–a special series of distraction stories

Written during the Corona Virus Pandemic with the hope of bringing a smile to someone’s face – or at least provide a short distraction during these challenging times. Stories are created based on one-word prompts that were submitted by friends. Each friend is assigned a character name and I develop a short fictitious story that integrates and upholds the word.

Philip McDowell: Strength

The reverberating buzz came out of nowhere, and with each second that passed, it intensified. Buz, buzz, buzzz, buzzzz, buzzzzzz! Again, and again. A constant repetition for what seemed like an eternity, when, in fact, only a few seconds had passed. The escalating sound was nothing short of annoying. No doubt made louder thanks to its resting place on Philip’s old mahogany dresser.

If you wanted to be sure to wake up from a sound sleep, putting your phone on that dresser was a safe bet. And although Philip wasn’t a betting man, he needed to make sure that he got up on time, especially today.

“Holy hell. Why is this thing so damn loud?” Philip grumbled as he threw off the covers and rolled out of bed. His bare feet hit the cold wooden floor, and he stumbled in the dark across the bedroom to silence the alarm. Either 4 am came too early or midnight came too late, Philip thought as he pressed “stop” on the phone. Even Max, his faithful lab mix, didn’t want to budge. Philip was pretty sure he also heard him let out a growl when the alarm went off. And he wasn’t pleased that Philip had gotten out of bed. He was his pillow, after all.

“Don’t worry, Max. I don’t want to get up this early on a Saturday either, but you know that today is the day. And we have a bit of a drive to get there, buddy. But I promise you it will be worth it.”

Philip always carried on conversations with Max. And Max would look at him with happiness in his eyes, and his tail would wag while his body did a jig.

Max had been his faithful companion for almost five years now. He rescued him from the local shelter soon after his beloved Gramps passed away. Gramps had always wanted a dog but preferred to volunteer at the humane society instead and give those fur babies all the love he could. So, it seemed fitting after losing Gramps that Philip adopted one in his honor. The truth be told, Max rescued Philip as much as Philip rescued him. They were best friends from the moment Philip carried him out of the shelter and into his life.

So, today, on the anniversary of Gramps leaving this world, Philip and Max were setting out to do the one thing that Gramps had always recommended he do.

“Come on, Max, it’s time to load up!” Philip said in his excited voice.

It was always the cue for Max that they were going somewhere. Max obliged and loaded into the front seat like a human passenger. As Philip and Max drove away, Philip’s thoughts turned to the lean man who always wore a smile on his face.

Gramps had always been there for Philip. He was his person and still the pillar of strength. Gramps wasn’t an overly big or muscular man. He had a lean stature and stood six feet tall, which, as a kid, made Philip think his Gramps was a giant – a giant who loved to smoke cigars.

Now, every time Philip thought of Gramps, he smiled. And more often than not, he smelled his cigar too. That’s why it was so essential to make this trek – for Gramps.

“You know, Max, Gramps always shared advice and insight with me. And, when I ‘became a man’ as Gramps liked to say, we took to comparing notes on many things: sports, politics, food, cars. And of course, women and beer. I once asked Gramps what I could get him for his birthday, and with a cunning smile, he answered back, ‘a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead.’ Gramps loved life, Max, and his greatest gift was sharing it with others – and with me.”

I remember one time when I was down on my luck and feeling like a schlepp, and Gramps shared this with me.

Your strength is like a river Philip. Sometimes it will rage and other times it will quietly quell the fear and grant you peace. And even when the winter comes and it freezes over, underneath it continues to flow. It’s not only how much you can lift Philip, but how much you can carry during the storm.

“He then went on to tell me that it will all pay off – the hard work, the dedication, even the struggles. ‘Someday you’ll see,’ he said to me, ‘but don’t forget to live. Be sure to see the sunrise and the sunset from a place so perfect that will take your breath away. It’s a gift like no other.’

As Philip finished his story, their journey had just begun. As they ascended to the top of the mountain – in a far off place where the sky met the ocean and the sun was starting to rise, Philip and Max sat down on the most perfectly formed boulder. Reaching into his backpack, he pulled out a can and popped it open.

“For you, Gramps,” Philip said as he raised his beer and hugged Max.


Laura Mikolaitis
Laura Mikolaitis
Laura credits her writing, which laid dormant for years, to her late mom, who always believed in her. Writing unabashedly from the heart and inspired by millions of moments, three tenets of evergreen advice that her mom always shared with her are her guiding principles. Whether it is poetry, fiction, or a personal essay, her love for the written word feeds her mind, body, and spirit. Laura’s creativity also comes to life in her passion for photography. Her ongoing love affair with the moon, her joy for family and friends, her connection to nature, and being a loving canine mom often become some of her best subjects. Laura has held many roles throughout her professional career, including Brand Manager, Project Manager, and Director of Global Business Development and Sales Operations. In addition, she has a background in consumer-packaged goods, manufacturing, and textiles. Laura currently works in biotechnology for Berkshire Corporation as their Product Marketing Manager. She holds a Master of Science degree in Communications and Information Management from Bay Path University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from SUNY Oswego. Originally from Northern NY, Laura resides with her husband and canine child in a small town in Massachusetts that captured her heart years ago.

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    • Jane, thank you so much for reading and your lovely sentiments. Please pardon my lapse time in replying. I’m not sure how I missed your comment, but so glad I saw it now. Yes, I thought perhaps my friends could use a bit of a distraction, so I put a call to action out there, and several responded. It is a good distraction for me also, and I thoroughly enjoy writing the stories. I’m grateful to BC and Dennis for publishing them as a series, and I hope it brings a quick escape to anyone who reads them. There are a total of 16 stories, and I plan to submit the last few to Dennis this week. I’m always happy to write more, so if you or someone you know has a word, bring it on!

    • Thanks so much. Paula! I appreciate you taking the time to read it. I’m enjoying writing this series!

  1. Beautiful story telling, Laura. You connect the dots so well.

    I smiled when I read this line: “The truth be told, Max rescued Philip as much as Philip rescued him.” It reminds me of the powerful last line from the movie Seabiscuit:

    “You know, everybody thinks we found this broken-down horse and fixed him, but we didn’t. He fixed us.”

    • Thanks so much, Jeff. I’m enjoying writing these stories and kudos to my friends, who continued to provide such good words as prompts.

      That’s a great line from the movie. I know my fur babies over the years have indeed rescued me.

    • Thanks so much, Laurie. I’m happy you enjoyed reading this story. It’s a good way for me to channel some energy during this time and help distract my friends – even if only briefly.

    • Thanks so much, Darlene. I’m enjoying writing these stories. It makes my heart happy that they resonate with people. We can all use a little mind break during this time, and this is something small I can do to help make someone smile hopefully.

    • Thank you, Laura. I’m happy that you enjoyed this story. I always find comfort in the water, and it’s a place a seek regularly. Thankfully, the river is only a few hundred feet from our yard so I can find its sanctuary easily. Plus, my dog loves to explore by and in the river, so it is a win-win.

      I wish you well, and thank you for reading and sharing with me here.

    • Thanks so much, Vicki, for your kind words. It’s been a good distraction for me to write them, and as long as it makes at least one person smile – or provides a much-needed dose of entertainment – then it is worth it.

      I appreciate you taking the time to read and share your comments with me. I wish you well!