Into the Forest (a story in 50 words)

 

 

Trees like a beating heart.

Trees like a beating heart.

Life was noisy.

Snow fell, and the woods beckoned —

It’s quiet here.  Come in.

Sure-footed, she blazoned forth.

Light slanted through the trees like a promise,

A golden haze whispered, Stay.

Standing beside three trees, red as beating hearts

She found a home inside herself.

Quiet to last a lifetime.

 

n.b.  The photo came first.  I wanted to see whether, not only could I write a story in exactly 50 words, but could I create that story inspired by the photo.  I like a challenge.  Thanks to the WordPress editors for this one.  It took me nearly a week to do it.  Hemingway, I am not.

 

 

 

 

 

Who do I think I am?

Like my Family Tree - old, propped up, but still growing strong.

Like my Family Tree – old, propped up, but still growing strong.

My maternal grandmother was full-blooded Mohawk and a devout Catholic.  She wanted to be a nun.  On her way to that vocation she met my grandfather, a tall, handsome white man who was also a state trooper trying to catch her mother in the act of selling whiskey.  It was Prohibition, and Agnes, my great-grandmother owned a speakeasy.  My grandparents fell in love, got married, and my grandfather gave up being a trooper to join his new mother-in-law’s business.  Not exactly a propitious union.  Nevertheless, it produced three daughters.  Only my mother, the youngest, survived childhood.  I was named Mary for that grandmother, though I never got to meet her.  She died when my mother was three.

My paternal grandmother went without a name for weeks after she was born.  My great-grandmother, having recently lost an infant son, wanted to wait and see if this baby survived before handing out a name.  Finally, one of great-grandma’s sisters looked down at my poor, swaddled grandmother and said she looked like a little pearl.  And that’s the name they slapped on the birth certificate.  No middle name, just Pearl and her surname, which was Crawford.  It embarrassed my grandmother, not having a middle name.  When she married she began using the initial from her surname as part of her signature, to legitimize the oddball she always felt she was, as though just the initial of a pretend middle name would make her just like everyone else.  It didn’t, and she wasn’t.  And that was okay by me.

I’ve never looked farther than three generations behind me.  I know nothing besides a handful of family stories that may or may not be true.  I might be related to Franklin Pierce, 14th President of the United Sates.  I might be related to Daniel Webster, statesman and Massachusetts senator.  There might still be a castle in England somewhere with a Stanfield still living in it.  I don’t have a pedigree to tout.  I know that among the generations whose lives I’ve been told something about, most came from England, Scotland, Ireland, and one at least, from France.  Or, like my namesake grandmother’s side of the family, they were already here.

I think a lot about family, about where I come from, and who I am.  When I was about seven or eight, I would stare in a mirror and experience a complete disconnect with the image looking back at me.  Who was that person, I used to wonder?  The face, the stuff behind the face?  Was I real?  I had no clue. (What a strange child I must have been.) When I got a little older I searched the faces of my parents and siblings for  family resemblances, something that would make me feel like I belonged, but  there was such a grab-bag selection of this nose with that jaw and those teeth or eyes, hairlines, cheekbones, hand and foot size that not one of us looked much like the other.  (Later my siblings and I would joke about the possibility of a milkman or two being thrown into the mix.  Except that we bought our milk at the store.)  It still amazes me when I run across families whose members look so remarkably alike that there’s never any question of relatedness.

Like my grandmother, I have also felt like an oddball.  Within my immediate family I used to think I could have been a changeling left on the doorstep by trolls. The feeling has abated somewhat in recent years.  But, sometimes I still feel a little out of sync with the people around me.  What I’m passionate about, what I think about, what I like and don’t like, what I dream.

And I think about the list of ingredients that went into the soup that made me:

A grandmother who thought she’d be wedded to Christ, but chose marriage to another man instead.  She left behind a daughter who was raised by so many other people it took her eighty years to find a place where she feels like she belongs.

Another grandmother who, for want of a middle name, thought herself so much less than she actually was.

Bootleggers, gamblers, drinkers, farmers, a failed blacksmith who played the fiddle, house painters, steel workers, bookworms, librarians – dreamers, all.

And something else.  I look back and see more than just the sum of what they did with their lives.  I look back and see qualities like tenacity, hope, and a desire to be better and farther than from where they began.  All those things are good in soup.

DNA is like a magic show.  I know that sleight of hand is involved, that the trick isn’t really magic, and sometimes I even know how the trick is done.  But it’s still strange and thrilling to observe.  How do geese know to fly south?  How did they know that there was a “south” in the first place?  There are all these questions I have.  In my next life, I think that I’ll study genetics.

Or maybe I’ll just learn to sing.

This post brought to you by the DP Weekly Writing Challenge.

Alice Falls

Kipling's pond pm~The end of Alice~

The pond was deeper than she expected.  Colder, too.  She felt as though she was sliding, sinking, falling down down down to the bottom — wherever that was.  A sudden flash of memory swam by — Dr. Seuss and McElligott’s Pool.  A kid with a fishing pole and a bottomless pit of water that ends up in an ocean somewhere.

Panic set in as it is wont to do when a person is drowning.  Her mind stopped making sense.  Instead, it fired a final desperate thought: This was how the story ends?  Really?

Bummer.

~Alice’s Parents~

“It’s so quiet without our girl,” her father said.

“It’s quiet because Alice was such a clumsy child, always bumping into things.  A walking, breathing cartoon of ungainly girlhood, she was.  Never had her mind on what she was doing.”

“Not true.  Not true at all”, said Alice’s father. “Alice is a lovely girl.  In another story she might have been a dancer.  We could have called her Clara.”

A slender young man strode into the library.  “Clara?  Who’s Clara?”

“Pay no attention to the old coot,” Alice’s mother replied.  “I haven’t a clue what he’s on about.  He’s a crackpot.”

“Where’s Alice?” the man asked.

“Alice doesn’t live here anymore.  She’s moved.”

Alice’s boyfriend was stunned.

“Can you blame her?” Alice’s father said to his wife.  “You were always at her about something — don’t drink this, don’t eat that, put the key back where you found it – nag, nag, nag.  No wonder she left.”

“Are you saying, it’s my fault?”

“Does a donkey bray?”

The ex-boyfriend turned on his heel and walked out without a word.

The bickering continued.  It never stopped.

~Alice makes up her mind~

Alice had never been able to settle.  No matter where she traveled, how many marvels she discovered, it was never enough, because there was always one irritation that she could not shake.  Herself.

Good, God, she was annoying.  Chasing after some elusive thing.

She knew well enough what she didn’t want: Children; factory work; city living; an overbearing husband (or an even-tempered one for that matter, nope, no husband at all, chalk it up to her parent’s lousy marriage for scaring her off that one).  The list grew longer the older she got.  Her problem was she couldn’t decide what it was she did want.

Until now.

Boxes were still stacked in the foyer of the cottage.  Her cottage.  Her new home. Before she began the task of unpacking, she’d gone to a local market and picked up items for a picnic lunch. Sandwich, chips, some fruit, and a bottle of wine.

It was the pond that sold her.  The water lilies spread like a cape over the surface, fish flicking orange tails just below the surface.  She hadn’t thought of having a pond until she saw this one.  And then, when she did, she knew it’s what she wanted all along.

She had one glass of wine.  That’s all.  Something jumped in the water, and it startled her.  She dropped her glass and it broke, cutting her knuckle.  Then she accidentally knocked over the bottle and the rest of the wine poured out onto the grass as the bottle rolled the few feet and plopped into the pond.

“Dammit.”

She figured she’d kill two birds with one stone.  Retrieve the bottle and wash the blood off her finger at the same time.  She thought about a lot of things in her last few minutes.  Like how much she was going to enjoy living here.  She might even invite her parents for a visit, if they were well enough to make the trip.  Definitely put in a garden around the pond.

She could do anything she wanted now.  After all, she had lots of years ahead of her yet, didn’t she?

 

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n.b.  The object of this DP Weekly Writing Challenge was to begin a story with the end.  It sounded like fun.  It was fun to figure out.  I hope you like it.