Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #73

by Rebecca Hendricks

Aunt Geri wasn’t actually related to us. She had a place north of the city, and I’d get shipped off there in the summer. We made apple butter, which was mostly apple, and peanut butter, which somehow involved margarine. She made me go to church, which I hated. She made me do chores. She was practical. She had a tractor. And two of her fingers were missing, cut off at the knuckle.

I stopped going. Years went by. Then she died, and my cousins and I went to the funeral, and they played her favorite song. Onward Christian soldier, marching off to war…

Later, an envelope arrived in the mail, with a note from Jane. Jane was Aunt Geri’s old friend and roommate. Jane had been Aunt Geri’s student when they were younger. Jane had been something more, also.

The note said, “Geri would want you to have these things.” The little jewelry pieces glittered in the folded paper. We each picked something. I held mine pressed into my palm and cried.

So now I’m here, standing naked in the doorway, looking at you in all your glory leaning against the scratched-up kitchen counter. The place still smells like sex, tinged with licorice from our slow shots of ice-cold ouzo, celebrating our… everything. Opa! And I hold out Aunt Geri’s slender gold ring with the single gem that is, I’d discovered, a diamond. I ask if you will marry me.

Surprised, you grin. Your eyes sparkle. And you say yes.


Joni said...

The details make this one.
Very, very nice.

JaneyV said...

I'm left wondering about the ring and whether they'd ever been on the two fingers that were missing.

I liked your story and I especially liked the end when the MC notices that the eyes of the lover sparkle. Nice detail that.

PJD said...

I really love this, mostly for the first four paragraphs. You had me at "somehow involved margarine." The ending is sweet and well written, but what really grabs me is the inexact yet very real details in the memories.

I'm intrigued, also, by the offhand "Jane had been something more, also" and the entirely undiscussed gender of I and You in the story.

Sometimes it can take decades before we understand the impact we've had on someone else, or the way they've stayed with us as we've grown.

Very good, one of my favorites I think.

bekbek said...

@Joni, thank you! With only 250 words, you question every detail, but it's the details that show character, isn't it?

@Janey, LOL, after the fact I worried about the fingers. They might derail the story, for some. I wanted to impart the mystery--a hard person whose personal story is never fully known by the MC.

@Peter, well, I am so pleased! Your comments touch on many of the things I was thinking about as I edited. I do think the final paragraph may swing too far in a new direction, but that's in a way what I wanted.

The rest is up to whether it strikes a chord in my readers. I truly appreciate the comments!

Laurel said...

This is so beautiful. I have a special piece of heirloom jewelry (like almost everybody else) and the sense of connection through generations cannot be replaced. I love that the real treasure uncovered here is that very thing, with the jewelry being the touchstone to bring it forth.

Great piece. Sweet without drifting into sentimental.

Anonymous said...

As far as a truly "short" story I thought that was lovely!

Kinda started off toward the beginning like, "OK, concise, a little vague and therefore wonder-provoking... nothing flashy by any means... am I going to be bored, or intrigued? Where is this going to go without many words left?" (Also in other words, not showing off.)

I also liked the "somehow involved margarine" part.

When the story switched from memory to present, it took me by surprise. Especially with, shall we say, the dramatic change in subject material.

The entire feeling took a major left turn in my head, in a really good way. The details, while not LACKING by any means in the first portion of the story, became somehow "richer" in the "present," like they always are. More tangible, experiencing time with all the senses instead of just the one, memory.
I'm reminded that while memories are wonderful, and delicious, and enrich our lives, they are always at least slightly stale in comparison to the succulence of "right now."

So, did I wind up bored? Or intrigued?
I was touched. My heart was warmed. It gave me goosebumps (which I've gotten again several times writing about it). It made me miss someone.

I thought it was brilliant!

bekbek said...

@Laurel, AWESOME, I very pleased you said it wasn't too sentimental--it is hard to type "marry me" and avoid too much sentimentalism, not to mention when talking about heirlooms. I'm so glad you liked it.

@Mic, wow, thank you very much! Goosebumps are among the best compliment a person can get!

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly.

And they were real. So I felt the person who gave them to me should know it.

;) I didn't WANT to "compliment," I WANTED to be "honest." It just HAPPENED TO BE a compliment. A real and honest one.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

This was so amazing-loved it!

C.Sonberg Larson said...

I love the cyclical feel of this story. The journey through the different phases in this person's life was well done. I love the earthy feel and lingering impact of Aunt Geri. Love the apple butter, the sexual ambiguity and the sensuality.
You really accomplished a lot in 250 words.
Great writing.

AidanF said...

C. Sonberg Larson captures this well. It does have a cyclical feel to it and I like the that undercurrent to the story.

Unknown said...

Hi Rebecca!

I agree with Peter's comment, the story seems so real. We don't even need to know the identity or sexuality of the You and I, it doesn't matter to the story.

Excellently done.

Dottie :)

Deb Smythe said...

I agree with the others. The details make this story shine. Pro-quality writing, for sure. Thanks for sharing.

Michael Morse said...

That was just great. Sparkling.

JR's Thumbprints said...

You really grabbed me with that first paragraph, especially how you start with the mundane and turn it with Aunt Geri's two missing fingers.

Personally, I think it's very difficult to write a good flash with little narrative, but you did a superb job of it.

bekbek said...

C.Sonberg and Dottie, cyclical, yes. I have seen some really dry stories follow an object, and I've concluded that objects cannot carry any kind of emotion on their own. But when you include HOW they moved--the relationship in which they move from one to another--all kinds of emotion becomes possible.

Oddyoddy13, Deb, Michael... thank you SO much! I'm really glad it touched you in some way!

JR's Thumbprints, definitely I envy those that have managed a good narrative in their very short pieces. It seems beyond me! Such a short story seems to me to call for an emotional awakening of some kind, rather than an action. Working through this--through the wonderful opportunity Jason has given me--is helping me to see my own "voice" as a writer, I think. I hope I can find some way to expand on that.

Thank you, all, for your great comments! They are making me think even more about what I wrote and edited. (I am among those that think the biggest part of writing is the editing; I blurt words on the virtual page and then I start cutting, pasting, and changing.)

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Oh, there is a lot here all tied up together in a nice package. What great details leading up to the final line! This is one of my favorites so far.

chong y l said...

Personally warmed and touched by your story, YL, Desi

Rachel Green said...

sweet :)