Cognitive Reflection #18-Vive la France!

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I run my fingers along the flowers as I watch the sun shine on Free Paris. My Garand bounces on my shoulder, though the threat from any remaining Germans lies somewhere between slim and none. The smoke from the Grand Palais still floats, but out of sight, blocked by the majestic Tower. The flowers block the smell of fire.

My mind turns to Elise. We met when she smuggled some documents outlining Nazi movements to my division, the 28th. Man, oh man, she knocked my socks off with her wavy brown hair and legs that went on forever. She didn’t wear make-up; she didn’t need it. Dirt smudged her face and, for my money, she still looked better than Hayworth and Grable combined. When General Brown assigned me to escort her around, I felt like the luckiest man on Earth.

I showed her around the encampment and what she saw in a mook like me, I don’t know. She must have seen something though. I took a few days and we hit a small village still going despite the occupation. We dined and danced in a blur of wine and jazz, the nights seared crystal clear in my mind.

In the wee hours we talked about after the war. She talked about having children and taking them to the Bois de Boulogne waterfall once Paris and France found complete freedom. I wondered if I could be a part of that dream, once my tour ended.

Her time with us ended and she headed back to Paris, and the Resistance. She got to see the waterfall, just not the way she wanted. The commander of those Ratzi bastards, General von Choltitz, rounded up thirty-five Resistance fighters and executed them. Elise died, but Paris lived.

We came marching our happy-asses in after the fighting, straight down the Champs-Elysees. The French cheered, and, I admit, I got caught up in the swell. The swell came crashing down when I tried to find Elise and heard what happened. I felt my dreams shattered, and ashamed that I could only think of how it affected me.

I hope we never forget the courage and bravery of the French freedom fighters; they are the reason freedom came to Paris. Them and a beautiful brown-haired women, full of dreams, and taken far away from her dreams.

This is my contribution for Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge. I went with a little historical fiction this time. Hope you enjoy it! The prompt is the picture above. The Challenge is open to everyone, so feel free to write and join in the fun!

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

Cognitive Reflection Picture Writing Challenge #16-Nature and Mothers

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photo credit: DJMatticus

The bear loomed large in his scope. It ambled up to the river and rose up on her hind legs, ears twitching and nostrils flaring. It couldn’t sense him; he was too far away. It dropped back down and a long pink tongue started lapping at the water.

Billy breathed, just as dad instructed. He ran it as a mantra in his mind. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Line up the shot. Inhale, exhale. Squeeze on the exhale.

Billy’s finger tightened on the trigger, but loosened as he saw the cub join his mother.

“What’s wrong, Billy?” Dad asked. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

“It’s a mama-bear, Dad. I can’t kill her.” Billy’s twelve-year old eyes filled with tears. “I know what it’s like to lose a mother.”

His father’s face flushed with shame, but his eyes shone with love and pride. “I understand, son. You’re going to grow up to be a fine man. Your mother would be as proud of you as I am, right now.”

Dad ran a quick finger under his eyes. “Must be allergic to something out here. What do you say we go home?”

Billy nodded his agreement and slung his rifle over his shoulder. He turned to leave, but halted as he stared into the green eyes of a tawny-furred ball of muscle, teeth, and claw.

Dad quick-aimed and fired off a shot at the cougar that winged by it, hitting a tree. “Run, Billy!” The cougar growled deep in its chest and leaped at Billy’s father, claws rending and tearing. “Run!”

Billy ran away from the battle, toward the river. He heard another shot and his father’s shout, “It’s coming, Billy!”

His feet splashed in the water, drops flying into his face and clothes. He looked over his shoulder and tripped over one of the rocks in the shallows. A growl sounded over him.

Billy whimpered and looked up into the brown eyes of the mama bear he had spared.

She sniffled and chuffed all over his prone body, but her head snapped up when she heard the cougar’s cry. She roared and reared up on her hind legs. The cougar skidded to a stop, muscles bunched and fangs flashing. It swiped the air in front of it with its paw a few times, crying out.

The mama bear dropped down and charged the cougar, chasing it off. She trundled over to Billy and nudged him with her snout. He looked her in the eyes again. Her head cocked as if contemplating him. She gave him what he would swear was a human-like nod of acceptance and ambled off back into the forest, her cub trailing behind her.

Billy started to shake from the cold of the water and the dying adrenaline. He stood and breathed. Eventually, his body responded and settled into a slight shiver. He ran back to where he and Dad had made their site. His father lay on the ground, bleeding from several deep gashes.

Billy grabbed the emergency kit his father insisted on bringing on every camping trip. His small hands swiftly wrapped his dad’s wounds.

“What happened, Billy?” Pain, mixed with relief, roughened Dad’s voice.

“The mama protected her cub.”

Dad nodded. “Mom’s do that.”


This is my contribution to Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge. The only “rule” is to use the picture provided to tell your story or poem. Thanks to DJMatticus for this week’s photo. It is a beauty. Head on over to Cognitive Reflection and enter your story!

Happy reading and writing!

J. Milburn


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I walk along the rocky path, enjoying the sunset. The sun paints the clouds a beautiful red-gold, softening the transition to darkness. A light breeze rustles my khaki’s, but leaves the water placid. As if Nature herself knows that such beauty needs to be reflected purely. The sky darkens from its omnipresent blue to a deeper purple.

Oh, how I wish she were here to see it. No painting, no sculpture, no form of art yet known to man, can match this sight. Certainly not my paltry words. We can only capture it. One brief moment of perfection.

Even then it pales before the experience.

I pull out her photo. One of a happier time. Her green eyes twinkle with mirth as her light brown hair flies from the force of her laughter. That one brief moment of perfection.

As the sun sets and darkness descends, the perfection ends. As it must with all perfection.

I try not to remember those twinkling eyes darkened by pain. Nor that beautiful hair growing dull and falling out. I stare at her picture, trying–hoping it will take the place of those memories.

It’s still too soon. I fear it will always be too soon.

I open the urn and the breeze carries the ash over the water, near the spot where I proposed. During a sunset not unlike this one. Perfection.

Darkness claims the light. I walk along the rocky path.

Away from perfection.


This story is for the Cognitive Reflection Picture Writing Challenge #15. If anyone is interested in participating please feel free to click on the link.