Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing this fine Wednesday? Things are normal here. I couldn’t think of anything to blog about, so I dug through some of my old writing assignments and decided to post one from my Intermediate Fiction class at SMU. It’s from 2010. I haven’t revised it since then or even read through it to see if it’s worth posting. I vaguely remember the premise. Sorry in advance if it sucks, but at least you get to see how I’ve grown as a writer if you’ve read my recent stuff! It’s just under 2,000 words, so it’s not too long. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages.
It was a crisp autumn afternoon and the sun was shining brightly through the leaves of the trees that surrounded the pond. Just visible through the trees was a wrought-iron fence that encircled the water and the sea of markers, some simple and others ornate, that named the ones sleeping beneath them. The gravestones stopped near the edge of the pond; about halfway between the last markers and the water, a little girl sat in the sun where the grass was green.
Though alone, the girl was laughing and smiling and talking away. As the shadow of a cloud passed over her, the girl looked up and asked, “Are you happy?”
The only response was a breeze that rustled the leaves of the nearby trees. The leaves shone like jewels in the sunshine and the girl smiled. She sat quietly for a few moments and stretched her arms towards the sky.
“Do you love us bunches?”
A ripple in the pond made the sunlight dance over its surface. The girl stared out over the pond in awe, her bright green eyes sparkling. She broke out in laughter and clapped.
“Yay! I love you too!” She paused as her laughter died and continued to stare over the water. “Hey… do you miss us?”
A gust played with the ruffles of her black dress and caused her long, auburn hair to drift across her face. Two leaves, one gold, the other reddish-orange, swirled around her as the wind died; they settled softly on her lap. The girl smiled and picked up the leaves by the stems. “I miss you too…”
The girl’s conversation continued for awhile as she described the events of the past few days to her unseen companion. She explained that everyone had been sad and that they had tried to hide their tears from her… that she didn’t understand why everyone was sad when they told her that Heaven was a happy place. She giggled as she talked about her puppy, Mickey, and how cute he looked when she put her dolly’s hat on him. As she talked, she would occasionally hold the leaves out in front of her as far as her arms would stretch and smile. Each transition in her conversation was acknowledged by a light wind, a rustle of leaves, or a ripple of the water.
A tall woman in a black pantsuit approached the girl and knelt nearby. A breeze blew the woman’s reddish-brown hair across her face, and as she brushed it back, an older version of the girl’s smile and bow lips appeared. The woman stretched out her arms and said, “Come ‘ere booger bear… what’re you up to?”
The girl got up, careful not to drop the leaves, and ran to the woman.
“Mommy! Lookie… I got a present!” She held the leaves up so that her mother could see them clearly. “This one’s for you, though…” She held out the gold leaf so that the woman could take it.
Taking the leaf, the woman asked, “Where’d you get these? They’re very pretty.”
The girl said this so matter-of-factly that a frown flickered across the woman’s face. “From daddy?”
“Yup… he misses me and you, mommy… but it’s still okay because he’s happy and he loves us bunches.” The girl wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck and hugged her tightly.
“I see… but… it’s time to say bye-bye to daddy.” The woman hugged the girl close, tears glistening in her eyes. She kissed the girl’s forehead and, as soon as she was sure that she wouldn’t cry, she rose and shifted the girl to her hip.
They each held their leaf securely as the woman carried the girl towards a group that surrounded the newest stone marker. As they approached, the people separated, revealing a few rows of chairs, a dark casket, and a picture of a man in his early thirties with the same vibrant green eyes as the girl’s. The woman sat close to the picture and cradled the girl in her lap. The others gathered, some sitting and others choosing to stand, and the pastor took his place next to the casket.
As the man with the white collar spoke, the girl stared at the picture next to her. She remembered that every Sunday he would make waffles for her and her mother and he would give her extra syrup… she remembered the day that he brought Mickey home for her and how cute Mickey was with the red bow around his neck… and she remembered the bedtime stories that he told her. She also remembered getting in trouble for running out in the street… and she remembered getting sent to time-out for not listening to him and her mother when they told her that it was time to turn off the TV. The memories flooded through her mind but one stuck out to her.
It was a stormy night a few months ago and she couldn’t sleep. She had picked up Mickey and had gone to the study where there was still a light on. As she peeked through the half-opened door, Mickey whined softly and she squeezed through the opening. “Daddy… Mickey’s scared…”
The man behind the oak desk looked up and smiled. He stood and moved to the sofa, beckoning her to him. “Well, what’s wrong with Mickey, booger bear?”
“He doesn’t like the angry rain… it scares him so he can’t sleep…”
“So he’s scared of the thunder and lightning, huh? Well, let’s see what we can do about that. Do you want to sleep in here?”
“Yes, please!” The girl smiled and held the puppy out to her father.
The man took the puppy so that she could climb onto the sofa. After she stretched out, he set the puppy in her lap and took the quilt that was lying over the back of the sofa and tucked it around the girl and the puppy. The man kissed the girl’s forehead and nuzzled her nose with his. “That better?”
The girl nodded and grinned. “Hey daddy…”
“Yes, booger bear?”
“Will you sing the song?”
The man chuckled and poked her nose. “Anything for you.”
He went to his desk and pulled the chair around next to the sofa. As he sat down, he began to hum her favorite tune and was soon singing “Hush a bye… don’t you cry… go to sleep my little baby… when you wake… you shall find… all the pretty little ponies…” She had fallen asleep before he could sing anymore but she had felt the gentle pressure of a kiss on her forehead.
A moist drop on her cheek had brought her out of her memories and when she looked up she saw that her mother was crying. The casket was being lowered into the ground and her mother helped the girl off her lap, standing next to her. As they approached the grave, the girl looked up at her mother then at the leaf in her hand. Her mother had told her that she was supposed to take some dirt and sprinkle it on the casket but she just stared from her mother to the leaf then to the hole in front of her. With her mother watching her, she looked up at her once more then took a step towards the grave, holding the leaf out in front of her.
“Bye-bye daddy… I miss you, too.” She opened her fingers and watched the leaf drift down and settle on the casket.
The woman smiled at the girl as she wiped her eyes then followed the girl’s example. The girl watched as the other people dropped handfuls of dirt into the hole and said their goodbyes. She was hugged by each person at least twice before her mother said that it was time to go home. She went back to the grave one more time before her mother directed her towards the car.
“We’ll come back soon, daddy!” She smiled and waved at the headstone.
The girl ran back to her mother and they walked to their car hand in hand. As she was getting in the car, a breeze blew across the cemetery, rustling the leaves of the trees and rippling the water of the pond. A bird sang from a nearby tree and the girl giggled. She just smiled at her mother’s questioning look and, as the car door was being closed, she whispered “I love you too, daddy.”
During the following months, the girl and her mother visited the gravesite every Saturday. The girl remained the same, always laughing and smiling but the woman had lost weight and bags had formed under her eyes and her hair was unkempt. The girl watched as her mother said less and less to the stone marker. The length of her own conversations never diminished and each week her mother would have to tell her multiple times that they should get home. Every time that her mother said it was time to go, she would think of something else that she had to tell her father.
It was still the same after four months, her mother wouldn’t say much but they would stay for an hour or so while the girl talked. One Saturday in late February, her mother didn’t say anything to her father. It was cold and cloudy but the girl jabbered on and on as usual. Her mother stood silently by, swaying slightly, with her eyes closed.
Fifteen minutes into her conversation, her mother said “Let’s go, booger bear. It’s cold.”
“But we just got here, mommy.” She looked up at the pale face that was staring back at her.
“I know, but it’s cold and mommy’s tired.”
“Ten more minutes, please!”
A gust of wind blew the woman’s hair across her face, hiding her expression from the girl. “You know mommy worked late, can we please go home so I can rest? We’ll stay as long as you want next week, okay?”
“Five minutes?” She smiled.
“Now, please.” Her mother took a step away from the grave.
“But I still haven’t told daddy about Mickey’s new trick.”
“You can tell him next week, let’s go.”
“But, mommy…” She was interrupted.
“That’s enough! I am tired and cold and I said it was time to go, so march!” The woman pointed towards the parking lot.
The girl didn’t argue, nor did she acknowledge her mother’s command; she just stared at the seemingly dark gray water of the pond. The wind had died completely and large drops of rain were beginning to fall from the sky.
“Great… now it’s raining. We’re leaving.” The woman grabbed the girl’s arm.
“No! It’ll make daddy sad if we leave!” She pulled against her mother’s grip as the rain worsened.
“This is getting ridiculous… daddy’s not here! He won’t mind if we go home! Do you understand me?” The woman was quivering with frustration.
As tears began to fall down her face, the girl struggled even more against her mother’s hold.
“That’s enough!” The woman’s free hand jerked upward. A flash of lightning silhouetted the sudden movement against the sky. As her hand was just coming down, a loud crash of thunder caused the woman to flinch. She stared at her half-raised hand and muttered “Oh my God.”
The girl was sobbing loudly now and between the sobs she let out, “He’s not at home either.”
The woman gathered the sobbing girl up in her arms and held her. “Shhh… I’m sorry. It’s okay.”
They stayed huddled next to the gravestone for a half hour before the girl had calmed down. They rocked together, the rain hiding their tears. Finally the woman asked, “Want to go get some ice cream?”
The girl sniffled and nodded.
As they were walking to the car, hand in hand, the woman looked over her shoulder at the marker and whispered, “Thank you for stopping me.”