Trail of Transformation (short story)

[Author’s Note: The three books are available at Amazon under my name. The short stories are free and available at Smashwords.com.  I’ve tried to model my short stories in the vein of Ray Bradbury, simple, fun, and unpretentious. In other words, they don’t have meaning, the don’t deal with anyone’s struggle in life, they have nothing to do with social justice, they don’t justify anyone’s anger, and they don’t have an agenda. They are meant to be like a cookie or a cup of tea. a simple moment of pleasure for midday relaxation.

I believe this particular one is the result of an exercise where we were to build a story from a photo. The particular photo was one taken by a friend on her trip to Ireland. It’s included below. ]

 

The Story:

The inspiration: A photo taken by Debbie Bernal in Ireland.

The oddity that all their names started with the “jay” sound drew three overseas students together. They did everything as a group; although on occasion, the boy’s cavalier attitude landed him a verbal thrashing from the two girls.

One afternoon they went for a hike through the Irish countryside.

“Hey, this is cool!” Jaycee stood sideways in the middle of the road, looking down a trail that tunneled through a bramble of branches to a misty exit.

Backs to her, Janie Lee and James, bowed their heads together.

“Not again,” James mumbled.

“I hoped she wouldn’t see it,” Janie whispered.

Jaycee’s Kodak moments had filled their day with lethargic pauses.

“Hold on! I’ve got to get this shot,” Jaycee said.

James lip-synced her words. He threw his right foot high in a goose step then pivoted like an automaton toward her. He twisted his face toward clouds that tumbled in from the north, their underbellies streaked with a shimmering curtain of rain.

Jaycee wiggled her camera tripod from its dark blue sheath.

“Ah, come on,” James said and mimed a quick handheld snapshot, then flipped his fingers in the direction of the advancing rain. “Just take the picture. It’s about to rain like a bitch!”

The camera swinging from her neck, Jaycee faced James and slapped her hands on her hips. “That’s disgusting! It’s sexist.”

Janie Lee rallied to her female companion. “Yeah, that’s right. It is sexist.”

“Okay then, rain like a bastard,” he offered.

“Oh!” the girls wailed in unison and laughed in open-mouthed derision, gotcha twinkles in their eyes.

“That’s just as bad,” Janie Lee said. “It implies female infidelity.”

James flinched, shoved his hands straight down into his jeans’ pockets, then turned away from them.

The clouds darkened the sky. The wind whipped the tops of the trees.

Jaycee hunched over and sighted through the view finder. She clicked off a series of photos then capped the lens after two heavy drops slopped onto her camera.

“Now you’ve done it,” James said, his voice full of ire. “We’ll be soaked before we can get to the car.”

Rain rifled down through the trees with the sound of popping corn. James glanced toward the lane canopied by twisted branches and leaves, and he rushed into its shelter. He glowered and watched Janie Lee help Jaycee shove the tripod back into its case.

“Hey,” he said, “there are voices somewhere down this path. I’m sure there’s a pub with a fireplace, coffee, and tea. I hear people arguing over dominos and cards. Now they’re clicking their mugs and singing.”

The girls looked up to see him vanish through the distant opening.

“Hey! Leave us the car keys if you’re going to run off,” they shouted.

He was already gone.

High pitched and mixed with giggles, his voice called  back to them. “Come this way. I left the keys on a branch near you.”

“Huh?” the girls said.

“Why would he do that?” Jaycee made the crazy sign with a whirl of her finger at the side of her head.

Janie Lee squinted toward the shadowy exit. “Goofy all right, but look there.” She pointed to sparkling chrome that hung on a branch ten steps further down the passageway.

They looked at each other and crunched their brows into frowns. Together, they shrugged their shoulders and walked side by side to the keys.

Jaycee grabbed them from the branch, and the girls turned to leave.

Outside the canopy, the rain rumbled down in sheets, and inside drops broke through here and there, making quarter-sized splashes on the ground.

“The umbrellas are in the car.” Janie Lee’s mouth twisted into a pout.

James’s garbled voice came out of the distance, “Walk this way. I saw two umbrellas on the ground just before the exit.”

“Look.” Jaycee pointed to a squat, gnarled root. Two umbrellas lay there, tight in nylon sacks, one red, one blue. “I didn’t notice those before. How did they get there?”

“Well, we need them.” Without hesitation, Janie Lee went forward and grabbed the blue one.

Jaycee followed. Pulling the red one from it sheath, she said, “Do you hear that?”

Janie Lee paused and cocked her ear toward the exit. “Yes, he’s right. People are laughing and singing. I’m sure it’s dry; It’s a pub with checkers and cards, coffee and tea, and a stone hearth with a fire.”

Umbrella’s held overhead, they rushed through the misty opening.

**

Minutes later, the wind pushed the storm back to the coast. Sunbeams broke bright and warm through the trees. Two new people, Lionel and Leona, walked down the road.

“Wow, it just rained here.” Lionel jumped cat-like over a puddle.

“What’s that?” Leona pointed to a blue object far down a path through the briar.

“Could be a pack or something,” Lionel said.

Leona peered into the overgrown passageway. “The owner must be down there somewhere.”

From the far end came a cacophony of squawks and high-pitched laughter. Three blue jays flew from the distant portal and fluttered toward them. Two chased one, pecking his tail. Tufts of down drifted on the air.

The jays landed in a nearby tree. They hopped from branch to branch. The victim turned to fight; the other two scolded. All three fussed and screeched, sometimes at each other, and sometimes at the people on the road.

Lionel gave them a cat-like scowl. “Noisy birds,” he said and looked for a rock to throw.

Leona grabbed his wrist. “Let’s go check out that bag.” She tugged him, and they walked under the arched limbs to the thing on the trail.

The jays went silent. Cocking their heads toward the people, they watched.

The End

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