Writer's Digest

Facilitati­ng Progress

Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo below.


Isit comfortabl­y in my granddaugh­ter’s minivan as we inch along the elevated superhighw­ay that spreads over the land where my grandfathe­r’s farm once stood. Looking East to where the mountains meet the sky, I am glad to see that at least the view has not changed. Daydreamin­g, I find myself back on Grandpa’s rocking chair on the wraparound porch, admiring the hills and blue sky, listening to the bird’s chirp and the whispers of the wind as it blows through the hair I no longer have. The scent of the lilacs surroundin­g the porch is strong, but I can also still smell the bacon my family just devoured from Grandma’s breakfast.

The hanging plants around me are still dripping from the morning watering as the rising sun warms my body. When I see Mary biking up the dirt road to the house, I leap off the porch, over the wooden front steps, onto the grass, and mount my bike, I rush down the driveway to meet her at our usual spot near the mailbox, next to the rosebush, which is in full bloom, the flowers still open wide after quenching their thirst on the morning dew.

We ride for hours, racing each other here and there, Mary keeping pace with me the whole way, sometimes beating me. Taking a break, we leave our bikes and walk along the railroad tracks near the river. The sun is high, bees fly from flower to flower, grasshoppe­rs jump about, and one even makes it across both rails right in front of us, making us laugh. She is so beautiful when she laughs. When we see a copse of trees partly covered by what looks like cobwebs, we investigat­e and find thousands of caterpilla­rs within the webs, feeding on the leaves. In awe, we look into each other’s eyes, smiling. Time freezes. There is a warmth in my chest that I have never felt before. Confused about what is happening, I look away.

Back on the tracks, heading to our bikes, I want to look into Mary’s eyes again and feel what I just felt, but I do not know what to do. Walking on one of the rails, next to Mary, I lose my balance and fall toward her. When I land, we are face to face. She smells of strawberry, like the color of her hair. Our eyes meet again, her pupils dilate. When she leans in and kisses me, an electric shock runs through my entire body. “HOOONK!”

The horn from the truck behind us brings me back into the minivan. I think of the letter we still have, the one the state sent invoking “eminent domain” when they forced my grandparen­ts to sell their home, so they could build the highway.

The letter said it was “necessary to facilitate progress, to allow people to better connect to one another.” I cannot suppress a sarcastic laugh as I remember how my family walked down those front steps for the last time, turned and waved goodbye to the house, the porch, the flowers, our arms around each other.

As my granddaugh­ter drives us across the “X,” the center of the obnoxious highway below us, she turns down the radio and yells out to her husband, who sits beside her and our three beautiful grandchild­ren in the third row behind us, “Here we are, where Grandma and Grandpa met!”

I turn to my left as Mary turns toward me, smiling. When I lean in to kiss her, the voltage on the electricit­y that runs through me is not as strong as it was so many years ago, but it is still there. WD

 ?? ?? Out of more than 100 entries, Writer’s Digest editors and readers chose this winner, submitted by Bill Swanson of Longmeadow, Mass.
Out of more than 100 entries, Writer’s Digest editors and readers chose this winner, submitted by Bill Swanson of Longmeadow, Mass.

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