Caption/Fiction Contest: Ends August 3rd

Write a caption (one to several sentences) or a short story (under 1000 words) about this painting and and the best entry will win the watercolor.

Best is Yet to Come 40x30 inches oil on linen

watercolor on Rives BFK 11"x8.5"
This is based on the The Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT, is a projective measure intended to evaluate a person's patterns of thought, attitudes, observational capacity, and emotional responses to ambiguous test materials. In the case of the TAT, the ambiguous materials consist of a set of cards that portray human figures in a variety of settings and situations. The subject is asked to tell the examiner a story about each card that includes the following elements: the event shown in the picture; what has led up to it; what the characters in the picture are feeling and thinking; and the outcome of the event. 
So watch out what you write or maybe someone will think you're nuts!

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"Spirit in the Sky" by Marlin Bressi
Lt. Benjamin Brooks took one final loving glimpse at his de Havilland DH-4 before softly closing the hangar door and retiring to his suite at the Roosevelt Hotel. Lt. Brooks, who served four unspectacular years in Britain's Royal Air Force, felt for the first time in his life that he was on the cusp of achieving something spectacular. For in the morning, Benjamin would be chasing the biggest prize in aviation; the Orteig Prize, a $25,000.00 paycheck for the first aviator to fly from New York to Paris.
It was a feat that had been unaccomplished since 1919, when New York millionaire Raymond Orteig first announced the prize. Lt. Brooks, however, felt that it was his destiny to become the first person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic. After all, aviation was in his blood. His father, Warren "Ace" Brooks, was a hero of sorts during the First World War, having pioneered the use of the zeppelin in bombing raids for the Royal Flying Corps. Even though his father met his demise at the hands of the dreaded German Jagdgschwader over France, Lt. Brooks refused to give up flying. Unfortunately, the death of his father led Benjamin to be quite superstitious.
Benjamin's first attempt at the Orteig Prize was thwarted one year earlier in 1926, when a spiritualist sent him a letter pleading for him to reconsider his mission, stating that she had received a "warning from beyond". Lt. Brooks, after some deliberation, abandoned his chase of the prize. He would not be thwarted this year, he kept telling himself. Gypsies and fortunetellers be damned! Only the very voice of God would prevent him from climbing into his de Havilland DH-4 and setting sail across the sky.
Inside his suite at the Roosevelt, the silence of night was shattered by the ringing of a telephone. The weary aviator grumbled, knowing that it was probably just another well-wisher. Before Lt. Brooks had an opportunity to speak, an eerie disjointed voice moaned through the receiver. Benjamin thought it sounded like a man speaking into the whirling blades of an electric fan.
"Who is this?" demanded Lt. Brooks.
"Ace," hissed the mysterious voice. "Your father."
"That's absurd," replied Benjamin. His father had been dead since 1918. Aware that the call was probably coming from a prankster, he decided to ask the caller where he was calling from.
"Somewhere," replied the night caller. "Somewhere left of heaven."
Maybe that was just a lucky guess, thought Benjamin. But how would an American know about a deceased and relatively obscure WWI British airman?
"Ben," pleaded the voice. "Do not fly tomorrow. The sky will hurl you back to earth in a million fiery pieces."
Now Ben was almost certain that he had a prankster on the end of the line. Rather than hang up the phone, he decided to ask a question that only an experienced aviator, or his father himself, would know the answer to. "If you are my father, then tell me what I'm doing in an outdated war-era de Havilland. She's a..."
"A two-seated bi-plane. With a 380-horsepower Rolls-Royce engine," the voice interrupted. "You chose the DH-4 because it was the same plane I had flown in the war. When you were a young lad, I would always tell you what a magnificent machine the DH-4 was."
"True. But the American version..."
"The American version of the DH-4 was built with a 400-horsepower Liberty L-12 engine."
"That's remarkable!" exclaimed Benjamin. "How? How could you possibly know that? The Americans didn't have their own DH-4 until..."
"Two months after I died. I told you that it was me, Benjamin."
"Why does your voice sound so strange?"
"It takes an enormous amount of energy to come back to the material plane," explained Ace. "Which is why so few of us are able to speak to the living. But it is possible for us to come back in order to give a warning to loved ones."
"Dad, what is heaven like?" asked the mystified young aviator.
"Remember the way you felt the first time your plane left the ground? Heaven feels like that, all of the time. Some people think flying is a way to play God. But the truth is that man flies in order to feel closer to God."
"Then why should I fear death?" asked Benjamin. "Why not fly tomorrow?"
"Benjamin," explained Ace, "A man should not fear death, but a man must not be in a rush to embrace it, either. The Orteig Prize has never been won since 1919, so what harm will it do to wait one more day? Do you not hear the rain outside your window? Wait until Saturday, and the storm shall pass."
"As you wish, father," replied Benjamin.
The voice explained that since his work was done, he had to return to the spiritual realm. He wished his son well, and said that he was proud of him. Lt. Brooks returned the phone to its cradle and quickly drifted off to sleep.
Inside of a gray airplane hangar a few miles away, a cord was pulled from the wall socket and an electric fan's blades whirled to a stop. "You sonuvabitch!" laughed a man in a yellow raincoat. "I can't believe you pulled it off. He really is a superstitious fool, isn't he? With Brooks out of the way, that twenty-five grand is as good as ours."
"Your plane is finally ready to go," said a grease-stained mechanic, who pointed a wrench in the direction of the man's aircraft, a sleek new monoplane with the name Spirit of St. Louis emblazoned on the nose. Mr. Lindbergh stood up, walked over to the hangar door and gazed upon the wakening dawn peeking over the horizon through the quickly dissipating morning drizzle. He could tell that it was going to be a wonderful day.

The Best Is Yet To Come
Helen Chapman

      'Can't you take the boat, Hans?'
      Hans Hugo Witt sighed deeply. Here he was, a major in the Luftwaffe, and had to explain to his wife why he was flying. He folded his uniform jacket carefully and placed it in his portmanteau.  'Anna, you know better. I flew all during the last war and never got a scratch. Why do you worry about me boarding that monster of a flying ship now?'
      Anna Witt stared out the second story window, and rubbed her hands over her burgeoning belly. She was just beginning to show in her fourth month. It wouldn't be long before she would be confined to the house. This was the time she wanted her husband with her.  'I'm worried, Hans. I look at that giant balloon and wonder how it stays up. And you will only be a passenger. At least during the war, you were in charge. I trust your skills. I don't know the captain on that ship.'
      He laughed. 'Anna my love, Captain Ernst Lehman himself is in charge of this ship.  Remember Ernst? I served under him for three years. He was at our wedding. You danced with him.'
      'Captain Lehman? Really?'  She turned to face him and he saw her wipe a tear quickly from her cheek.
      Hans wrapped his arms around her and held her gently. 'Yes. Really.  If I sail, it will take me a week to ten days to make the crossing each way. I have to meet with that American...what's his name...Prescott Bush. He's connected to several corporations, and we need what his companies control.  Two days to Lakehurst, three days in meetings, then two days home. If it took the boat, I'd be a month or more getting home.'
      He felt her sob once against his chest before she drew away.
      Anna looked up at him and smiled a watery smile. Suddenly, she was a bundle of energy. 'Well then, we'd best get you packed.' She hurried about, picking up socks and underwear and putting them in his case. 'We've only got an hour to get you to the airfield.'
      They rode to the airfield in the back of  Witt's staff car. The Mercedes hummed along the road,  their driver swerving around men riding bicycles. They arrived at Frankfort am Main with fifteen minutes to spare.
      Hans opened the door himself and stepped out holding his case. He offered his hand to Anna. Even though the May air was warm, it was windy enough to justify her wearing her long woolen coat.  She walked with him across the airfield until they reached the mooring post. The ship was still aloft, the grounds crew working to haul it down to allow boarding.
      Anna fussed with Hans' jacket, making sure he wore the blue enamel lapel pin that designated him as a passenger aboard the mighty airship. She was trying very hard to be strong, not to show how worried she really was.
      He didn't give her a chance to say anything. Hans grabbed her and leaned her back, kissing her right there in the middle of the grassy field, in front of the grounds crew, flight crew, God and everybody. When he released her, she could barely catch her breath.  He stroked her cheek. 'I'll be home in a week.
      Three days later, Anna was sitting in her parlor, dunking a biscuit in her coffee. The radio was tuned to a station that usually played dance music. An announcer broke in.  That was never a good sign. Something about a broadcast from America.
      ' It's practically standing still now. They've dropped ropes out of the nose of the ship, and they've been taken a hold of down on the field by a number of men. It's starting to rain again; it's*¥the rain had slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it just, just enough to keep it from *¥ It burst into flames! It burst into flames, and it's falling, it's crashing! Watch it! Watch it, folks! Get out of the way! Get out of the way! Get this, Charlie! Get this, Charlie! It's fire*¥and it's crashing! It's crashing terrible! Oh, my, get out of the way, please! It's burning and bursting into flames, and the*¥and it's falling on the mooring-mast and all the folks agree that this is terrible, this is the worst of the worst catastrophes in the world. [Indeciperable word(s)] It's–it's–it's the flames, [indecipherable, possibly the word "climbing"] oh, four- or five-hundred feet into the sky and it ... it's a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It's smoke, and it's flames now ... and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring-mast. Oh, the humanity...' 
      Anna wasn't sure what exactly was going on, but she made out a few of the words, like flame and crash. It sounded horrific. The announcer came back on and translated what was being said. Oh, my God! That was the Hindenburg!  The ship her Hans had flown away on just three days ago.  She screamed when someone knocked on the door.
      She ran to the door, and saw a young man dressed in the close fitting uniform of a messenger. He handed her a telegram and turned to ride off.
      Anna sat heavily in her chair. She knew what was in this envelope. She didn't want to look at it. If she didn't look, it couldn't be real, could it? She stared at the onionskin paper, willing it to be anything else. Finally, she reached for the knife on her tray and slit the flap.

      note: the quote from the Hindenburg broadcast is the original text from Herbert Morrison of WLS Radio Chicago. On information and belief, this broadcast is now in the public domain. No copyright infringement is intended.


  1. Write a caption (one to several sentences) or a short story (under 1000 words) about this painting and and the best entry will win the watercolor.

  2. Love and Art are timeless--this is the theme of this painting and drawing. It shows an old couple walking away as if to show that they are in the past, and their lives have been lived happily and with love. Above the old couple, a blimp or airship is sailing in the opposite direction, making it soar into the future--the NOW, or present. In the present, we see a young vibrant couple locked in a passionate embrace. Oddly enough, as young and NOW as this couple is, their clothing is very 1940's. It makes one think of the Hindenberg disaster--of something going up in flames...and flames, a passionate affair between a couple so perfectly suited for one another...a couple who may spend their lives together and leave this world arm in arm just like the old couple before them.

  3. Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei Presents:
    (The German Zeppelin Transport Company)
    The Hindenburg: "Taking you around the world and bringing you home safe and sound."

  4. I will read these by Monday! I'm going in for surgery on both my feet so I will be in bed for a week. No biggy just getting spurs removed so I may be slow in responding.

  5. I'm now recovered enough from the painkillers to think and so here's my announcement.

    You might be surprised by this but I actually did not even think at all about the Hindenburg when I was painting this. So I was really surprised that so many of the captions and stories were about this great air disaster. There was even a movie about it when I was a kid! So go figure. Even though the majority of entries dealt with this theme I was pretty surprised by them.

    I knew what was coming throughout Helen Chapman’s story and yet it still satisfied. One part historical fiction one part tragedy it packed a wallop at the end!

    Not exactly about the Hindenburg and a bit more of a tale dealing with airplanes, I still liked Marlin Bressi’s revisionist history. There was a skit on Saturday Night Live in which a historian asked, “What if Napoleon had a B52?” "Spirit in the Sky" by Marlin Bressi has a similar wry sense of humor about it.

    Not that it has been the criteria in the past, but I think I chose Stephen D. Rogers’ short caption "To love is to time travel." I liked Rogers’ the best because of it’s sentiment. Yes, I’m sentimental.

    When I painted the “Best is yet to Come,” I was actually thinking about my relationship with my wife and how it lifts me up. In a way I had a much more specific fantasy of what each of the pictures elements meant. For me it was a sort of metaphorical portrait of how I feel about my wife and I: A time lapse image of a loving couple as both young and old and the dirigible was a kind of balloon that represents how love lifts us.