The Wall

This is the story of The Wall inspired by the weekly story prompts @ Saturday Centus created by Jenny Matlock on her blog, "Off On My Tangent" where she challenges her readers to write a short story based on either words or pictures of her choice, writing within the parameters she sets for the week.  Sometimes we have lots of words, and some times as few as 16...sometimes we write in free form style and sometimes in verse.  It's all up to her and this is my attempt to carry on my story from week to week.  Worded story prompts are in purple and when the prompt is a photo, I've included the picture and that part of the story is in purple.

1) (200 words + prompt)
The wall was built long ago. Remnants of the barrier it had so boldly proclaimed still mounded here...crumbled there. A reminder of the lives that had been lost on this lonely field, their battle won.

As I stand here looking over the tufts of heather and heath, I'm thoughtful of the struggle we continue to fight as we turn our hearts toward home. From a long line of proud ancestors, the fire still flows through my veins. A stone from the pile of rubble at my feet, I begin to rebuild the fallen wall in front of me as my personal monument to the cause and a symbol of the victory I plan to claim. I am no longer held back by the armies of old...or the crushing power of past conquerors, though their mark will forever remain.

Will I overcome the trials I face? Will I bear the future with pride? My heart swells with stories of victories won long ago. Never again to cower in the face of my own iniquities, a sense of peace fills my soul. In this field of memories, I stand tall, a piece of the past in my hand, near the wall that was built long ago.

2) (100 words + prompt)
Turning the stone to wedge it into the wall, I realized it's unique hue and it was made for a specific place from a different kind of stone. As I scraped a bit of lichen from it's side, I discovered a cavity. Thinking it may hold a fossil or bit of clay, I was curious to see what time had deposited there. As I dug the debris from the hole, I felt my knife strike something solid. Quickly, I poured the contents into my hand. And there, within the stone, wrapped in a scrap of oilcloth, was a tarnished, brass key.

3) (60 words + prompt)
As I looked at the key, the design triggered a memory. Where had I seen this emblem before? Like visions rushing to fill in the blanks, a picture formed in my mind. I hurried to my room to write a letter to my cousin in England. It read, “Dear John, Do you still have the chest Grandfather kept in his room?”

4) (100 words + prompt)
Pondering the letter, I wondered how much I should say about the key. Maybe it was just my memory playing tricks on me. There was a quick knock at the door. Feeling a bit nervous about my find, I didn't want company just now. After some fumbling with the lock, the door opened and a foppishly dressed, middle aged fellow I'd seen in the lobby breezed past me and moved quickly across the room.

Oh, say, can you see the mountains from your window?", he blurted, looking surprised to find me there. "My room has a terrible view.”

Just then, everything went black...

5) (100 words + prompt)
When I opened my eyes, the room was dark. I must have been out for several hours. Looking around I could see that my room had been ransacked! My head was buzzing and my hair felt sticky with blood. As I staggered to the mirror, I saw a small paper propped against the glass...and the sign read...”We have the key. Wait here until you hear from us.”

How did they know I'd found it...I hadn't told anyone, not even John. What did they want with it? I didn't know what to do next. Tears came hot and fast as I sunk to my knees.

6) (25 words + prompt)
As I sat there crying, out of frustration, confusion and fear, I realized that I'm not getting any younger... an adventure like this might be more than I can handle...

7) (15 words + prompt - photo allowed)
But I have to try.
We need to know the truth.
Before I die, I want to restore my grandfather's honor.

8) (100 words + photo prompt)
After dinner, I decided to take a walk, careful to keep to the main street, among the crowd. But I felt uneasy and returned to my room. The humid air hung about the window long after the light had faded.

Despite the events of the day, I fell quickly asleep. My dreams started out peacefully reminiscing family times before Grandfather's passing. One, in particular, was of a mid-summer vacation to New Mexico to visit a writer friend of his. It was so hot, you could fry an egg on the pavement! It was my first time to swim in a pool...

9) (50 words + prompt)
Fighting on the street below interrupted my sleep but quickly dispersed when the angry innkeeper stepped outside.

Drifting off to another childhood memory...Grandfather's cabin beside a tiny lake up north. Swinging together on the porch swing each evening, he sang, “You are my sunshine, My only sunshine...”, until my head began to nod.

10) (50 words + prompt)
Grandfather loved playing his fiddle and singing! He'd pull it out of the chest in his room and say, “Sit a spell and I'll play you a piece!” I laugh out loud remembering that he never called me by my name. After listing his daughters, he'd end at "Sharry" and that stuck.

11) (150 words + prompt)
He'd tell stories about the railroad and how hard the men worked. It was a time of segregation and the Klan, war and depression, increasing industry and women leaving home to support their families while the men were overseas. Once women began to enjoy their independence, they weren't so quick to come home and many couldn't because their husbands and sons never came back.

I often wonder about those times and thought how brave those men must have been. Then I remembered that many were just young boys with visions of glory that ended quickly in a hastily dug trench on foreign soil. The women, just girls who had to carry on.
I snapped out of my reverie and thought, “If I die young, who will carry on my quest?”
I'm not really that young anymore but still much younger than grandfather was when he died at 87. The thought gave me courage.

12)( 100 words + prompt)
I thought about my family. My daughters never knew my grandparents. One of the first thoughts I had after making the announcement, “Surprise, I'm pregnant!”, was that I wished Grandpa were still alive. But they've both heard the stories! And I'm glad I had that much to share with them.

There was a knock at the door and I immediately tensed. As I moved slowly in that direction, the voice of the innkeeper called through the door. When I didn't come down for breakfast, they began to wonder if I might be ill. He'd brought a tray of food from the kitchen.

13) (100 words + prompt)
I was surprised to see his wife behind him smiling timidly as he handed me the tray. She quickly dismissed him, as only women from the old country can do, and came in to see that I was comfortable.

The heavenly aroma from the tray made me realize that I was famished! What I saw, when she lifted the cloth, was a large slice of oily dough covered generously with bits of feta and mozzarella cheese, black olives, marinated artichoke hearts, fresh tomatoes and red onions! I thanked God for this blessing and dug in. Between bites, I asked, “What kind of a pizza is this?”

14) (100 words + prompt)
She said the recipe had been handed down from her grandmother who baked bread and pizza in an outdoor oven.
As we sat there sharing stories, a boy of about 12 years came running down the hall, slowing to a walk as he neared my open door. He stopped outside and smiled impishly.

"Mother, may I ride my bike to Tommy's house?”

After questions about homework and chores were answered to her satisfaction, she sent him off with a warning to be home before dark.
We laughed as he dashed down the hall and out the door with wings on his heels.

15) (32 word lyrical rhyme to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star + Prompt)
He sang this verse;
"Swirling, Twirling, down they fall,
Gently sweeping over all.
Spreading color everywhere,
Piling up with nary a care.
In the Autumn, leaves alight
Painting such a lovely sight!"

16) (150 words + prompt - all dialogue)
“Are we going to make our move? That key isn't the only thing we need.”

“Quiet! You blithering idiot! Your voice could waken the dead! Are you seriously ordering another martini?”

“Get off my back! You're not my mother! That kid was making enough noise to cover an explosion!”

“Calm yourself! We'll wait until she's left the room...for certain this time! We can't afford to make any more mistakes. It has to be hidden somewhere in that room.”

“What if we get caught? We were lucky last time. She hasn't reported it to the police...yet. Let's hope she's either scared enough not to blab or forgets all about it!”

“Well, that's not bloody likely, now, is it? She doesn't seem like the type to frighten easily...much like her grandfather.”

“Let's just get rid of her!”

“No! You fool! If we can't find the letter...or his journal...we'll need her.”

17) (100 words + prompt)
I couldn't believe my ears!  Having entered the pub through the back, I was still out of sight. There were two men sitting at a small table in the corner. Both had their backs to me. The British voice was definitely the same one I'd heard in my room two nights ago...and he was right about me. I had been afraid but now my resolve hardened.   I knew I was in over my head.

I couldn't tackle this alone anymore, I decided to call Wally. He'd know what to do. Once in my room, I dialed. But the operator said, "The number you have reached is no longer in service."

18) (100 words + prompt)
That's strange. Maybe I'd dialed the wrong number. A sinking feeling crept over me. I dialed again. It was ringing!...and ringing. The television in the next room was blaring the Friday night football game. Maybe that's where he the high school game. I let it ring a long time before hanging up.

I sat by the window looking out at the meandering downs, gentle hills and majestic mountains. The cool rains had brought out the fall colors. Everything was blanketed in a patchwork covering with dusky purple edges where the heather faded.

I waited about an hour and dialed again.

No answer.

19) (Sensory Details Literary Device Challenge based on photo)

I'll try again later.
I decided to take a walk...not far.
No contact from the thugs who stole the key.
In an overgrown grove of trees, shadowed by heavy green boughs, stood a lonely, weatherbeaten house. It's unpainted lap siding curled and sagged. The porch floor had fallen through, it's boards worn with time. Cement blocks propping the corners looked out of place. The door was ajar. A dank draft sifted through the opening leaving a strange taste in my mouth. The air was still and quiet. Too quiet.
As I walked closer, I heard a, “Psssst!” from inside!

20) (100 words + prompt)
I considered running but curiosity got the best of me. Making a wide berth around the edge of the porch I stepped closer.

“You'll have to believe me.... I know who those men are and why they took your key. They've gone off on a tangent because I planted a little story seed while they were drinking at the bar. But they'll be back. You shouldn't be alone.”

Somehow, I instinctively trusted the speaker. But I wanted to get back before dark. As I started to move away from the house a shadow in the doorway caught my eye.

21) (25 words based on photo prompt)
Twilight fell like a curtain. The doorway was suddenly dark, like a study in black. Should I go or stay? My knees began to quake!

22) (100 words as if looking out the window in this photo)
Next day, the innkeeper's son, William, invited me to his soccer game. I'd had quite a scare and wanted to be with other people.

From the school window I watched the kids circle up for their pregame prayer. The goalie, a little girl in pink, stood at the center. I noticed the boy with the carrot top as he pushed his way between William and Tommy to stand by the little girl with the ponytail. She clenched her fist, stuck her tongue out at him, then looked adoringly at William. He stood a little taller and pretended not to notice.

23) (100 words about #6 in the above photo)
Across the circle was player #6, one of the tallest players on the team. Kinda quiet and a little more low key than some of the others, it seemed like there was something on her mind. Then I saw her raise her head slightly and peek at Tommy. He smiled and sorta waved at her. Her head popped up and the smile that lit her face was beautiful! This wasn't all about soccer, it was about finding yourself and realizing that someone else was noticing, too.

My scare from the night before seemed so far away...and then I saw him. 

24) (100 words + prompt- photos allowed)
The figure melted into the onlookers as quickly as he'd appeared. My heart raced but I couldn't decide if it was fear. In some strange way, I felt drawn to him.
Matthew and his family invited me for Sunday dinner.  As we joined hands around the table, the innkeeper led the family in prayer.
"We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing..."
He was interrupted by a knock. Anna, his wife, moved to the door looking questioningly at her husband. He nodded to her, glancing anxiously at me. As the man entered the room, I wanted to flee but I was rooted to the spot...then I knew. 

25) (100 words + prompt)
Indignation and a host of other emotions flooded through me. Rushing out of the room, through the kitchen and down the garden path, I sat down under a tree, near the pasture fence, shaking with emotion. It was like not being able to find a lost child and wanting to hug and spank them all at the same time when they're found.
After relief finally won the battle, an eventual rumble in my stomach reminded me that I'd left before dinner. At the bar, in the pub, I ordered a sandwich. Someone slid onto the stool next to me.
“Would you like fries with that?”

26) (16 words about when I was sixteen)
I was sixteen when I saw him for the first time. I smiled, he smiled back.

27) (100 words + prompt)
My heart melted as I remembered that tender time, so long ago.
I sat still on my stool for a moment, frozen in time, wondering what to do, now. Then I thought, “You know, it doesn't have to be that way. It's what you've wanted all along. The outcome is up to you.”
Turning slowly on my stool, I looked into his eyes and said with a smile, “Yes, please...with ketchup.”
He smiled back, once again, in obvious relief. He pulled me close and held me tight. All the fear and frustration seemed to drain away. I knew everything would be alright. Now, I'm safe.

28) (50 words + picture prompt)

We looked around the pub while we waited. Just down the bar was a small tree decorated with strips of bacon, bits of sausage and various meaty treats! Curious and comical at the same time, it piqued our interest. The bartender told us to help ourselves to this traditional fare.

29) (200 words + prompt)
We strolled through the village toward the inn. A rather homey place where everybody knew everybody else, warily allowing tourists into their ranks. Yet, somehow, it seemed I had made a niche for myself with the innkeeper's family.
As we drew near the inn, a couple of men rounded the corner. Seeing us, they started but continued walking. I recognized them as the men from the pub.  They'd probably realized by now that they'd been sent on a wild goose chase by the mystery voice in the old house. It made me chuckle to think of that, now.
Just then, we heard piano music drifting from the inn.
Suddenly, as if on cue, a car roared around the corner from the school, blowing it's horn. It careened toward us. We jumped out of the way. As it raced past, I could see that the driver was wearing a ski mask.
Folks came from nearly every store and home to see what was happening, chattering and yelling after the crazed driver.
Just then, I heard an angel voice through the chaos and the noise; it's gentle, pure song purging all the negativity from the moment. We were all reminded that this was a special night indeed. The night that Christ was born.

30) (100 words + prompt)
With the holidays behind us, we decided to let the authorities in on what had been happening since my discovery of the key in the wall weeks ago.  Especially since the car episode on the street Christmas Eve.
There had been no word from the fellows who'd knocked me out and stolen the key but it was obvious they still wanted something from me.  Before Christmas, I'd resolved to back off but now that Wally was here, I thought, "Resolution, Schmezolution!"  I need to get to the bottom of this!
Maybe it was time to finish the letter to my cousin, John.

31) (100 words + prompt)
We decided it would be better to mail John's letter from the post office in the next town. Rather than send it off with one of the villagers, Wally wanted to take it himself.
Around 6 AM, he borrowed the innkeeper's car. The town was only 20 minutes away so he'd easily be back in an hour. There was still no sign of him at 9 AM...I was getting antsy!
The delivery boy arrived for work out of breath. With a worried look on his face, he pulled the innkeeper aside. On his way across the moor, he'd seen Matthew's car...hanging off a cliff!

32) (cliffhanger conclusion in 50 words)
William grabbed some rope before we rushed to the cliff.
The car was teetering over the edge, door open.. Fearing what I might see, I inched to the top. There was no sign of Wally. I scanned the area nervously.
Someone touched my sleeve.
 Grinning weakly, Wally held me tight.

33) (epilogue in 150 words)
Wally died as a result of the beating the thugs had given him after dragging his dazed body from the car as it hung over the cliff. Matthew admitted to being in on the plan and was taken into custody for receiving a large sum of money in exchange for ratting him out. While at the scene, they broke into my room again and tore pages from grandpa's ragged journal.
John thought a return letter might not get through so he met me at the inn a few days later where he learned of Wall's demise and joined me in a memorial service under the trees near the abandoned house.
We traveled back to John's home to examine the trunk.
The rusty lock opened easily.
The trunk was empty.

All the treasures Grandfather had shown us as children while telling us tales of his adventures...gone.

The mystery...dead.

The End.

33) Just kidding! (epilogue to the cliffhanger in 150 words)
Looking back on that day, it still frightens me. Thankfully, Wally wasn't hurt badly and the damage to Matthew's car was minimal. The thugs had followed him from the post office and ran him off the road toward the cliff. After dragging him out of the car, they mucked him about to make sure he'd gotten the point.
John received the letter and examined grandfather's trunk. He couldn't find a way to get it open but he remembered many of the things Grandfather had shown us as children as he told us tales of his adventures. The sketch I'd sent along of the emblem on the key matched the lock.
Wally and I perused Grandfather's journal for any clue as to why those fellows might have wanted the key but there were only bits and pieces of information that seemed to tie in.
 I thought the mystery might end there.

34) (100 words + prompt)
But I was wrong.
We read that diary over and over without finding anything we thought was significant. A few things didn't make sense. Like a war mission that ended near here. Or when he overheard a strange conversation in a pub...
One day I fell asleep reading it for the umpteenth time. When I woke up, the book had fallen into a heap on my lap. I noticed the corner of a scrap of paper sticking out of the binding.
The words were written in Grandpa's hand and they sent a chill up my spine.

“...we know where all the bodies are buried....WMM040727 has been filed.”

35) (100 words + prompt)
The inn's library contained a few military books. Wally found Matthew's name in the register. He'd fought for the allies, too. We tried to steer the conversation toward his service days but he seemed quiet and thoughtful.

Later, He and Anna sat together in the study, talking, like two peas in a pod. We headed to our room around 10 PM. Matthew followed us, disappearing up a flight of narrow stairs behind a small door at the end of the passage.

We heard him scuffling through boxes and bits of furniture...then a loud click and a slow, grating creak as a rusty trunk lid opened.

36) (100 words + prompt)
I couldn't help but notice the box on the sideboard next morning. It was full of pictures, books and various mementos.
After the dishes were cleared, we got up to go but Anna motioned for us to sit down. She pulled a photo album from the box and opened it to a faded photo of a young couple standing in front of a vintage fire engine. They were holding on to each other and smiling. It was Matthew and Anna. The wedding was at the firehouse and other photos showed family and friends gathered around the couple. One fellow, in particular, looked very familiar to me.

37) (6 word autobiography)
"Searching for answers, intrigued by history."

38) (100words +prompt)
These words were written on the back of the photo. I looked questioningly at Anna. She smiled, nodding her head....the man was Grandpa. He had been Matthew's best man. Their hospitality to me no longer spoke only of Old World charm but of deep friendship.
Another picture showed Anna in a large chair with children scattered around her feet. She was being honored by her family on her wedding day. The chair dominated the small room like a throne. She looked like a princess in her wedding dress.
As I opened my mouth to ask a question, she put her finger to her lips and winked.

39) (100 words +prompt)
Later, Anna knocked on our door carrying a tray of tea and cookies.  Wally had gone with Matthew to get supplies.  After pouring tea, she sat down near the window and gazed thoughtfully through the panes.  After a few moments, she turned to smile at me.
Her story began with the end of the war and her marriage to Matthew.  Moving into the inn with his family, who had been the proprietors for nearly 125 years, she'd felt at home.  Anna left her folks in the south and admitted that saying goodbye was harder than she thought... but her new life, though dull to some, excited her.

40) (5 x 5 = 25)
(Theme:Good things come in fives.)
Moving to a new home.
Married to a fine man.
Planning a new life together.
Dreams of children frolicking about.
Good things but anxious thoughts.

41) (98 words including the prompt)
She brought out a small, well worn leather journal from her apron pocket. In it were photos of Matthew, her family and friends...including Grandpa. She lovingly turned the pages and related bits of history as she fondly ran her fingers over each one as if to communicate with the folks pictured there. The smile that played over her face spoke as clearly as her words. Inside the cover you could read her name, written in faded script, and in the corner, the price of the was only ninety-eight cents...a very small price for so many dear memories.

42) ( 100 words + prompt)

Walking past the bakery, I noticed a man leaning over the counter as if to tell the baker a secret but speaking boisterously. 
 Through the screen door, I heard, "I'm living the dream, man...nothing's gonna get in my way. Once I've finished this job, I'll be rollin' in dough!" 
The baker smiled a wry smile and shook his head. He looked up as I passed and quickly looked away. The fellow began to turn around but something told me to duck out of sight.
Judging by the slang he'd used, the fellow was an American. Did this have something to do with me?

43) (100 words + prompt)

My untied shoelace changed my life. As I leaned down to retie it, I kicked away a few leaves. When I turned my head slightly to look where the leaves had been, I was astonished to see a rubber-banded wad of hundred dollar bills nestled in a little indention in the muddy ground.
I stood up slowly and took a nonchalant look around. There didn't appear to be anyone watching so I finished tying my shoe and scooped up the bundle as casually as I could considering how fast my heart was beating. Once I'd stashed it in my bag, I peered into the opening, turning the soggy bundle over. There was a note attached that read, “If you want the key, meet me at 7PM at the old house. Bring the money. Come alone.”
Feeling like a deer, caught in the headlights, I slowly lowered my bag and looked around, again.

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