What Pegman Saw – Dutiful Sons

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is the Douro valley in Portugal.

WPS - Dutiful Sons 180929

Dutiful sons

The Douro river lapped darkly at the feet of the two brothers and the priest as they built Gangajal’s funeral pyre. The wood smelled sweet in the night air and left sticky patches of resin on their clothes; it would burn fiercely. As they laid the withered corpse on the wood, Abhanja, the elder, wept silent tears.

Prambratra, the younger, glanced around apprehensively. He jumped at every noise, and when a police car roared past, sirens blaring, he nearly bolted.

“Don’t be afraid,” the priest told him. “What you are doing is dharma*”

The scent of marigolds on the pyre permeated the air. The eastern sky was lightening.

“It’s time,” said the priest, softly, and lit the kindling. Flames, pale in the rising sun, charred and consumed the corpse, and the smoke rose like prayer to heaven.

Gangajal had a proper Hindu funeral, just as her sons had promised her.

* dharma = virtuous

20 thoughts on “What Pegman Saw – Dutiful Sons

    • Dear Dale
      Thank you for reading and commenting. Far from being legal, I think the brothers were breaking several laws, which is why Prambratra was so jumpy. The story didn’t arise out of local details this time. I went to Pixabay to look for a good image and I found the photo above. The picture reminded me of photos of the Hooghly river in Kolkata, and of the cremation ghats there, and, voila! the germ of a story. I have to admit it took me hours and hours to write, in particular to get the structure right, but I was pretty happy with the end product.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Lish
      Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comment. Nowadays, I make a conscious effort to include more than one sense in my descriptions – that’s something I’ve learned from looking at how other good writers on FF and WPS achieve their effects. In a way, though, I find it even more important to travel to the story-setting in my imagination, and make a deliberate effort to imagine what I would experience as a participant. I feel that only if I go there myself can I write so that my words take others to the scene.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Josh
      Thank you for reading and for such lovely comments. I spent a long time working on the structure of this story, and (as you noticed, of course) the last line is crucial structurally, clarifying the relationship between the boys and the corpse and propelling the reader back to the beginning with a fresh understanding of what’s going on.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

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    • Dear Karen
      Thank you for reading and for your very kind comments. In saying that I really took you there, you affirm what I strive for with all these stories – to make them real to the reader. It’s such a buzz when someone confirms that I’ve succeeded, so thank you so much for that!
      With very best wishes
      Penny

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  1. Marvelous description of the setting and reactions to it, which sets up the emotions so well. I just went to a session at a writers’ conference about using all the senses in writing, and here you are, already doing that!

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  2. Dear Joy
    Thank you for reading and for your very kind comment.
    Nowadays, I make a conscious effort to include more than one sense in my descriptions – that’s something I’ve learned from looking at how other good writers on FF and WPS achieve their effects. In a way, though, I find it even more important to travel to the story-setting in my imagination, and make a deliberate effort to imagine what I would experience as a participant. I feel that only if I go there myself can I write so that my words take others to the scene.
    With very best wishes
    Penny

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  3. The sons are very dedicated, to have taken such a risk to keep their promise to their mother. Your story was unexpected, and a good reminder, that there are people everywhere, who live far from home and the sacred customs that give their lives meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Andi
      Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comments. At times of stress we can find comfort in the customs with which we grew up. I’m sure the two brothers found their grief eased by a ceremony which affirmed the traditional value of their mother’s life. But, as you say, they had to be very dedicated to keep their promise.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Abhijit
      Thank you for reading and commenting.
      Usually my Pegman story is based on stuff I can find out about the location. This time, though, I went to Pixabay to look for a good image and I found the photo above. The picture reminded me of photos of the Hooghly river in Kolkata, and of the cremation ghats there, and that’s what led me to write the story. As you say, it’s exotic!
      You might be interested to know that there has been at least one officially sanctioned Hindu outdoor cremation in the UK during the last 20 years. It took the family a lot of effort and litigation, but they managed it!
      With very best wishes
      Penny

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  4. I see your mind has stayed in Asia! You have a real feel for the area, with the lovely descriptions and imagery here. Love the touch with the resin – felt very real. And that need to fulfill mother’s wishes hits at the heart of us all, a universal feeling you’ve tapped there. Lovely writing Penny. How’s the book coming BTW?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Lynn
      Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. When I write my stories now, I try to go there in imagination and observe as much as I can. I was (in my imagination) handling the wood, and I realised that as well as the roughness, the splinters, there was a stickiness, and I could smell the resin. Amazing what the mind will do if you let it!
      As regards progress with the novel, the answer is – slowly! I’m determined, though, to have the plot worked out in detail in time for Nanowrimo! My blog will then fall silent for a month, I fear.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

      • The visual nature of your imagination really comes through, Penny, wonderful stuff
        Well done for keeping on, despite slow progress with the book. It can be tough to keep going through these peaks and troughs, but so great when the end is in sight!

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