What Pegman Saw – Cement factory Pujiang No. 2

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. 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 location is Songxicun in China. According to Google maps there is a cement factory just down the road from the village.

WPS - Cement Factory Pujian No2 190216

Songxicun, China | Gao Shian, Google Maps

Cement factory Pujiang No. 2

I don’t normally notice the smell of burning plastic in the village, but I’ve been shopping elsewhere and the smell seems strong when I return.

I prepare some broth and take it to my mother, who is sitting in bed with a threadbare blanket around her shoulders. Her skin is like crepe, her cheeks sunken. Her eyes, circled with purple rings like bruises, are shut as though they are hurt by even the dim light that creeps under the curtain. She coughs, violently. The sputum that dribbles down her chin is dark with blood.

“Mother, I have brought chicken broth with noodles. Your favourite!”

I sit close to her and sip by sip, spoon by spoon, I feed her until she moans, “Stop! No more. You’ll choke me.”

They say the cement factory Pujiang No. 2 is burning waste, and that the fumes cause cancer. Could that really be true?

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Friday Fictioneers – In Memoriam

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL.

FF - In memoriam Lynne 181224

Copyright – Adam Ickes

In Memoriam

The time for fighting was past.

The time for prayers was past.

Words of love and consolation had been spoken; a painful balm for an atrocious parting.

A breeze through the open window softened the summer heat in the sickroom, where she lay breathing gently, unconscious and free of pain. Her husband held her hand. Her two, grown-up daughters sat by the bed. Her sisters were close. She was so peaceful that none of those she loved could tell when the end came.

Wife, mother, teacher.

Sister, feminist, friend.

Who will fill her shoes now?

Friday Fictioneers – Le Café des Parapluies

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Les Parapluies 180919

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Le Café des Parapluies

I sat on the terrace of the Café des Parapluies, fiddling with my phone and staring out into the night. Should I ring my daughter, let her know the good news? I’d pushed her away during my illness; I’d thought it might spare her pain.

I glanced at the man at the next table. He was tall, and although his hair was silver he looked fit. And kind. I needed kindness.

He smiled.

“Bonsoir, Madame.”

He paused, then suggested “Make the call”.

I raised my eyebrows – then nodded. He was right; the cancer was gone.

I had a future again.

What Pegman Saw – Silence is golden

 “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 Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

WPS - Silence is golden 180728

Béatrice Hotel,  Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo | © Noé Diakubama, Google Maps

Silence is golden

We lunched in the Beatrice Hotel. The tablecloth was heavy and gleaming white. Cream curtains with a delicate carmine print covered the window and made the dazzling midday glare bearable.

Priscilla, of the International Women’s Media Foundations African Great Lakes Reporting Fellowship, scowled at the gold rim of her plate.

“I hope you realise this is paid for by wealth from conflict minerals?” she said.

“So, tell me about it,” I responded.

“Where do I start? Miners dying of lung cancer? Their children with birth defects? And all so you can have a cheap smartphone.”

“Show me!”

She furtively passed across some photographs. “Come and see,” she urged.

As she left, she said “I’ll pick you up from here tomorrow, six a.m.?”

I nodded.

As soon as she left, I was on my phone.

I didn’t hear her scream as the car hit her, reversed over her, and roared away.

What Pegman Saw – Be strong for me

“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 includes Amarillo, Texas. I struggled with this one, and the link between prompt and story is opaque. Amarillo is the location of the USA’s Strategic Helium Reserve. The major contemporary use for helium is in MRI scanners, which uses 20% of global production.

WPS - Be strong for me 180609

Juniper Trail – Manic Exploration.com  © Chris Katie Google Maps

Be strong for me

“You’re a cancer survivor,” insisted James fiercely. Stella gave him a fleeting smile and squeezed his hand.

“Jim, whatever they find with this scan, just accept it will you? Please? For my sake.”

Once more she was wheeled into the little room, once more laid down in the restricted space of the MRI scanner. ‘What a good job I’m not claustrophobic,’ she thought.

The scan started and she winced. The machine made a noise like an unsilenced motorcycle engine, and it sawed through her attempts to think coherently.

Stella knew Jim would come to hear the results, but she wished he wouldn’t. He wasn’t prepared for bad news.

And it was bad; the worst.

“But surely there’s some experimental treatment? Stella’s a survivor!” Jim was outraged.

The consultant just shook his head.

“Jim, let it be,” said Stella, gently.

Jim looked at her, about to expostulate. He looked – then wept.

Poem – I shall set beauty

This morning I read a beautiful poem by someone I know who suffers from cancer. I was overwhelmed by her courage, and the wonderful images she had conjured up. It inspired me to write the poem below. (Just in case any reader is concerned that I am the subject of the poem – I am not, thank goodness.)

I shall set beauty seagull - 180424

I shall set beauty

Against this thing,

This gnawing thing,

Against this greedy, gnawing thing

That steals my body, steals my ease,

This greedy, gnawing, agonising thing

That steals my light,

I shall set beauty.

 

The beauty of an owl’s flight

In the dark night,

The beauty of a gull that glides

Above the endless tides,

The golden beauty, pure and bright,

Of an angel shining with gentle light,

These will defend me in my fight.

 

And yet the beast grows strong,

It feasts, a glutton,

It swallows all I savour,

It swells, burgeons,

Spawns

As I grow frail

And slowly crumble.

 

What help is beauty as the end draws near?

Even the gold of angel’s wings cannot stop fear,

The gull soars free while I lie helpless here.

 

And yet…

It is enough…

 

What Pegman Saw – The Big Man

“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 Talnakh, Krasonoyarsk Krai, Russia.

WPS - The Big Man 171230

The Big Man

Gregor was a big man, but he was puce and breathless after climbing the badly lit iron stairs of the dusty nickel factory. He sat at his battered metal desk scanning the production log and downed a vodka. Normal.

He coughed. Ten years ago he’d been the first to crack the Arctic ice. He’d swum for ten minutes, the ferocious cold burning him, his workmates applauding. He’d walked tall as he strode back up the beach. Nobody would have challenged him then.

The maintenance log. Another vodka.

Damn! The left reactor was running well over temperature. It would have to close for repair. Management wouldn’t like it, but they’d ignored that warning sign once before. The poor sod caught in the blast had screamed for ten minutes as he died.

This whole damn place was a death trap. He coughed. Nickel cough. He knew within a year he’d be dead.