Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found Shorts Stories

The Cabin

Here is a third short story based on the prompt, “Inheritance”. Comment and let me know if you’ve inherited something that changed your understanding of your family history.

“What am I supposed to do with that?” The lawyer hands me a set of keys and the title to this old, lonely cabin.

“Well, it’s up to you. Keep it. Sell it. The will doesn’t specify what you should do.” The lawyer checks his watch, then his phone, then flips out his own shiny Mercedes key.

“Your grandparents wanted you to have it, that’s all I know.” I’m polite enough to know when to excuse someone who’s ready to leave.

“Okay, then. Thank you very much. I’ll go in and look around.” I offer my hand, he shakes it gratefully and hurries toward his getaway vehicle.

Keys in hand, I inhale and prepare to unlock the front door, then exhale and look around. I had been too distracted by the lawyer’s rushing of papers and signatures that I hadn’t taken in the area.

Nestled in the crook of a mountain’s arm, hills surround the entire property. Pine trees stand tall and proud on the slopes, quaking aspens whisper in delight as a breeze cools the air. I hear a creek minding its own business out behind the cabin. While birds are the only animals I can hear, I’m certain there must be moose and deer nearby as well.

Two hours from the nearest city and 45 minutes from the nearest gas station, this property belongs to nature as much as it did to my grandparents. They lived here for 30 years. After their kids had grown and had kids of their own, my grandparents went “off grid” as they say. Growing up, no one seemed to understand why they’d recoiled from society and nested together in the mountains.

“They don’t even like each other.” I heard from my dad, and my aunt, and my cousins. We tried visiting, but the air dripped with passive-aggressive oil, making each effort at conversation slippery and dangerous. It wasn’t long until the grown kids stopped visiting and the grandkids didn’t think to.

I remember one time as a small girl, I was putting together a puzzle at the handmade kitchen table while my parents went to the gas station for missing charcoal – it was barbecue season, after all. Grandma brought me a cup of chocolate milk, “Here you go, sweetie. Some brain food for your puzzle.” Delighted, I looked up at her and said, “Thank you!”

She replied, “You’re welcome.”

Then, glanced at Grandpa and said, “See, even a little girl knows how to say, ‘Thank you’.”

He rolled his eyes and sat down at the table with me. He smiled and said, “Can I join you?” His gray eyes were the most grandpa-esque you can image, soft and warm. He did that puzzle with me for a solid hour while we waited for the charcoal. He let me gab and talk about little girl things. I remember feeling surprised that he would find me so interesting. When my parents returned, I gave him a hug and we went outside for the barbecue. But he stopped and hollered at Grandma, “See! She likes having me around! I’m not so bad!”

I haven’t thought of that visit in 20 years, but standing on this porch is making me feel 10 years old again. They were always so nice to me, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t like each other. After 9 years of marriage, I’m now starting to understand.

I fill my lungs with mountain air and prepare to step back in time. I test the doorknob; of course, it isn’t locked. A gust of cedar-infused air greets me as the door swings open.

The small sitting room waits for guests on the left-hand side. On the right side, the even smaller kitchen waits to provide a family meal. The wooden staircase divides the two rooms and ascends to a bedroom loft. I step inside and place my left hand on the railing, I absentmindedly trace a notch in the wood before taking another step. Then, I remember. I’m tracing initials in the wood.

I look down and see an S, woven together with an H, set over the year 1980. Sam and Heather, they finished building this cabin in 1980. They must have at least liked each other then. Grandpa thought enough of Grandma to entwine their names together forever. I wonder if she stood in this spot, tracing the letters before climbing to bed every night. I imagine Grandpa’s gray eyes beaming toward Grandma, “Look here Heather. Here’s our initials.” Maybe she smiled and said, “That’s wonderful Sam.” Or, maybe she complained, “Oh, Sam. Who’s going to want our initials there after we die?”

I climb to the loft and looked around the room. At least my “off grid” grandparents didn’t have too many belongings I’d have to sort. They’d taken care of their junk long ago. Antiques were gifted long before the will was needed, photos were sent away to be digitized for anyone who cared. Everything here was essential.

Almost everything.

Under the bed skirt, a small wooden box peeks out at me. Perhaps it straightened its posture and stuck its nose out when I walked in, waiting to be noticed. I walk toward it, bend down and pull it into my arms.

This must be Grandma’s side of the bed. Her silk pillow looks untouched, as if she had made the bed assuming there company would be here soon and heaven forbid they see a mussed bed. I fold my legs and prepare to open the box.

Would it be old jewellery? A diary? There isn’t a lock on it, so perhaps it’s not exactly special. I lift the latch with my thumb and peer inside.

There are little wooden carvings in there, hand-painted and immaculate, so obviously cherished. I pull one out, it looks like my dad. I pull out another, it resembles my aunt. And still another looks like me. Grandpa had carved each and every one of his children and grandchildren, wrote their birth year on the bottom and gave them to my grandmother.

Surely, placing them in a cedar box, also crafted by her husband, meant she loved his handiwork. And, hopefully him as well?

I sit up and glance out the window above the bed. Did the sky bear witness to our comings and goings? Did it know our secrets? While I muse about the nature of nature, another box catches my eye.

This one is sitting out in the open, on Grandpa’s side table. I heave myself up and carry Grandma’s box with me around the bed and over to the side where Grandpa slept for so many years. I assume his will be empty. He might have been kind, but was he the sentimental type? I settle myself down onto the bed and nestle Grandma’s box nearby.

I lift Grandpa’s box up and open the lid. Inside are scraps of papers, maybe 50 of them. The writing isn’t Grandpa’s, it’s hers.

“March 3, 1982 – Thank you for finishing the deck.”

“June 9, 1993 – Dinner was wonderful.”

“January 1, 2006 – Happy New Year.”

I pivot to my knees and dump the box of notes onto the bed. Who knows how long I’ll be here, but I’m reading every last one of them.

I lift the final note, “May 9, 1994 – Happy birthday” and place it in its chronological home on the bed. Her last note was from 16 years ago. But, he kept them. He wanted them. Maybe, he loved her too.

Maybe they forgot how to say it. Maybe they spoke in different languages.

I now know how that feels, when your common language devolves into two foreign tongues.

So, in addition to the cabin, I’ve inherited a love story.

What am I supposed to do with that?

Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found Shorts Stories

She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

Here’s another short story. This month the prompt was “flowers” for 1800 words. They say a sad/heavy ending will always get more praise than a happy one. What do you think?

“She loves me. She loves me not.” Caleb chanted the mantra, plucking one petal at a time. If only the final petal would declare, “She loves me!” After three she-loves-me-not’s and two she-loves-me’s, Caleb used all the strength of his eight-year-old arm and threw the last stem back to the ground. The stem sauntered down with the same dignity as if she chose to glide to the ground herself. Caleb scratched his head and wondered if the children’s rhyme was to be trusted.

He looked around the open field for another flower when he heard footsteps and looked over his shoulder to see Pa walking toward him. “What you doin’ son?” he asked.

Caleb glanced toward his pile of disappointing flowers and scuffed his toe into the ground. “I was plucking petals to figure out if Mary May loves me or not.”

Pa’s eyes crinkled when he smiled. “Oh, and what did the flowers tell you?”

Caleb shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “Not much. Sometimes she loves me and sometimes she doesn’t.”

“Well, that can happen from time to time.” Father and son stood side-by-side, looking at the field of wild flowers without seeing it. Caleb wondered how in the world he could figure out if Mary May loved him. Pa wondered when the boy became such a romantic. He knew a girl loved flowers, that’s how he got Ma to go court him. He supposed a little childhood love couldn’t hurt nothing.

Pa lifted his head and snapped his fingers, “Hey! I got an idea. Why don’t you make a bouquet and ask Mary May herself if she loves you? Maybe the flowers don’t know how she feels, but she could tell you.”

Caleb looked up at his pa and grew an inch taller. His eyes widened and he gasped, “Yeah, Pa! Great idea!”

He ran two steps then halted. Caleb turned to his pa, “I better step careful. I can’t be giving Mary May any broken flowers.”

Pa laughed, he’d never heard the word “careful” come from Caleb’s lips. “Okay son, I’ll leave you to it. If you need anything, I’ll be feedin’ the horses.”

Pa turned toward the barn feeling proud that could help his little boy find love.

Caleb tiptoed into the open field. He stopped, folded his arms, and scanned the field the way he’d seen surveyors do, except they had fancy tools to help them divide and map the land.

Plotting his path he whispered, “Yes, I’ll bring her the flowers and ask her myself”. The flowers bowed in reply as a breeze kissed the earth.

With the day stretching out before him, Caleb figured he had all the time in the world. His belly was full of breakfast, the sun decorated herself with a dainty cloud, and baby blue eyes stretched their petals open, embracing the morning warmth. Caleb crept through the field selecting only the choicest of flowers for Mary May. He knelt in the grass, squeezed his left eye and widened his right eye to inspect the next potential member of his bouquet. Any cut, fold or stain meant the little flower would be passed over today. Caleb swept from one end of the field to the other as the bouquet in his hand grew.

The sun removed her cloud and bathed in the blue sky at noon, then began her western descent. Caleb looked at the growing bouquet and smiled with satisfaction. But, wait a darn minute. The first white daisy he had picked was now drooping, and — was that a broken petal? He chided himself to be more careful and he set to finding a replacement.

Caleb backtracked through the field and found a daisy who had escaped his noticed the first time around. He whispered his gratitude to the wilted blossom. With his right hand, he laid her to rest in the shade of her sisters while his left hand held the bouquet high in the air. He didn’t want the poor daisy’s death to scare the rest of his bouquet.

Caleb’s ears perked up and he turned his head. The lunch bell rang out fast and urgent. Ma called, “Caleb, time to eat!”

Yesterday and every day before, Caleb had broken into a sprint toward the house when the lunch bell had clanged. Today, Caleb looked from the house, to his flowered hand, back to the house. His knees wobbled with energy ready to burst through his feet. His legs didn’t understand why they were standing still, the lunch bell was ringing after all. Instead of launching into a sprint, Caleb nestled the bouquet into his arms and walked toward his ma’s voice. As Caleb stepped toward the house, he realized he’d never seen a grown up run. Does love make you walk?

With so much time on his hands between the field and the house, Caleb thought about Mary May. She had the curliest blonde hair in school, and there were a whole 25 kids there now. Caleb never tugged on her pretty ringlets like the other boys. He was too afraid he’d pull one straight and it wouldn’t curl up again, plus she never laughed when the other boys pulled her curls.

Mary May didn’t have the prettiest dresses in school, but she didn’t need them with her smile. Caleb only had to glimpse her upturned mouth and his whole day brightened, even in winter when the snow was so shiny it made his eyes squint. One time, the fourth graders were teasing a first grader, because his shoes were too big. They called him, “Little Duck” and quacked at him all day. Mary May wasn’t scared, she marched up to the fourth graders, pointed her finger and glared into their souls. All she said was, “Stop it.” And, they did. It was a recess miracle. 

Caleb’s hands trembled. What if she didn’t love him? She might stare into his soul and say, “Go away.”

Ma’s voice broke through his fear. “Caleb, come on. What’s taking you so long?”

She leaned out the back door, waving Caleb inside. “What you got cradled there?”

“A bouquet, Ma.” Caleb looked down and caressed the petals with his finger.

“For me?” Ma asked with a teasing grin.

“No, Ma.” Caleb puffed out his chest and said, “I’m gonna give them to Mary May and ask her if she loves me.” He lifted his arms and offered his haul to Ma for approval. She lifted the bouquet out of Caleb’s arms and inspected his work. She hooked her finger around a sprig of sage and brought to her nose.

“Careful, Ma!” Caleb yelped, startling his mother. She nearly dropped the flowers.

Caleb grabbed fistfuls of hair and jumped wildly, “Ma! I spent all morning picking just the very best flowers for Mary May. Not a scratch, not a tear, not a speck.”

Ma tensed at Caleb’s outburst, but she took a deep breath, relaxed, and laughed. “Nothing but the best for the one’s we love, huh?”

Caleb grinned and nodded, Ma understood.

“Let’s put them in water while you eat. I promise to be gentle.”

While he ate lunch, Caleb fixed his eyes on the flowers so they wouldn’t drift away, or disappear, or die. He haphazardly pierced the plate with his fork in search of his food. He glanced down faster than a blink to make sure all the ham was indeed gone. He then used his fingers to search for peas and corn, all the while maintaining eye contact with the bouquet.

When he had eaten the last pea and gulped the last swallow of milk, Caleb pushed the chair back from the table, hopped onto his feet and stepped toward the kitchen counter. The flowers stood in a mason jar soaking up sun and water, not one had wilted under his watch.

“Ma, can I take these to Mary May’s now?”

“Alright. How about we get you a ribbon for those flowers?”

“That’s a great idea Ma! She’ll love it. All her ribbons are pink. Do you have any pink ribbon?”

She walked to the armoire and rummaged through her sewing kit.

“Aha! Here we go, a pink ribbon for my boy.” Ma held the ribbon high and cut it for Caleb.

Caleb lifted the bouquet out of the jar. He stood on tiptoes, grabbed the flowers, and stretched the bouquet high above his head so each stem could clear the lip of the jar. Ma gawked.

Yesterday’s Caleb would have toppled the jar and spilled water all over the counter and floor. Does love make you careful?

He held the bouquet up for Ma while she tied the ribbon around the stems. Then, he settled the flowers into the crook of his arm and set off toward Mary May’s house.“You know where she lives?” Ma asked.“Oh yeah, right behind the schoolhouse.” Caleb said.“Okay then, be back before dark.” Ma kissed him on the top of his head and waved goodbye.

Caleb figured since running to school took not-too-much-time, then walking to Mary May’s might take a-bit-more-time-than-that. But, he failed to consider that running in morning air, crisp from night’s cool breath, was altogether different than walking under the sun’s pride in the heat of the day.

Caleb walked down the dirt road, cradling his treasured blooms. He imagined Mary May’s face when she saw him. How could she not love someone who brought her flowers?

With every step, the sun grew hotter. He felt petals sticking to the inside’s of his elbows, he felt droplets running down his neck, his hair matted down on his forehead. A country mile never felt so long.

The schoolhouse came into view, then Mary May’s house. Caleb’s mouth was dry but his heart pushed him forward. He held the flowers tight to his chest, forgetting their fragile stems.

A few more steps and Mary May would declare her love to him. Panting, eyes fixed on her house, Caleb didn’t see a mangled root reaching out to grab passers-by. His toe caught the root, his arms flailed, the bouquet dropped, and he fell on top of his precious flowers. 

Dirt melded with sweat, tears fought their way out, Caleb coughed. He rose to his knees, picked up the flowers, and assessed the damage. Crushed, wilted, dirty. These would never do. 

His knee cried out in pain, his hand stung with anger, his feet itched to escape. Caleb blinked and streams of tears cleaned tracks down his cheeks.

Caleb threw the remnants of a lovely bouquet to the ground and let his legs do the very thing they’d been wanting to do all day. He ran.

He ran and didn’t stop for a breath until he saw the field of wildflowers stretching out before him. He knelt over his knees and heaved. Then, Caleb fell to the ground and cried. The setting sun saw his pain and whispered a cool breeze to soothe his pain. The flowers Caleb passed over this morning, danced and tickled his skin. His breathing slowed, his tears ran dry.

Does love make you hurt?

Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found Shorts Stories

Ditch – Flash Fiction

I joined a writing group. I do not consider myself a writer, but I have a good amount of time on my hands and thought this could be fun.

Every month we receive a prompt and a word limit. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy too, check it out here.

As terrifying as it is to share this, I find myself thinking, “Why not put it out there?” This blog page is for fun anyways and you, dear friends, might enjoy a short story now and then.

Since short story writing is now becoming a van life hobby of mine, I figured I might as well start sharing.

Here’s Story #1 – the prompt was Ditch and the word limit was 300 words. I tried to improve it a tad before posting here. If you find the need to give me feedback, please do! But, please phrase it gently and kindly.

Enjoy!

DITCH

He hangs his head and stares into the six-by-six foot chasm. He checks the corners for a perfect 90 degree angle. He assesses the floor, smooth as stone. “Good work, Tony.” Tony, the intern, nods his thanks to the boss.

Locals believe grave plots are finite spaces, but he knows they hold an infinity’s worth of secrets and fears. The one he dug last week cradles the body of a 16 year old. Drowned. A few paces north, there’s a neighborhood of tragedies who died prior to their first birthday. Today’s abyss awaits the body of an elderly man. Cancer. He left behind a wife and children. His family might have loved him, they might even miss him, but they’ll never know his secrets. The grave digger knows.

He can’t count the years he’s been preparing death beds and guiding townsfolk into the afterlife. They say the mail never stops, try taking a break from ditch digging for corpses. He chides himself for such calloused humor. The dead deserve better.

Maybe he needs a vacation.

He could put Tony the intern in charge, his works continues to improve. But, if left alone Tony would likely leave gaps in the dirt for the spirits to escape. Horrified, he imagines the havoc it would wreak if a ghost wandered out of ground and into town. The paperwork.

He could show him the right way to pack the dirt. Again. He sighs. He shouldn’t blame Tony. 

It’s actually that demanding night shift keeping him away from hot sand and endless ocean. He glances at the setting sun, “Gotta go Tony.”

“Bye, Boss.”

He walks into the equipment shed where he stores the night uniform. He glances over his shoulder to be sure Tony has started walking home in the opposite direction. 

One sleeve at a time, he pulls on the black cloak. Then, he lifts the black hood, and grabs his ancient scythe.

Vacation, ha. As if.