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'Back from the Edge' and It's a Fluke in Training!

My father, Douglas Symes, created this watercolour painting about sixty years ago. I've included it because these cliffs that surround the beach at Dawlish, Devon, England, are the ones I had in mind when I wrote 'Back from the Edge'. It is my most recent story and another 'word challenge' piece. The words I had to use are in italics.

I hope you enjoy reading it.

Below the story is a short video of It's a Fluke on the racetrack at Woodbine. We visited him there for the first time this season on March 16.

Back from the Edge


Devoid of emotion. Numb. He stood at the edge of the rusty-coloured cliff. The red earth beneath his feet was slippery and slimy from the misty rain. His running shoes were stained red from the mud. He’d walked about five miles, hoping he’d begin to regain some confidence and determination. He wanted to keep on going but the realization that the café was bankrupt had sunk in that morning. He’d lost hope.

The ocean, many feet below him, crashed against the rocks. It was as if the salty water was effervescent. The tingle of tangy spray and the sprinkle of fine rain felt refreshing on his hot cheeks, and the thundering noise was strangely satisfying.

The turbulent sea with its huge rollers was in acute contrast to his lack of energy, his hopelessness.

The wind was picking up, making it harder to breathe. He opened his mouth and braced his legs in a wide stance. He hadn’t thought of jumping until then. He doubted he’d have the guts to do it but was almost afraid he might. He inched towards the edge as his rain jacket ballooned behind his back.

Despite the noise of the waves smashing against the rocks and the wind rushing past his ears, he was certain he heard a scream. It startled him and he stepped back and turned.

A young child, perhaps three years old, was running towards the edge of the cliff. The wind didn’t appear to be slowing him down much. His moon-shaped face bore a grin that almost spread from ear to ear. A young woman was attempting to follow him. She screamed again, and then slipped and fell. The stroller she’d left behind was blown over, spilling paraphernalia over the short grass, some of it catching in the occasional gorse bush.

Lance instinctively sprinted towards the boy and scooped him up within ten feet of the cliff’s edge. Rather than reacting with alarm at being caught by a stranger, the little boy laughed and wriggled. It was all a game to him.

The woman had stood up and stumbled towards them, tears running down her cheeks. Her jeans were streaked with mud, and she’d lost a shoe somewhere.

Lance handed her the boy.

“Thank you. Thank you.” She kissed the squirming boy who was still giggling.

“I’ll help you get him into the stroller.”

“Yes, I’ll need help. I know Zach shouldn’t have been running around here, but I was looking for a pendant I lost yesterday, and I took my eyes off him for a second.” The wind took her breath away and she had trouble getting her words out. “The pendant has sentimental value. It was my mother’s.”

Lance collected the contents of the stroller, put them where he thought they might belong, and retrieved her shoe. She pulled it on while still holding Zach. It took the two of them to strap Zach into his stroller as he kicked and yelled.

“Zach must have yanked at the chain yesterday when I bent over to give him his snack. I didn’t realize it was missing until we were about to leave.”

“Do you remember where you were and where you walked afterwards?”

“Not really. I come here every day because this is where I scattered my late husband’s ashes. That’s what he wanted. He died just before Zach was born. I’ve only missed six days in all that time.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I haven’t seen you here before.”

“I think I’ve only been here twice.”

“You should have come yesterday. It felt like spring. Today I feel like I’m in the middle of a hurricane or something. I’ll look for the pendant tomorrow.”

“Have you got time for a coffee? I own a café not far from here.”

The young woman smiled and pulled long damp wisps of her hair out of the corners of her mouth. She said she’d love a coffee if he didn’t mind her dirty and bedraggled appearance. “I’m Nancy, by the way.”

Lance pushed the stroller. Zach had fallen asleep with his tiny muddy shoes poking out from under the rain cover.

“But your café’s closed.” Nancy pointed to a sign.

“There’s a story behind that. Not a happy one.”

Nancy’s eyes widened. “I knew I recognized you. There was an article about you and how you started this café. It was a dream come true, it said. What’s the bad news? Oh, I bet the pandemic hit the business hard. Is that it?”

“I lost my best employees and the customers have been slow to return.” Lance prepared the coffee maker.  

“You’re known for your delicious pastries and organic soups.”

“I was proud of my links with local farmers. We got healthy local produce and created good food.”

“It’s sad.”

“All I can offer you is a defrosted piece of cheesecake. I have a couple of slices here somewhere. There’ll be a cookie for Zach when he wakes up.”

“That would be great. How much do you need to get back on your feet again?”

“A lot.”

“What’s a lot? I belong to a book club. We could meet here. I know a lot of people in town. I could spread the word.”

“Ah. You’re Nancy Burroughs, the wife of Jeremy who was the mayor.”

“Yep. And he often mentioned your café. It’s all coming back to me. He loved coming here. He brought pastries home sometimes. They were always yummy.”


“Seriously, how much do you need? Do you have a business plan?”

“To be honest, I’ve got totally discouraged. I’ve sort of given up.”

“You can’t do that. How about I help you with a business plan and loan you what you need? Some of it would be a grant if you name the café ‘Jeremy’s’. I mean it. I’ve been looking for something in town that could have Jeremy’s name on it, and I’ve dithered for three years. Nothing seemed right. This is right. He was a successful businessman, as you know, and he loved this café. And he wouldn’t have wanted this to be an empty storefront on the main street, possibly becoming a tattoo parlour. Are you in? Will you do it?”



“I’m overwhelmed.” He rubbed a hand through his stubbly hair and smiled. It felt good to smile. “I’ll give it my best shot.”

“And no more trips to the edge of that cliff.”

He gazed into his coffee cup, his cheeks reddening. “But I’m going to help you find that pendant tomorrow. What time?”

“After we’ve developed the business plan.”


Vicky Earle Copyright 2024

It's a Fluke!

This is Fluke (closest to the camera) on his way to his gallop:

It's a Fluke is the horse nearest the camera.

His rider said he is strong and competitive and loves to train.

Here is a short video of him on the racetrack:

 I hope you enjoyed this post. Please share!

PS I'm writing Page 193 of Book 6 of my Meg Sheppard Mystery Series.

If you haven't read the first five, they are still available at Blue Heron Books and on Amazon. Thank you for your support and encouragement!



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1 commentaire

18 mars

What an uplifting story!

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