 12, 2020:

Very well knitted, Alyssa!

We imagine to be with the old man, sensing the trauma of his heart. You met the picture prompts so nicely.

Lora Hollings on February 11, 2020:

Such beautiful and vivid imagery you use to create a story that becomes real in the mind of the reader, Alyssa! The ending was very powerful. You did an excellent job in response to Bill's photo prompt. I really enjoyed it.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on February 11, 2020:

Beautifully written. Just outstanding, Alyssa!

Rosina S Khan on February 11, 2020:

An exquisite piece indeed. Beautifully crafted and wonderful narration. You couldn't have done it better. A great response to Bill's challenge. Truly appreciated, Alyssa.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 11, 2020:

Hi Alyssa. A beautifully written and enjoyable short story. An excellent response to Bill's photo challenge.

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