I was challenged by my local writer's group to write a flash fiction story for the picture shown. Below is my offering

The Girl. the Dog, and the Thunder

Boscoe gave a short, loud bark like an invitation to come out and play. With a squeal of delight, Aimee pressed her face and hands against the back storm door. She stomped her feet as Boscoe raced across their yard, back and forth, up and down, an ever-moving golden blur. Aimee loved her family’s doggy, so cute with his long ears flopping behind him.  Copper Spammel she whispered. That’s what Mommy called him.  

She glanced over her shoulder to see her mom’s reaction, but Mommy wasn’t there. As she looked around, Aimee heard the door to the bathroom closet knock against the wall, followed by the thuds of several objects hitting the floor.  

“Mo-o-m-my!” she called.  

“Crap!”  Mommy sounded mad. A slight pause. “I’ll  be there in a minute, Aimee!”  

Boscoe barked again, calling for Aimee’s attention. He was crouched down just behind his pink chewy-ball, mouth wide open, tongue hanging out. His back legs were straight up and stiff, ready to take off if only someone could throw his favorite toy. Aimee squealed again, and pressed against the glass. This time her wrist hit the latch and to her surprise, the door swung slightly forward. She wobbled for a moment, then found her footing.  

Another bark as Boscoe nudged the ball with his nose.  

Aimee laughed at the dog and pushed the storm door open, then walked out onto the landing. Holding the wooden rail, she stepped down with one leg, then brought her other foot next to it. She did this once more, then once again, and by the next step was standing in the grass between the house and the pool.  

Boscoe called to her. Come play with me! he barked.  

Aimee giggled. A raindrop touched her arm as she headed toward him. A moment later another drop gave her a wet kiss on the cheek. Should she stop? The sky was cloudy, but it wasn’t really raining. Not yet.  

Boscoe leaped in the air, then ran around in a tight circle as Aimee reached the ball and picked it up. He gave an excited woof! and poised to fetch it.  

Aimee pulled her arm back like she’d seen her older sister do, then hurled the pink ball as hard as she could. Instead of going straight across the yard, the ball sailed nearly sideways toward the pool. It curved up into the air, then plopped right down in the water.  

Oh, boogers! Aimee twisted her eyebrows into a knot. A raindrop landed right on the end of her nose, then another on her chin. Boscoe ran over to the pool and stood, his front legs leaning against the grey wall. His tongue flapped as he eyed the top edge. Get it! he barked.  

“Crap! I there in minute, Boccoe!” Aimee tilted her head as she looked at the pool ladder. The gate was open. Jessie must’a forgot it when she went to dance prakkis. Aimee pulled on her lip as she nibbled an idea. She’d walked up stairs before. She could prob’ly do this. Boscoe warbled. He seemed to agree.  

Aimee made her way over to the ladder and put her leg on the step. Gripping the rail she brought her other foot up. That wasn’t too hard. Aimee put her foot on the next step and pushed up. She wobbled for a moment, but got her other foot on it as well.  

A twinge. Aimee looked around from her new height. Would Mommy be mad? She glanced over her shoulder at the back storm door. Two more droplets on her head grabbed her attention. It would be raining soon.  

Boscoe let out a frustrated yelp. Hurry up! he said.  

“I there in minute, Boccoe!” She climbed the next step, then the next. It was a little bit scary, but a smile crept across her face. She was close to the top!  

As she got to the ledge, the ball was nearly in front of her. The little pink toy bobbled closer as the wind blew circles across the water. She reached out with one hand and held the rail with the other. She could almost touch the prize. She stretched her arm farther. “C’m here, ball!”  

BOOM!! Light flashed as the big noise from the sky shook everything around her. Aimee jolted. She cried aloud at the scary sound, teetering as she lost her balance.  

Her hand let go of the rail.  

Sandy wiped the towel around her fingers one final time and hung it on the hook in the bathroom. Jessie had left the top off the plastic box again and a horde of little bath balls had scattered across the floor when it fell. One of them had even squished under Sandy’s foot. It seemed like a picture of Sandy's chaotic, messy life. Sometimes she felt like such a failure, worthless and unwanted, especially after Landon had left her and the girls for no apparent reason. On days like today, she wished she could simply curl up under a blanket and disappear. 

Sandy pushed those thoughts out of her mind. Too much to do to dwell on regrets. Fortunately she’d gotten the mess cleaned up before the thunder struck, but now she’d have to get the windows shut before the rain hit. She rounded the corner from the hall into the kitchen. Drops already dotted the storm door, which…was open? She could swear she’d closed it before she’d left the room.  

She turned a circle and surveyed the kitchen. “Aimee?” When no one answered she called again.  

A bark. Boscoe stood in the back yard facing the house. Behind him the pool waters sloshed against the top ledge. An icy chill ran from her head down to her toes. As she reached the open door a flash of fingers slipped up from the water’s surface, then disappeared.  

“AIMEE!!” she screamed. Terror clenched her gut as Sandy plowed the door outward and leaped down the steps. No, no, no! Please God, NO!  

“Aimee!” Sandy tore across the yard, her heart slamming in her chest, her mind fixed on one single thought, to save her little girl. A hundred drops of rain pelted her as she ran, while the wind moaned an anguished dirge of doom, pummeling her and taunting her.  

Sandy reached the ladder quickly, pushing against the nightmarish fear that she was already too late. Her foot slipped off the first, slick step and she banged her knee against its edge. Ignoring the pain, she recovered. “Aimee hang on! I’m almost there!”  

Boscoe barked his urgent pleas.  Help her, Sandy!  

As Sandy reached the top she could see the image of her little girl beneath the surface. Still moving! Without pausing to catch her breath, Sandy dove into the waters. Her arms found her young child’s waist and she lifted her up above the waves. It seemed to take forever to slog through the ten feet of distance to the ladder. As she made it to the small ledge, she laid Aimee on her side. The little girl coughed and gagged for several minutes while the storm swirled around them. Then the symptoms waned even as the cloudburst finally passed.  

“Mommy?” Her precious daughter knit her brows as she stared into her mother’s eyes.  

“Yes, Aimee?”  

She drew a long, strong breath and held it for a moment. "Thank you." 

Wiping Aimee's wet hair from her face, Sandy kissed her forehead. 

Aimee's eyes fell. “I sorry, Mommy.”  

Sandy gently laid her hand across Aimee’s cheek. “I’m sorry too, sweetheart.”  

The memory of her mother’s face in that moment was still vivid as Aimee placed her hands on the podium in Hadley County Hall nearly two decades later. Her eyes traced the calligraphy at the top the document, Lifeguard of the Year, 2024.  

“I’m so grateful for this award,” Aimee said. “But I need to take a moment to thank my mother, for rescuing me in our own swimming pool when I was just a tyke. And while that day was certainly a massive influence in my decision to become a lifeguard, she has saved my life a thousand other ways since then, for which I will forever be grateful. You are priceless Mom, and I love you!”  

Sandy smiled and blew her a subtle kiss. Boscoe just raised his old, grayed head as he lay beside Sandy’s chair and woofed.