Prompts for the Unofficial Start of Summer

It’s Memorial Day in the U.S., which is considered the unofficial start of summer here. It’s warm and sunny and the beach in front of my home is slathered with people lying on towels or sitting under umbrellas.

  1. Write a story about the couple sitting under the yellow tent in the center of the photo.

2) See the white sailboat in between the breakers on the left? Write a story about them getting lost at sea.

3) Where is the plane flying in from at the top of the photo? Write a story about someone on the plane – it is his or her first trip to the U.S.

Officially, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who died in military service. Today my local town police posted that they welcomed a WWII veteran to town. Robert was an immigrant who fled France in 1939, was drafted into the U.S. army, and parachuted into Normandy to participate in the liberation of his home country. This week, he will be flying to France to join the 78th D-Day anniversary.

4) Write a story about any aspect of Robert’s experience.


  1. Here’s the beach, they say. Look at that water! The sky so clear. The breakwaters out there like little islands in the sun. See the yacht, granddad, do you see the little sail on the horizon there? The sand, careful in the sand. Hold him up. Don’t stumble! Look at all the parasols, all the bodies out already tanning themselves. Better find ourselves a spot before the best are gone. Here, here, over here. This is will do, won’t it?

    He walks with them, in their midst, the patriarch, a slight figure now, supported by a son on either side, struggling through the sand. The clan’s all here. Daughters-in-law and older grand-kids carrying the tent, the rugs, the picnic bags and cooler boxes. The younger ones with the beach towels running around excited. It’s a family expedition to the beach, this fine day of memory.

    But in his mind there’s an overlay, another beach, another June. No family, but still crowded by friends. They’re struggling together through the sand, but up the beach, not down. Stumbling, unsteady, after hours at sea. Green in the face, or white, sea-sick or fear. The explosions, the shouting, the bullets singing like gnats, snatching at your uniform sleeve. The sharp, sudden pain in his arm. I’ve been hit! And the sergeant pushing him down. Get down! Onto the sand! Get under cover! Crawling up behind the scrubby little sand dunes and the sensation of warm wetness in his left hand, and looking to see his palm filled with blood. And all around him the bodies, the dead, the dying, the living, crawling like him to get under cover, to target the machine-gun nest, to take out the defenders.

    He stumbles between his sons, his legs no longer obey, his old-man eyes are blurred with cataracts or old-man tears. When did I get so old, he thinks. How did I get so old? Why did I live to get old?

    What you say, Dad? What’s he saying? Old? Sure, you’re old Dad, but you’ve years in you yet. Let’s get you sitting down, yeah? Get you out of the sun. Get you a cold drink. It’s gonna be a fine day. You’ll see!

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