Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Land's Edge Contest- Hon. Mention-Cathy Olliffe

What could I possibly say about Cathy Olliffe that most of you don't know already? Cathy visits every one's blog and is friends with all! Heck, my circle of friends has increased drastically just by association with her. Cathy's blog is a medium for her regular flash fiction with the #fridayflash crowd. It's also a perfectly framed window to get a fine view of Life on the Muskoka River. Many of you will recall her recent showcase of writers during American Weeks at her blog. Drop by again for a visit. God knows what will happen next!

Cathy writes in an with an 'earthy' flair and tells tales about regular folk thrust, sometimes, into unusual situations. Her entry in the Land's Edge flash fiction contest was no exception. The Blue Swimsuit is a story about a man's memories of a little girl he met years ago at a popular Ontario beach. Let's take a short walk through this man's thoughts. This timeless story is set in 1966, but it could just as well be 2010. Heck, the beach may be just down the road from you.


Note: The painting is Life's a Beach Ball by Allison Hunt and can be found at the Pink Picasso website.

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The Blue Swimsuit

The Polaroid is like a home movie frozen on one frame in the projector.
Faded almost to white.
Even her navy blue swimsuit is faded. But you can still tell it's blue.
Her light brown hair, caught up in a strong breeze, shining in the midday sun, is lighter. But you can still tell it's brown.
Her smile is enormous. Beatific. Contagious. And she's got these crazy sunglasses on, perfectly round, clamshell pink.
He fingers the edges of the photograph. The date is handwritten on the bottom.
July 14, 1966.
A perfect summer day.
He remembers seeing Cheryl for the first time.
He is at Wasaga Beach, stretched out on a towel, a bottle of Pepsi and a John D. MacDonald paperback lying in the sand beside him, a camera in his hand. He ignores the hundreds of bright young women who walk by him in their best bathing suits, a parade of taut, tanned skin and sprayed curls, stepping lightly to impress the hundreds of young men who gawk openly as they go by.
He barely notices them.
But he sees Cheryl.
She is running pell mell down the beach, sand flying up from her feet in every direction. She is chasing a plastic beach ball, coloured like gas station flags, and she is squealing because some other kid is in hot pursuit. Likely a brother. He watches. The kid chases her for a bit, to make her happy, then dekes out and goes to where a bunch of girls are hanging out at the hamburger stand.
Cheryl takes the ball over to a young couple who might be her parents and tries to get their attention but they're talking to another couple, laughing and drinking Labatt's 50. They scold her for interrupting, then shoo her away.
Unconcerned, she picks up an orange pail with a white plastic shovel, and starts wandering down the beach.
He watches her meander further away from her parents. Nobody but him is paying attention.
He gets up from the towel and walks towards her.
When he's close enough he begins to take pictures.
He smiles as the shutter clicks.
She is so happy.
So alive.
So doomed.
Soon she will be a headline in newspapers across the country. "CHERYL THOMPSON, 6, MISSING" will be replaced after a week by "BODY PARTS FOUND IN GEORGIAN BAY" and finally "TRAIL GOES COLD IN SEARCH FOR CHILD KILLER."
For a few minutes more she is still a little girl playing in the sand on a pristine summer day.
He walks up beside her and gets down on one knee, like he is proposing.
He is blocking her sun so she looks up.
"Hey mister," she says.

18 comments:

Marisa Birns said...

Ooh, this did bring the chills! Just this morning, I heard on the news about a little girl abducted from in front of her house as she played with her little brother.

She was found, however, so happy ending there.

No happy ending for the little girl with the bright beach ball.

The fact that he is reminiscing as he looks at her photo adds to the horror.

David Barber said...

A very harrowing tale, Cathy, that is so close to reality. Like Alan says above, it's 1966 but it could also be 2010 and even 2066! A very well written piece. I'm just going to check on my girls.

Well done, Cathy.

Michael Solender said...

This started out so light and innocent and the pow! Potent write for sure.

Mental_Pictures said...

This story gave me chills, made the hair on the back of my neck stand up!

Excellent write for sure.

Ellen

Dot said...

Hey Cath, I'm hoping for a good ending, but I know in reality it won't be. This is well written. Mom

L'Aussie said...

This is a reality we don't want to know about, but Cathy you have crafted this 'horror' story so very well. I like how you have set a lovely scene, so sweet, then suddenly everything changes with 'So doomed.' (I also like the use of cultural icons that an Aussie doesn't recognise but finds fascinating..:)

Mike Robertson said...

Cath, very cool piece. Chilling, but so subtle in getting there that it fooled me. You hold the pov and tone of the child, the sense of hope, even wonder, rather than pain or fear. Smooth pacing. So effective. Cheers.

kathryn said...

Wonderfully written story...with a chilling ending. Makes my heart ache.

Bring her back.

Mark Kerstetter said...

I was watching a young couple chasing their two year old around a house the other day and thinking, my god, you can't look away for a second!

One of my favorite photos is of my sister as a tiny girl in a blue striped bathing suit.

You've captured the innocence of the child. So sad. It reminds me of the Randy Newman song In Germany Before the War.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Haunting and tragic. As a former counselor to abused children, this tale brought back memories of tears and lost innocence.

Thanks for dropping by my blog and leaving such a great comment. May you sometime get a chance to visit New Orleans. My dream is to go to New Zealand. After becoming a world bestselling author, of course. LOL Roland

Cathy Olliffe said...

Hey guys, thanks for dropping by and leaving your comments. I always appreciate them so very much. Thanks to Alan for hosting the contest (must have been quite a bit of work -it's appreciated, bloggy-bud), and to Laurita and Ellen for judging. I wish I was in that coffee shop with you - sounded like way too much fun.
Marisa - thanks so much for the comment. This morning on the news there was a young Canadian girl missing – so incredibly sad. Someone at work asked me how I could write about killing children and, as a mother, these kinds of stories are real horror, my biggest fears. No vampire or zombie could ever compete.
David -thanks! I think those were more innocent times. Hopefully we watch our children better than when I was young, running all over the place without supervision. I would never think of letting my own sons do the things I did. (If they do, I don't wanna know about it!)
Michael - always happy to "pow" ya!
Ellen - how are the hairs now? Recovered? Thanks for judging!
Dot-thanks, Mom! (Love my mom)

Cathy Olliffe said...

More thanks - sorry for being so long-winded.
L'Aussie - thanks! So what icons do you mean? Labatt's 50 is beer, Wasaga Beach is a big party beach on Georgian Bay, part of Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes bordering the U.S., John D. MacDonald is a Floridian author; and surely you have Polaroid cameras and Pepsi!!! LOL!!! (We'll have to swap icons some day because I know there's a lot about your country I know nothing about!)
Mike - thanks! Kind words coming from the Grand Prize winner!
Kathryn - thanks! Can I say that every time I see your picture I think you look like Carly Simon?
Mark - thanks. I 'd love to see the photo of your sister some day. I love old family photos... and I'll have to give that song a listen.
Roland - thanks! Oh god, I left a good comment? Thank goodness or I'd be in deep doo-doo here!

Carrie said...

OMG, wow. This was chilling. Like a goose walking over your grave type of chills. Very nice. Perfect descriptions. I could almost smell the sea.

Laurita said...

So many things imperssed me about this story - the delight the narrator gets in reliving the scene, the innocence in the first half of the story and how it slowly seeps into darkness. So twisted and creepy and real that you just can't stop thinking about it, like a good story should be.

Cathy Olliffe said...

Carrie - if anyone knows chilling, it's you, so thanks!
Laurita - thanks for your comments and thanks for judging and just a great big sloppy thanks.

Kat said...

Dang it Cathy!!! You cannot write stuff like that--it stops me cold. Every mother's nightmare. But perfectly painted. *Shiver*

Bukowski's Basement said...

Cathy ... you do amazing things with words...

Pablo Gully said...

Cathy, what an emotionally-charged, powerful story that was. Truly every parent's nightmare.