“The effect of the cobblestones”



The trips with Red weren’t great. It was a series of little adventures.

I enjoyed making hotel reservations. Red preferred to explore a city before committing. Sometimes that meant a night with no place to stay. Red was not disturbed. We were just going to travel to the next town.

I have always appreciated the authority of cards. Red enjoyed the random turns and took particular pleasure in the drama of the moment of making a fork in the road.

Road signs in France do not always indicate the next town, but rather a crossroads a few towns down the road. It was my job as a navigator to watch for the signage that indicated the direction we wanted. More than once I have hammered my atlas in defeat. But Red’s antennae were infallible. At the bend of a bend, to my surprise, our planned destination would appear. Often the roundabout route included a sweet reward: a field of sunflowers or a “Frog Xing” sign.

Red could still find parking. In Amsterdam, where an open parking space is as rare as a Modernist building, Red came to a halt casually in a small stretch of sidewalk as if it had been reserved for us. Our car is nestled there undisturbed all day.

After towing my rollaboard through dozens of cobblestone towns the bag got lame in Rome. With one wheel off, he no longer had any interest in following me. Once again, Red had an unusual solution.

“See, this bag has no value. Therefore, it will not be stolen. We’ll leave it in that door while we find some duct tape.

” Scotch tape ? ” I thought. “Like repairing a wheel? But getting into the spirit of the ruse, I transferred the contents of the wheelie to my backpack and covered the broken bag with an empty takeout container smelling of tuna.

And we wandered the maze of streets of Rome looking for duct tape. With the help of my pocket translator, I asked: “Nastro adesivo? In every little store along the way. Empty gazes. “Hardware store?” I proposed. A quick burst of Italian and a shrug.

Finally, the baker, smoking in front of his perfume shop, took pity. “Ah! Ferramento! ” He directed us to a hardware store just north of the Colosseum. Two hours after leaving the injured bag, we returned to find it unharmed. Even the fragrant tin of tuna remained, as if she was watching.

It wasn’t until later that I realized that a worthless bag could simply be abandoned. The duct tape adventure was just another of Red’s little distractions.

Red’s interest in travel eroded shortly after the cobblestones broke my bag. I am going alone now, and I long for unexpected detours. ??

She crosses the line of fiction, non-fiction

“The Cobblestone Effect” was the first of 16 entries Honorable Mention winner Mary Charles wrote for the 2021 Writing Challenge, responding to every photo prompt submitted over the competition’s eight rounds. She says the story was loosely inspired by one of the many trips she and her late husband took together.

“Most of my short stories are somewhat autobiographical,” she says. “I’m not sure what the dividing line is between fiction and creative non-fiction. “

Here’s the real story behind the photo: Florida Weekly editor-in-chief Cindy Pierce took it while walking the Upper West Side of Manhattan on a visit last fall.

And here are some excerpts from other entries inspired by the photo of the church doors:

¦ Much to Mrs Frogmorton’s dismay and against National Trust regulations, Sir Rupert constantly placed a plastic bucket in front of the front door with a sign: “Voluntary contributions for the maintenance of Hitchin Castle”. It didn’t make much, at most a hundred pounds a week, but it was enough for Sir Rupert to buy his two pints of Hitchin Dark Ale every night at the pub.

“The dinner of Saint Cateracte”
Bob Ellis, Port Charlotte

¦ Finally, we board our flight. I always let her sit on the aisle. She thinks I’m a gentleman, but I know the aisle statistically has a higher fatality rate than the middle seat and the window seat. I play all the options. I settle in for the flight, put on my headphones, and line up for the movie.

Patricia Durachko, Millsboro, Del.

¦ This morning, I prepared a bag for my mother. I stuffed it with every item of clothing and all the personal items I could put on. Once I dropped her off I would come back, pack my own things, close the door behind me and be gone forever. Without a forwarding address and a new mobile number as soon as possible, no one could chain me back to this unbearable responsibility. If mothers could drop their babies off at the fire stations, why couldn’t a daughter drop a mother off at a shelter?

Nancy Murvine, Marco Island

¦ When she finished she asked me if I could stay a few days, told me that the convent had an extra room and that the church could help me find a job and a new accommodation. As we got up, I remembered my bag at the door. I ran to get him. I knew now that no matter how worn out he was, he wasn’t worth anything. I knew that just like that dirty suitcase, I had a place here.

“Dirty and tattered,
Worthless and worn out “
Cindy Swisher, North Fort Myers

¦ Father Juan regretted having said that Salomé’s “confession” would neither shock nor frighten him…

… “Well, how many is sitting on our doorstep?” Asked the priest.

“It’s so much, Matias and I had to count it together,” replied Salomé. “There are $ 652,400 in US $ 100 bills. It’s yours. Give it to the poor. Do what you want. We don’t want nothing to do with this money obtained from sin.

With that, Salome blew up the confessional door, walking in tears towards the side door where Mathias was waiting.

“May peace be with you”
Robert Atkinson, Fort Myers

¦ This overriding desire to see the world became the motivation behind Tim’s decision to quit his job, fly to Europe and head east. At a border post on a dark road between Mashad and Herat, he entered Afghanistan, hard, gravelly, dry and lifeless terrain. Signaling a severely overloaded truck, he hitchhiked to Kabul.

“The green hotel”
Linda Bannon, Naples


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