The River’s Secrets

rabelo boat

Rabelos in the Duoro river, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal – Credit: Diego Delso, published under license CC BY-SA

The wine is transported from the valley to Porto in tanker trucks these days, but Rodrigo still made his way down the Duoro on his father’s Rabelo boat loaded with barrels. Now that the tourists were gone, he felt a sense of peace. It was a quiet morning on the water. He lit a cigar, what his wife had called a “stinking weed,” and enjoyed its pleasing aroma.

“Ah, Matilde. You always failed to understand the simple pleasures of life. I am not an ambitious man nor do I desire to become one.”

He scanned the water fore and aft. The shoreline was empty. No one would see that he was about to lose one precious barrel, which would mysteriously sink to the bottom rather than float.

Matilde left him for another man, or so he would say. No one would find her body. The Duoro has many secrets.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 149.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Duoro Valley, Portugal. As usual, I did a bunch of Googling, and focused on the history of the Douro Valley and river and Rabelo boats.

I feel like I’m cheating slightly because I’ve written similar stories in the past, but that’s where the muse took me this morning. Oh, the maximum depth of the Duoro river is 131 feet, and let’s say that’s where my protagonist decides to lose his one special barrel.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit

The Virgin Wept


The Chapel at Pena

The Virgin wept to see the destruction of the monastery. First lightning and now the earthquake turned it to ruins. Thank God the chapel escaped harm so the monks and pilgrims still can come and pray.

“But what will happen to my poor monks now?”

“Please, you must return to your grave, sister. You are entertaining this terrible delusion and worse, perpetuating it among the living.”

“Who are you? How dare you speak to the Holy Virgin Mary that way.”

“Oh please. You are Maria Rosario. I’m your brother Filipe. We both died in a plague centuries ago. You were only thirteen when you perished. It has maddened you.”

“My brother…then I…”

“You keep manifesting yourself here and silly fools think you are their blessed Virgin. Stop it. Miriam, wife of Yosef couldn’t have been a virgin all her life as the Catholic legends state. Come. Return to your rest.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw weekly writing challenge. Today, Pegman takes us to Pena, Portugal via Google street maps. The idea is to use the image and location as an inspiration to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is exactly 150.

As usual, I consulted Google and Wikipedia and discovered Pena Palace has an interesting history. According to tradition, construction of the chapel began after an apparition of the Virgin Mary was seen. Pilgrimages to the site have been occurring since the Middle Ages.

Interestingly enough, about five months ago, I wrote a similar tale that was also critical of the system of Saints called The Fall of the Saints. I do consider myself a religious person but according to many Christian and Jewish authorities, it is highly unlikely that Miriam (Mary) remained a virgin all her life.

So I developed an alternate (fictional) explanation for such “visions”.

Oh, the monastery was damaged by lightning in the 18th century and  destroyed in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. Obviously it has since been rebuilt.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to

Julio the Explorer


© The Storyteller’s Abode

Stranded on a sandbar, Julio pointed to the rocks ahead of him and loudly declared, “I claim this land in the name of Philip the First, King of Portugal.”

Some said he was drunk. Some said he was mad. The children pointed at him and laughed, making up silly and insulting rhymes about Crazy Julio.

“I don’t care what you think. I claim this land. It is mine. King Philip will honor me.”

“King Philip has been dead for over four-hundred years.”

“To you maybe little one, but he lives for me.”

Julio jumped from his boat with a small Portuguese flag in his hand. “I shall plant this here in honor of Philip and Portugal.”

The children laughed and ran away. They’d like to have come back later to steal the flag, but it really was his estate. His family had owned the land in California for generations. Julio was neither drunk nor mad. He just liked to have fun and to entertain the children.

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for Week of July 25, 2017. The idea is to use the photo above to prompt the writing of a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long with 150 words being the ideal. My word count is 166.

To read more stories based on the prompt, go to