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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Uncles/Aunts (04/17/08)

TITLE: The Photograph
By Lynda Schultz


There they stand, smiling in sepia, lined up on the grass in the order in which they had come into the world. Grandma and grandpa are sitting in easy chairs complete with those fancy crocheted things used to protect the arms and backs of the parlour furniture. The old folks look weary—I’d be weary too if I had sired this crew of nine posing for the photographer. From the flowers pinned to their lapels, I’d say that the old folks were celebrating an anniversary. I wasn’t there. These grandparents died the year before I was born.

Each child has his, or her, own tale to tell but Aunt Ida’s tragic end is perhaps the story that most profoundly affected us.

It was getting late. Uncle Ezra and Aunt Ida were heading back to Pembroke after a family visit at the Bohn farm near Locksley. Their three daughters, already out of their teens, were back in town looking after their own busy social lives. Back at the Bohn’s place, Aunt Tilly and Uncle Wes would have no idea until much later how their innocent, and happy reunion, would end.

The Bohn property was bordered on one side by the B-line, short for the boundary line between two counties. The Schnopps could have taken the main road, but there was less traffic on the secondary road. And, after all, it was practically on the Bohn’s doorstep.

Uncle Ezra and Aunt Ida were not too far up the road when Uncle Ezra spied a car parked on the shoulder. Lover’s Lane was not on the B-line, so he deduced that someone was having car trouble.

“Better stop and see if I can help,” he offered.

Aunt Ida, as generous a soul as heaven had gifted, nodded in agreement.

Uncle Ezra pulled over behind the stranded car. In the 50s, the shoulder of the road was still actually a shoulder, and not a third lane for those travelers in a hurry to get to the next stop sign.

Ezra got out, leaving Ida in the car. He approached the driver’s side of the vehicle in front of his.

“Evening, neighbour. Looks like you’ve got a bit of trouble. Anything I can do for you? Do you need a lift?”

These were also the days of pleasantries and back fence conversations. There was no hurry, especially when it came to being neighbourly. Uncle Ezra took his time chatting with the driver. Eventually, both men went to front of the car, lifted the hood and proceeded to tinker and tap. The hood effectively blocked their view of Uncle Ezra’s vehicle.

Cars were few and far between on the B-line in those days, so it is likely that they heard the other vehicle approaching. They certainly heard the horrendous crash as it drove full tilt into Uncle Ezra’s car, shattering the gas tank. The car quickly filled with smoke, and then fire, as the fuel ignited.

Whether she couldn’t see because of the smoke, or was disoriented from the force of the impact, Aunt Ida couldn’t get out of the car. Perhaps fearing what might happen on a lonely back road in the gathering dusk, she may have locked the doors. The two men ran to her rescue. Though both men worked furiously to get the doors open and save her from the flames that were quickly enveloping the vehicle, they were powerless to get her out.

In the end, unable to even approach the car, Uncle Ezra could only watch in helpless desperation as his Ida died on the B-line at the hands of a drunken driver who, as they often do, survived without a scratch. Back at the Bohn farm, Aunt Tilly and Uncle Wes saw the smoke rising through the trees, but they weren’t to know until much later that they were watching Ida’s funeral pyre.

As I remember him, Uncle Ezra had a receding chin that matched his receding hairline. His quick smile, with just a hint of tease in it, was always at the ready. Above that smile was a black mustache. Both his mustache and hair remained black—by art or by nature, I do not know—until his death many years later.

Aunt Ida? Well, I only know her from the photograph, standing between my dad and Aunt Tilly. Neither sepia nor the manner of her death do her justice, though I’m sure heaven will have repaired all that earth did to her.

I’m certain I’ll recognize her there.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 04/24/08
I remember all those "fancy crocheted things used to protect the arms and backs of parlor funiture." My grandmother had them too. I've seen many of those sepia / black and white pictures of families celebrating anniversaries that you describe. Your description of Uncle Ezra, "receding chin that matched his receding hairline" is great. Then your description of Aunt Ida is beautiful. While her story is tragic, I love the thought that "heaven will have repaired all that earth did to her." I enjoyed this trip to meet your Uncle Ezra and Aunt Ida. Your title is perfect.
Laury Hubrich 04/25/08
Oh, if pictures could talk. You did very well relaying this story. So very sad...
Jason Swiney04/25/08
This is good. Several great lines, and simple, but very effective imagery. I liked the ending because it is true, Heaven will repair all our earthly scars. Solidly written story.
Joshua Janoski04/27/08
This is a story worthy to be in the Master's level. You did an excellent job painting a picture of your characters. Sadly, I could picture the car going up in flames and engulfing the poor woman.

I liked how you ended this. You gave some hope, and in God there is hope...even when tragedy strikes.
Peter Stone04/28/08
Great job at painting the scene with so many captivating descriptions. I could picture the whole thing in my mind quite cleary. And sadly, so true is your comment that she "died...at the hands of a drunken driver who, as they often do, survived without a scratch."
jodie banner04/28/08
You did a such a wonderful job letting us get to know your Aunt and uncle while telling their story.
Jan Ackerson 04/28/08
"Framing" this article in a black-and-white photograph at the beginning and at the end was very effective. Nice piece.
Loren T. Lowery04/28/08
A tragic story, beautifully told. The narration is perfect and the ending reveals so much about the author.
Betty Castleberry04/28/08
Wonderful voice. I can hear the narration in my head. This is a good, if tragic, read.
Chely Roach04/28/08
Tragic, and beautiful...the story itself and the masterful telling of it. Incredible talent here.
Sharlyn Guthrie04/28/08
You've given us a terrific "snapshot" in time of this family. I like the way the story is told matter-of-fact with the same leisure the neighbors took in the story. Great job.
Willena Flewelling 04/29/08
I like the way you built the story up to the climax... I knew something was going to happen, but you kept me guessing as to what. I also appreciate the way you ended a very sad story on such a positive note of hope.
Debbie Wistrom04/29/08
Well crafted and enjoyable. Especailly loved this line. "The old folks look weary—I’d be weary too if I had sired this crew of nine posing for the photographer."
Thanks for the hint or I may have missed this.
Dee Yoder 04/29/08
I could easily see the images you created with the descriptions in this piece. So sad; but isn't it true that family tragedies seem to haunt us into the future-all those "whys" and "what ifs", I suppose. Very good story.