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If you enjoyed this video, please read my post on attracting hummingbirds.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Warnings

I was visiting a small village in Italy. I can’t tell you the name of it, but it’s not that I don’t remember; I’m just not allowed to mention the name, nor how to get there. I stumbled upon it by accident, really, so I’m not sure I could tell you anyway.

I had been exploring the countryside, camera in hand, snapping photos of the beauty that the Italian landscape boasted. I took a fork in the road that seemed less traveled than the other options–Frost-inspired, I’m sure. The path leading into the village was too narrow for any cars, but since I was on foot, it didn’t matter. I came upon two pillars constructed loosely of stones. There was no sign with the name of the village, population, or anything of the sort, but only a hand-written sign on a piece of wood that, translated, read “NO CAMERAS ALLOWED.” My fluency in Italian assisted me greatly during my ventures. I instinctively looked down at the apparatus hanging from my neck and shrugged.

“What are they going to do, arrest me?” I asked aloud. I have been known throughout my life to bend or break the errant rule. Maybe the sign was meant to deter reporters from exploiting the quaint and remote village. Well, my photographs would be for my own personal collection of memories, so these camera-shy occupants needed not to worry themselves.

As I passed by houses and other buildings, I noticed the extraordinary artwork on the outsides of the walls. Every one was so realistically done, I had never seen anything comparable in any museum or gallery I had visited.They were all representations of people of different ages engaged in everyday tasks. I took a photograph (my first infraction thus far) of one such example–which you’ll find in this post–of two children with a bicycle leaned against the wall, as if they were riding it. Some illustrations, however, portrayed individuals with expressions of great shock or fear. The artist was able to capture the visage so expertly, I could almost feel the emotion that their faces were conveying.

The village was sparsely populated, for I had seen only a couple of people, both of whom gave me wary looks and then quickly walked away. As I strolled toward a fountain in what seemed to be the middle of the village, I saw a young female toddler playing in the dirt. I squatted down to get a better angle and grabbed my camera to adjust the settings. As I began to raise the camera to my face, I heard a blood-curddling scream, causing me to drop my camera and stare at a woman race to the child, scoop her up and just as quickly, race back into a house. I was stunned and baffled as I stood up a little shakily.

“You there!” a voice came from behind me. I turned to see an old woman beckoning me toward her home. I approached hesitantly and said hello.

Without responding to my greeting, she barked, “Those things are not allowed in this place,” as she pointed at the camera.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize,” I lied, pretending as if I hadn’t seen the sign. “It’s only for my own collection.”

“Doesn’t matter the reason,” she said gruffly. “Not allowed.”

“May I ask why?” I asked, trying to sound contrite.

She squinted as she looked me over and then gestured toward a chair directly across from the old rocker she was occupying. I accepted the offer and waited for her explanation.

“I don’t normally tell this story to strangers,” she began, “but…you remind me of someone.” She sat back, closed her eyes and sighed. “It’s been just over twenty-five years now, but for many of us, it was only yesterday.”

A rather enigmatic beginning, but I maintained expressionless and waited for her to go on.

“There was a young man named Gabriel who grew up in this village,” she continued. “He was a quiet lad, and we knew even when he was boy that he was…different than the other boys.”

My mind immediately started working, wondering what difference to which she could be referring: Mentally handicapped? Physically impaired? A sociopath?

“He didn’t have many friends and didn’t spend much time with the other boys. He was very handsome and all the girls had crushes on him,” she reflected with a bit of whimsy. “He always got embarrassed when any of us suggested that he should ask one of them on a date or even to go on a walk. He never seemed to be interested in any of them. We thought it was on account of him being so shy.” She closed her eyes and shook her head slowly.

“The year he turned twenty-one, a young man named Jackson moved into the village. He was just a couple of years older than Gabriel and they immediately became friends. For the first time, it appeared as if he was coming out of his shell. For the first time, it seemed like he was happy. It was like new life had been breathed into Gabriel’s soul.” She paused for a few moments, and I wondered whether she would keep going.

“One day,” she said with a quavering voice, “one of the men of the village caught the two of them in the woods. They were holding hands and kissing.”

His “difference” was then revealed. He wasn’t just shy; he was gay.

“Paul, the man who found them together, told several people what he had seen. In a town this size, it didn’t take long before everyone knew. Many people were angry; especially some of the men. They decided that something like this could not go on. Gabriel grew up here and was one of our own, but they held no allegiance to the newcomer. A group of four men went to Jackson’s home and dragged him outside of the town and they…”

Her voice faltered as tears rolled down her lined, sun-beaten face. She wiped away the streams of water with her hand and very soon I was doing the same. I was familiar with stories of a similar nature, unfortunately.

“I don’t know if they intended on killing him,” she said, “but such was the result. Gabriel was forced to leave town, but he was so very angry. He vowed that he would get even with the town. He would make them pay for what they did. It was rumored that Gabriel consulted with a woman from another village who practiced witchcraft. A year later, he returned to the town with a camera. We were all surprised to see him return. He went first to Paul’s house and then to the homes of the other men who had a hand in killing Jackson. Screams were heard from inside the homes of the men, but were quickly silenced. We didn’t realize was was happening until it was too late.”

“What was happening?” I blurted out, too curious to wait for her to explain in her own time.

“He went around town, taking photographs of anyone he saw,” she explained, “but when he snapped the picture, the people disappeared. All that was left of them was an image imprinted on whatever was behind them. Most were plastered on walls on the outsides of buildings, inside the barn or shop where they were working, a few on trees. When people saw what was happening, they ran in fear or went into hiding. I went to him and begged him to stop. ‘This is not who you are,’ I told him. ‘It will not bring back Jackson.’ He started sobbing and reluctantly gave the camera to me. He left town and has never returned. The houses of the four men have been abandoned. No one wants to live in them now.”

“Weren’t you afraid?” I asked. “What if he had snapped your picture?”

She shook her head. “He loved his mother,” she said. “I loved him too, and still do. I was willing to take that risk.”

“What happened to the camera?” I couldn’t help but ask.

She looked at me pointedly and said, “It’s time for my afternoon nap.” Then she rose wearily and headed into her home. In the doorway, she turned and said, “Do not mention this place to anyone you know.” Then she closed the door.

I stood dumbfounded and then slowly made my way back down the road from whence I came. As I passed by the figures on the walls, they took on a new message, a warning. I now felt them, eerily watching me.

You can hear stories throughout history of groups of people, races, tribes who have been discriminated against, and the suffering they endured. The impact of their torment and even their deaths should serve as warnings not to perpetuate such hatred and bigotry, yet history continues to repeat itself. Stories may be heard and then forgotten, but a picture is worth a thousand warnings.

Copyright © 2022 Brandon Ellrich

This story was written in response to a prompt at Keep It Alive.

*If you enjoyed this story, please click the “like” button and subscribe to my blog to receive updates whenever new posts are available.

Writer’s Block

Staring down at this blank page,
	My ink grows brittle, dry with age,
Too many thoughts racing ‘round,
	Yet I try to put them down.
Passing by, found then lost,
	Upside down, turned and tossed.
Whizzing by, a flash of light,
	Briefly seen, then out of sight.
Blocked and trapped in this paper cage,
	Staring down at this blank page.

Copyright © 2022 Brandon Ellrich

If These Walls Could Talk…

A man was sitting in his garden against an old brick wall. Thinking aloud, he said, “This wall has been here for so long. If this wall could talk, I wonder what it would say. I wish I could hear its stories.

“I can talk,” came an unfamiliar voice behind him. The man jumped up, startled.

“I will tell you my stories,” the wall said. The man looked around and, seeing that no one else was there, decided to reply to the wall.

“Yes,” he said, “I would very much like to hear them.”

The wall told him it would tell as many stories as the man would like to hear. “But you must grant me a wish as well,” the wall added. The man readily agreed.

The wall told him many stories of life and heartbreak, of physical pain he had witnessed, of secret conversations and even admissions of crimes that people confessed when they thought no one was around to hear them. It told of beautiful songs from people and birds. The man listened all through the night until the dawn of the next day. The man was about to fall asleep and told the wall that he could listen no more.

“Very well,” the wall said. “Now will you grant me my wish?”

The man nodded and said, “Yes, of course.”

“Take me on a ride,” the wall said. “I have been standing here for many many years, have heard and seen a great many things, but I would like to experience other places.”

The only transportation the man had was his bicycle, so the man carried the wall, brick by brick, and placed it upon his bicycle. He rode the wall around the town showing it the various shops and people, houses and other walls it never would have seen otherwise. After a very long and arduous day, the wall said, “Thank you, I have seen enough.” So the man took the wall back home and put it together in his garden again.

The man went into his garden every day after that and talked to the wall, but never again did he hear the wall speak. He wondered if his stories would be told to someone else someday long after he was gone.

The moral of the story: Be careful what you say when you think no one is around. There may be a wall very close by, to hear and tell your story one day.

Copyright © 2022 Brandon Ellrich

This story was written in response to a writing prompt at Stine Writing.

I’m Back

I appreciate all of the comments and well-wishes while I took a break from my blog. I am also thankful for all of the individuals who have remained followers. After more than a year, I would certainly understand if I lost some.

Sometimes losing something or taking a break from it will help you to realize how much you enjoyed it or how much it was a part of your life. It’s certainly a cliche that we’ve all heard, but many times we don’t know what we have until it’s gone.

I struggle with knowing what to do with my writing. I’m not making much money with it, and maybe you would say that isn’t the reason someone should be doing something; however, money is a necessity for living. I would like to make a living doing what I enjoy, and that just isn’t happening at the moment. People seem to enjoy my poems and stories, so for now, I will continue to provide content that I hope will inspire, make you think, evoke emotion.

Likes and comments are helpful, so please continue to respond to my posts. Thanks!

You Were There

It’s easy to be with someone,

    When they’re on the mountaintop

When happiness or fortune,

    Doesn’t seem to stop.

But when a fall or stumble,

    Brings us to the ground,

Who’s with us in the valley,

    As we look around?

When I faltered, when I failed,

    When I cried out in despair,

When I thought no one was left,

    I looked, and you were there


    Veronica leisurely strolled slowly down the aisle, checking things off her list after putting each item into the cart which, of course, had a wobbly wheel. She allowed Bryce to reach out and grab a few things as she pointed to them. She smiled as she recalled the first meal she made for Eddie in their new home as a married couple. She overcooked the roast and it was as tough as a boot. Eddie didn’t say anything that night, but took a very long time to chew it up. There would be plenty of future meals that prompted complaints from her husband, but not at first. She eventually perfected the pot roast and it became Eddie’s favorite meal. She intended tonight’s to be the very best. Doubt swirled around in her head, but she tried to see through the haze and focus on her task.

    “Skittles!” Bryce declared as they were waiting in the checkout line.

    Veronica almost immediately said no, but thought, why not? She grabbed the package of colored candy and tossed it onto the conveyor.

    “What a cute boy,” the cashier said as she scanned the items.

    Veronica smiled, though her expression was hidden behind a mask. She was grateful that her bruise was also hidden.

    “Thank you,” she said. “He can be a handful, though.”

    “I know that’s right,” the lady said. “I have three of them and I have to remind myself that they are a blessing.”

    Veronica looked at Bryce lovingly and her determination started to emerge through the cloud of uncertainty that would rise subtly like a fog over a placid lake. As winter turns to spring, the air would turn white so unnoticeably, and yet there it would be. Mere droplets of moisture, appearing so discreetly, yet hindering your vision so completely. Bryce was her lighthouse during these times, guiding her to where she knew her destination to be. The fog lifted once again as she headed for home.

    She timed everything perfectly. Eddie came home at the time dinner was almost ready and entered the house without slamming the door. She breathed a sigh of relief, but almost wished she’d heard the all-too-familiar sound; it helped to keep the fog at bay.

    “Something smells good,” he said as he entered the kitchen.

    “Pot roast,” she said. “Your favorite.”

    “What’s the occasion?” he asked as he looked into the pot of mashed potatoes.

    She smiled and shook her head. She hadn’t expected him to remember their anniversary, and it didn’t matter to her, anyway.

    “Just felt like a special day,” she said simply.

    After dinner, while Eddie was in the shower, Veronica placed a few lit candles around their bedroom and turned off the lights and closed the blinds. It was still light outside, but the mood was evident. The fog started to rise. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She opened them and her vision was clear, piercing through any mist of doubt. 

    She changed into a sexy negligee, retrieved a mirror from the nightstand to apply a touch of lipstick and then lay on the bed to wait for him. It wasn’t long before he entered the room and was stopped in his tracks.

    “Oh!” he said. “I like where this is headed.”

    They made love, which didn’t take long. The act was much more enjoyable for him than for his wife, which was typical for much of the past few years. Eddie fell asleep quickly afterward. As he lay there snoring, Veronica changed her clothes and threw a few things into her purse. At the side of the bed, she leaned down toward his face, dimly illuminated by the flickering candles, and kissed him on the cheek.

    “Good night, Eddie,” she whispered.

    She opened the door to Bryce’s room and said, “Come on, honey, we’re going to the park. But you have to be quiet; Daddy is sleeping.”

    Bryce hopped up immediately and ran to get his shoes. Veronica grabbed a few items from his dresser drawer and stuffed them into her purse. She told Bryce to go to the car to wait, and before they were about to go out the door, she closed the doors to all of the rooms except their bedroom where Eddie was still snoring away. She then went to the kitchen and blew out the flames on the stove burners and then turned up the heat. She made sure the windows were closed and stopped briefly to look around at the walls. She let out a heavy breath and then left the house.

It was approaching evening, but the summer days were longer and dusk came a bit later. She drove the short distance to the city park, which was sparsely populated. She took a seat on a wooden bench while Bryce ran to the swingset.

    She was finally able to collect herself and think. She was glad Eddie wasn’t able to taste the sleeping pills in the mashed potatoes. Again, the fog began to rise, blanketing her vision and again she closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Her eyes remained closed when she heard the explosion. Moments later, she heard the wailing sirens. When she opened her eyes, the fog had lifted.

Copyright © 2021 Brandon Ellrich

Mother Knows Best

When I was sick she gave me herbs
And rubbed Vicks on my chest
They tasted and smelled awful
But Mother knows best

I usually like her cooking
But the broccoli I detest
I couldn’t get up ‘til I ate it all
Cause Mother knows best

I didn’t want to play with sis
Cause she was being a pest
But Mom said it teaches me patience
I guess Mother knows best

I didn’t want soap in my mouth 
For telling a lie, so I confessed
Other kids just got “time-outs”
But Mother knows best

I wanted to go out with my friends 
Instead of studying for a test 
But Mom helped me study and made flash cards 
Cause Mother knows best.

When I'm lonely, unhappy 
Sad or distressed 
I can depend on my mother
Cause she always knows best

Copyright © 2021 Brandon Ellrich

Happy Mother’s Day!

My “Pet”

In the U.S., May is National Pet Month. In honor of this, please enjoy this poem:

I have a pet; his name is Stick;
He doesn’t drool, bite or lick.

He’s a rescue pet; I’m not a liar;
He was about to be thrown on a fire.

I don’t have to spend money on grooming or feed;
And he goes where I tell him without a lead.

His maintenance doesn’t cost a dime,
But the neighbors don’t like him—he “barks” all the time!

Copyright © 2021 Brandon Ellrich

If you liked this poem, you may also like Caturday, April 3, 2021