In the Valley



Short Fiction In the Valley

Just a short piece of fiction for your reading pleasure…

Eric rolled down his window to spit his gum out and nearly ran over a rattlesnake. He swerved to miss the slithering reptile, clenching the wheel to avoid running off the road.

If you could call it that. His map labelled it “County Road RW.” Eric didn’t think two narrow lanes of gravel decorated with potholes were worthy of that status.

He glanced in the rear-view mirror to see the snake stretching out across the road, allowing its full length to absorb the little heat left as the afternoon sun waned.

Then he laughed at himself. What would it have mattered if he’d killed the snake? One less rattler in this wilderness would be a good thing.

He checked the road ahead carefully. No snakes or other wild life in sight. He spat his gum out and rolled up his window.  Coughing a little from the dust, he concentrated on driving as fast as he could without damaging his car.

He only had two days to get from east Texas to halfway into Arizona. His Aunt Betty wanted portraits done of Lily and Florence. How his aunt loved those two. Eric just couldn’t understand.

He wanted to refuse the job, but work had been slow. More people were taking their own pictures these days, thanks to their smart phones. Snap a picture, share it with the world. Who cares if it’s a crummy photo? He let out a sigh.

The road curved to the left, and he blinked, avoiding the blinding light of the setting sun. To his right, in the valley below, the shadows of the hills made a mottled pattern, some areas dark, others starkly lit.

All or nothing. That’s what Eric’s life seemed to be. All or nothing.

Some clients were cooperative, reasonable. They understood when things didn’t go exactly as planned.

Others were like his aunt, doting on her darlings, wanting the perfect photo.

He could just hear her. “Make sure Lily’s bow is a tidge to the right, will you, dear?”

She’d follow up with, “Should we try the pink sweater instead of the green? I think pink looks better on her. It brings out the brown of her eyes. They’re just the same color as yours, you know.”

After numerous wardrobe changes for both Lily and Florence (Florence, being four was a little more cooperative than two-year-old Lily), Aunt Betty would top it all off with, “I wish you could get Florence to smile a little more. She always looks a little sad.”

If Aunt Betty didn’t pay so well, including a generous allowance for travel, he’d never bother.

She made his life miserable with all her fussing and fuming.

All for a pair of toy poodles.

 

 



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