Submitted into Contest #99 in response to: Begin your story with somebody watching the sunrise, or sunset.... view prompt


Contemporary Fiction Inspirational

It was a red sky morning; I was deeply disturbed, but could not identify the reason why. Looking out of the window, I stared at the black images against the red; fence posts, a palm tree or two, and the old church still in use but not what the ‘moderns’ would want; too bad for them. The silhouette of the fine old building was enough to calm me a little, despite the frustration inside. At least it, the red sky, was not a bushfire warning. We had enough on our plates, without the devastation of fire. I remembered them of old. Smoke hanging around for weeks. People trapped either in their homes or makeshift shelters, homes gutted, pampered pets or wildlife lost, livestock no longer saleable. I remembered too the genuinely lovely caring volunteers who supplied our needs; and the everyday firefighter, looking exhausted, but taking courage in his hands and pushing past exhaustion, to find an encouraging word to say, or a child to comfort. Poor beggars even when the job was over and a few showers had been enjoyed, the smoke clung to their clothes, and in particular their skin for days afterwards. Oh, I did not envy their job, nor the lack of appreciation showed by the cranky few who thought the world owed them a living. Today’s red sky day was a warning. If you believed the saying “Red sky in the morning sailors warning, red sky at night sailor’s delight”, it was an indicator that more than weather patterns were heading “wetward”, something was up. Then there was another familiar sound.

Even in my semi sleepy, state I heard them shouting in the kitchen; father and son, at it ‘hammer and tongs', just like the night before. I appreciated why Ralph wanted things done his way; it was his house, but our son Scott needed to flex his muscles, needed his independence. He was now old enough to vote, to get into the cinema, to drive; but all Ralph could see was that Scott was driving his dad batty, and I the ever-indulgent Mum wondered what to do next, though running away was a tempting option. Instead, I prepared to venture into the boxing ring, as only Mum’s can do.

Scott’s voice was young; used to shouting at the footy much like his dad, but the passion this time was half expected, and to his mind warranted.

“Dad, I brought the bins in as you asked, I cleaned the shed out, I mowed the lawn, what more do I need to do to prove that I pull my weight?”

Of course, I added my two cents worth,

“Ralph, he also painted the fence as you hinted.”

“Mum that was supposed to be a surprise.” Scott looked at me, his expression spoke volumes

“I don’t want breakfast,” he said rushing past us.

I followed him upstairs, once more the meat in the sandwich.

“I’m sorry Scott.” I went to our room and found my purse “here’s some money; why not go into Jim’s and get breakfast there?”

“Not on Sunday’s Mum, a day of rest for Jim: but I will go to Maccas.” he thanked me and kissed me. He took the stairs two at a time, heading for the front door, slamming it behind him.

From a distance, Ralph watched on. I knew what he was thinking. History was repeating itself, but it was different now.  He was trying to protect Scott and failing miserably because Scott was still his little boy. If we had had a daughter there would have been a balance, and he would always be ‘Daddy’, to her and need his protection, instead…

“Pat, can’t you see?”

“No Ralph all I see is your unhappiness, and hear Scott’s frustration. I tell you I have had it. When our son gets back the two of you are going into the den and sort your differences out. Neither of you leaves that room until you do.”


“No buts about it Ralph, we have one son, I’m sorry we did not have anymore, I had not planned on having heart trouble. We have brought Scott up to be a fine citizen who makes mistakes and as I recall so did you at that age and beyond.”

Even I thought there was a sting to that comment. What is it about family life that….? Oh, never mind! 

Ralph was silent probably thinking similar thoughts to mine. He paled suddenly tears were close, but I knew my Ralph; my comfort would be wanted later not now.  

“I’m going for a walk,” said Ralph clearly in disgust

 I went back into the kitchen, coffee was calling!

 As I sipped, I recalled those days when Ralph and Pat caused a stir. Would these two get their act together or not? Would they always dance around each other in that ‘forever friends, never enemies’ mode, would there be...? Our circle was made up of gossips and realists, Ralph and I tried to ignore it. Time would tell if we were right for each other.  Still, even then, I cared deeply for him and sensed when things were wrong.  I remember the red sky incident well. Ralph and his businessman father rarely agreed, particularly when Ralph also developed a yen for business and dared to be ambitious, but this was a night of revelation.

Our home group meeting was due to start. Ralph’s parents were there, but barely acknowledged me, which was unusual. Ralph was late and sat beside his father. Neither of them was a good actor; the display of solidarity fell flat, and Ralph looked sad. He opted to leave as soon as he could, I was determined to comfort him. It was time, Ralph thought, for independence; at least he confided that much to me. Ralph and Hugh were too alike, it was clear that they could no longer live under the one roof, and when the separation occurred, they got on better.  At that moment of confession, according to Ralph, it got ugly and his mum was upset. What we tend to forget in families is the solidarity does not replace individual needs; they must be respected and nurtured.  Perhaps this current drama was a wake-up call.

Scott eventually returned but I was beginning to be concerned about Ralph. Close to lunchtime, I rang his mobile several times to no avail. Then, the doorbell rang, and I answered the door. Two young constables stood nervously.

“Mrs Stuart?” the bolder one asked,

“Yes,” I said,

“There has been an accident; Ralph. er.., has been taken to hospital.”

There was no time to lose. Scott dropped everything, drove like a bat out of hell heedless of others in his way. Ralph lay there alone and with all manner of wires attached to him. There was no way known I would not stay by his side; Pat to the rescue. Gee who was smothering whom now?  

It was a long day and night. Scott and I sat in a mostly silent vigil. All tests were done yet my husband’s condition was a mystery apart from the broken ankle. I hated not knowing, I hated wondering, and perish the thought, what if our last words were less than loving!  What do you think could you have slept in that situation? The hours went by slowly in silence.

A smear of light heralded the dawn. Just then the patient stirred and woke. Scott buzzed for assistance; relief was written over his face.

“Pat?” his voice was weary and a little shaky.

“Yes, honey?” I clasped his left hand.


“I’m here Dad.” Scott clasped Ralph’s right hand,

“What day is it?”  Ralph whispered

I looked out the window and smiled,

“It’s a pink sky kind of day darling!” I smiled.

Coloured clouds are light in their various shades passing through the sky. In life, a pink sky day is a sign of better things to come. How important it is to accept the rough with the smooth, for that is where our greatest strengths lie.


June 25, 2021 05:30

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