For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #136, where we write about the image below, from Czubachowski at

A picture containing grass, outdoor, nature, smoke

Description automatically generated

“Oh my god, John, this is too much. On a Sunday morning, right when we’re about to start getting ready for church, too.” In the background, the siren over on the roof of the school had just begun to wail.

“Don’t worry, Liv. It’ll be another drill. You heard Kennedy on the TV; we need to be prepared for them.” With the practise of a man who’d seen these drills four times already, he took another sip of his sweet, black coffee. Even Nikita Khrushchev would not disrupt his after-breakfast routine. You’d better coral the children up under the stairs, though, just in case.

This might take a while, thought Liv, as the children had been allowed to play outside, to give the grown-ups some quiet time after breakfast.

She approached the back door, and over the din of the siren, called out the children’s names. “Jason! Mary Ellen! Erin! Elizabeth! Come on in now, there’s another drill. Come on now, at the double! Ben! Jim Bob! John Boy! Come on, you too! I want you all in and to the shelter, right now.”

Their makeshift nuclear shelter was the pantry under the stairs. Liv figured it would give them as much protection as a paper bag, but it was all they had.

When the children were installed in the dark pantry, John Sr announced “Roll Call” to ensure that they were all present. Each called out their name, in sequence, to John’s satisfaction, until the last voice. Silence. John cocked his eyebrows. “John Boy?” No answer. His eyes scanned the children. No sign. He saw nothing of Blue, the family’s Jack Russell terrier, either. He looked up at Liv.

“Where is that boy? Didn’t you call him in? I’d better go look for him.” As John rose to leave the shelter, he felt a hand grasp his leg.

“Be careful, John. We’re coming up to four minutes since the alarm started. Hadn’t you better wait a moment before you go looking for him? Just in case?”


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