Lat and Long

Written for Light and Shade Challenge for Monday 7.July.2014 – check it out

Roger closed his eyes and longed for the old days. He was too young to remember but, had heard stories and, he had the photograph. Roger had been given the faded old photo by his father, who had been given it by his father, who had been given it by his father, and so on and so on for an indeterminate number of generations. No one knew what it actually depicted but there had been theories.

On the face of it the photo was simple enough. It depicted a wet, dirty ramp with powder blue ceramic walls, defaced by graffiti. Graffiti was as old as man. Hell there were documented examples of graffiti on cave walls south of here that were tens of thousands of years old. Indigenous peoples in the new world had left graffiti all over the rocks in the southwestern deserts. It was impossible to tell how old the graffiti was in the photo. Roger had shown it to hundreds of archaeologists who had merely shrugged their shoulders, “Who is to know?” They had all said. Then he showed it to Dr. Decker and she actually turned the photo over and looked at the back. No one had ever done that before.

Written on the back in faded blue print were some numbers:

52.4831, -1.8936

“I believe that this is a primitive code that was used to define locations.” She said then she offered to explain it for a fee.

A price was agreed and Roger heard of an ancient numerical system where imaginary lines were drawn around the earth from pole to pole. These lines intersected with a separate set of perpendicular ones. Each line had a number. Any location could be defined by stating the numbers of the two perpendicular intersecting imaginary lines. It sounded like mythology to Roger and he told her so. He reached to get his money back but she kneed him hard in the groin and ran. By the time he could stand again she was long gone.

Fifteen years later he remembered that story that Dr. Decker had told as he looked in the window of an antique store at a centuries old globe, a map of the earth. For the most part the continents were recognizable although they were crudely drawn. Sections of each continent bore brightly colored splotches as if infected by hives or marked by a code, long forgotten. What got his attention though were the lines. It was just like she had explained it. He went inside and bought the globe for a king’s ransom. He took it home and studied it. That location, if Dr. Decker was to be believed, was in a place identified on the globe as U.K. but, now known as Peoples Republic of England. He booked a transport right away.

The globe set his desired location on a spot labeled Birmingham which he assumed to be a city. There was no record of a city by that name in the PRE but Roger went anyway. When he got there he found a copse of trees in a field of grasses. Wildflowers punctuated the expanse of green and deer grazed near the treeline. “So much for that idea,” thought Roger. “Dr. Decker was obviously a fraud. There are no ceramic walls covered with ancient graffiti. There are no dirty ramps or broken handrails. There is nothing interesting here.”

Roger closed his eyes. He longed for the old days. The days of restaurants, and convenience stores, the days of highways and automobiles that he had heard about. He opened his eyes again and scanned the empty countryside; nothing but trees and grasses. He thought he might hear a river over the hill. He headed that way. Perhaps he could catch a fish for dinner.


BirminghamImages courtesy of

Daily Prompt: Frame of Mind

Daily Prompt: Frame of Mind

 If you could paint your current mood onto a canvas, what would that painting look like? What would it depict?


Unlike previously, this time we ran. We packed up the station wagon and fled the coast, inland to Abeline where we could stay with family.

The kids packed stuffed animals, games and clothes. Lou packed her clothes and toiletries, books, and snacks for the road trip. I grabbed a wooden box with oil paints, turps, brushes and pallet knives. I gently set in a freshly stretched canvas with two coats of gesso. We had been listening to the radio tracking the progress of the storm all morning. We had the car packed and were ready to go about an hour before we made the decision to actually go. When we left, the only thing remaining to grab was the cat. Everything else we owned was left behind, at the mercy of the hurricane gods.

We drove NNW through San Antonio for about seven hours and when we pulled into my Mother-in-Law’s driveway I was a wreck. Driving that far in a station wagon with two kids, under the age of ten and a fucking cat, roaming free through the vehicle is not relaxing or restful. Top the drive off with worries and fears for the abandoned material things and the business – my psyche had been left strung pretty tight that evening. I’m sure we visited and ate something before putting the kids to bed and retiring ourselves but I remember none of that. I didn’t sleep; I sat in the kitchen smoking. I twisted the radio dial back and forth to follow the progress of the storm.

About 2:30 Lou came out from the bedroom. “Why don’t you paint,” she suggested. “That usually relaxes you.” Good advice, why hadn’t I thought of that? Clearly, I wasn’t thinking well. I grabbed my supplies and set up in the den. I had forgotten my table easel and pallet. No matter, pull a table to the wall and leaned the canvas against it, a piece of tempered masonite for mixing paints and I stared at the canvas. Finally I picked up my pallet knife and used it to lay in several shades of blues, on top of ‘lamp black’ and ‘zinc white’. The resultant contrasts and textures of blacks, whites, greys, and blues pleased me. The weather man reported that the storm had hit land and I paused to listen. I abandoned my work in progress to listen to the radio, make coffee and start breakfast for the kids. The excess turps I unthinkingly used to mix the pigments caused the paints to run ever so slightly downwards.

I didn’t get back to it until after lunch. By that time we had received word that our house and my gallery were unscathed by the storm. The stormy sky that I had laid on the canvas was dark and dripped due to my careless use of the turpentine, but my mood had lightened. Eventually, the painting did too.

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