A Story Written in a FLASH!

Inspired by Flash Fiction Friday prompt words.

Charmed Seclusion

Dana plopped her purse and two over-stuffed grocery bags on a pinecone spattered picnic table. Her shoulders rose and fell as she breathed crisp forest air. Gordon removed a plywood panel from the cabin door and turned to wrap his arms around his wife. “We’re back.”

She pressed her back into her husband’s chest and clasped his forearms. “This will be our twentieth summer. Can you believe it? When we bought these acres of forest, all I could see was desolation. I had no idea how much I’d grow to love its charmed seclusion.”

“I know. I remember. You wanted a bungalow on the beach. Right next to a horde of vacationers and tourists.”

“Yeah, yeah. You don’t have to remind me. A lot has changed in twenty years. I love the peace and quiet of our little kingdom in the woods.” She turned her head, admiring the towering trees that stood like sentinels around the castle.

First day back at the summer cabin always held its surprises. One year, a fallen tree had to be removed from the driveway. An abundance of broken branches after an especially harsh winter required hard work and slash piles. Mice set up housekeeping in a kitchen cupboard two years ago, leaving nasty chocolate sprinkles everywhere.

Gordon gripped the door handle. “Well, the place looks pretty good this year. Are you ready to see if any critters moved in?” He chuckled and opened the door. “I’ll go remove the snow guards from the windows. Holler if you need anything.”

Winter’s usual muskiness greeted Dana as she stepped inside. Dank stale air mixed with the mothball-like scent of cedar logs would soon dissipate through open doors and windows. She scanned the floor, hoping for no sprinkles and no dead rodents. The NO-Mice pellets had promised a 95% reduction in death odors, but the thought of odorless dead bodies lurking, God knows where, wasn’t much better than beady eyes peering between canisters.

Realizing she was holding her breath, Dana exhaled. “No new tracks or bodies that I can see.” She ran a finger through dust on the kitchen counter and froze. Jerking her hand back, she gulped and sputtered. “Gordy.” She swallowed, then screamed, “Gordon! Someone has been in here.”

She stepped back from the dust-free void where something or someone had swiped across the counter. Her eyes widened and her gaze swept across the dining room. “I did not leave dirty dishes on the table.” She held her hands up defensively and shuffled backwards toward the door.

Heavy foot steps tromped across the porch. Gordon grasped Dana’s arm, pulled her from the cabin and slammed the door. He led her to the truck and insisted she get in. “You stay in there and lock the doors.” He pulled his Glock from the glove box, chambered a bullet, and returned to the porch.

His imposing height and broad-shouldered frame comforted Dana, but a seventy-eight-year-old man, even with a gun, was not the intimidating figure of years past. She grimaced as he opened the door and disappeared.

Dana slid across the bench seat to the driver’s side. “Damn, no keys.” Her gaze focused on the picnic table. “I need my purse.” Beckoned by the phone and keys inside, she gritted her teeth and opened the door. After a quick survey of the cabin, she slid to the running board, jumped to the ground, and dashed to the table. She grabbed the purse and turned to run back to the truck.

Pop! Pop!

Dana spun toward the cabin. The two gunshots pierced the quiet, clenching her lungs. “Gordy!” She faltered, leaned toward the cabin, then ran back to the truck and scrambled inside.

The operator answered her call. “911, what’s the location of your emergency?”

“We’re on Black Lake Road. Twelve miles north of Highway 20. We have an intruder. I heard gunshots.” Dana’s chin trembled. “Hurry. My husband’s inside.”

“I’m sending an officer. What is your name and lot number?” Dana provided the information, and the operator continued with a series of questions. “Has your husband been shot? Does he need a medic? Are you safe?”

Tears welled in Dana’s eyes. “I don’t know. I can’t see him.” She hiccupped and stuttered, “He’s … He’s still in the cabin. I need to go check on him.”

“No. Do not go inside. Stay on the line.” The practiced calmness of the operator’s voice slowed Dana’s breathing.

“What can I do? What if he’s hurt?”


Forty-five minutes later, a Ford Bronco pulled into the driveway. Dana scowled at their blue and white flashing lights. “About time they showed up.”

Gordon squeezed her trembling hands. “Relax, sweetheart. Everything’s okay. I scared the kid away and neither of us is hurt.” He opened the truck door. “I’ll go talk to the officers.”

Dana, her arms hugged across her chest, waited. When Gordon and the two officers crossed the porch and entered the cabin, she jumped out of the truck. Her gaze darted from tree to tree as she scurried inside.


In the days that followed, Dana jumped at every pinecone that dropped on the roof. Branches snapping in the breeze no longer sang nature’s song of peaceful solitude. She refused to stay at the cabin alone and noticed that Gordon carried his holstered pistol all day, every day, unlike other years when it stayed in the nightstand drawer.

Exhausted from sleepless nights, Dana looked forward to Labor Day and the end of their summer stay. Gordon fashioned security bars over the plywood snow guards for every window and installed bars across the door panels.

As they drove away on that last day of summer, Gordon grasped his wife’s hand. “I think it’s time to call a realtor.”

Dana’s chest heaved, and a tear crept down her cheek as the charmed seclusion of twenty summers disappeared in the rearview mirror.