Fictography #15—Finding Paul

 

JennyPhoto
Photo credit: Jenny Bumgarner

/FICTOGRAPHY/ def. — The intersection of photography (submitted by readers) and fiction (written by me!).

This week I’m featuring a shot from my friend, Jenny Bumgarner. Jenny and I have been friends for…we counted…over twenty years. We met when we worked at the Orioles way back when, and have remained close friends ever since. From attending Opening Days together, to sharing our Hippodrome Broadway Across America season tickets, to getting together with friends when we can, our friendship has remained strong and true. When I needed a cover shot for my novel, “Beneath the Mimosa Tree,” Jenny came armed with camera as we trespassed on a piece of property (don’t tell anyone) to get the shot we needed of a full mimosa tree in bloom. It came out so pretty. We both couldn’t be happier with the cover’s results.

Her photograph this week was shot in San Diego, a place she and her husband lived pre-k (pre-kids). They spent five years there, as Ron worked for the San Diego Padres and Jenny would hold casting calls for extras.

This shot, of the sunset over the Pacific, is so pretty, and reminds us that we need to take some time for relaxation and to enjoy beauty. Sometimes, it’s the thing that can calm us.

The main character of this piece is troubled with anxiety, and it’s the beach and sunset that can calm him. While it’s a little sad, it’s also full of hope, something we all need in our lives.

I tried to keep this one under 500 words…it came in at 476. Thanks, Jenny. Enjoy.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sunset. The beach was quieter than it had been earlier in the day when people were stomping on its sand, swimming in its ocean waters, or gazing across the Pacific. Some people were relaxing, reading books and magazines, closing their eyes and listening to music, or just sitting and staring, listening to the music nature provides.

Not Paul. Paul was restless and antsy. He would pace up and down the beach, anxiety kicking in so badly, as he’d only had about an hour of sleep the night before. He’d worked all day, and at five o’clock, he tore out of work, drove home, parked his car, got a bite to eat, tossed on shorts and a tee and his Nike cross-trainers, and made his way to the pier.

The beach was the only place he felt he could breathe sometimes. He could find himself again, here. His brown hair, though thinning, blew lightly in the breeze. The smell of the salty Pacific kept him calm. Sometimes at night, when insomnia would kick in, he’d find himself down at the beach—in the dead of night—walking, pacing, stressing, and then, miraculously, unwinding when he’d hear the waves crashing against the sand. The lull of the waves and the lullaby of the sea could cure his mercurial moods.

Despite being on a beach and all the prettiness it afforded, he could still hear the shots ring…still hear the explosives go…pop…pop…pop. He remembered the lights flashing—a bright light—and hearing the men panic. The medic arrived to help; his arm was bandaged, still together, but wrapped. When he looked down he realized he was missing a few fingers. It was then he’d passed out.

Hours later, on a makeshift hospital bed, he recovered. Six did not. They were dead, the medic said. Gone, in one bullet, one grenade, one second. Lives over.

When he’d arrived back home in the States, Meg had taken care of him. She had loved him, had waited for him, had written him letters of love. She lovingly nursed him back to health, but he drove her away. He’d loved her, but he’d driven her away, little by little, and piece by piece. He couldn’t climb out of the hole he’d created. He wanted to overcome it all, but he didn’t know how. He’d loved her more than any woman, and yet he allowed himself to wallow in misery, making her miserable in return, forcing her to leave. You never know a good thing until it’s gone, they say.

He ran up and down the beach as the sun began to set. Tomorrow was another day— maybe even the first day of his new life. He didn’t want to live with regret or sorrow any longer. He had dialed that number yesterday, the one that promised help, the one that was suggested to him when he’d had the breakdown.

What he wanted more than anything was to look at the sunset and feel happy.

That was what he wanted.

 

 

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