Write Away

What's happening in the Seacoast for and by teens.

A short story by Kaylie Montgomery

 “Catch!”
    “I’m not ready!
    The calls could be heard all the way across the lawn.
The children, the kind, good children, played in the meadow with their father. The weeds soaked up the moisture from the gardens, leaving the grass as dry and as copper as a penny. Their mother sat on the rocking chair, watching them from the front porch.
    Inside, she could be happy, outside, maybe despaired.
    She was hard to predict, shuffling between one emotion and the next, never able to decide or pinpoint how she felt, no matter what the circumstance, no matter the time of day, no matter the setting of the sun, or the passing of the moon or the coming of dawn, or the windows being pelted with rain and her miserable children sulking inside by the fireplace, trying to keep warm. 
    She was never, ever clear. 
    But her children, her golden children, like gifts from God shining so brightly from the heavens, pouring their light into the unheavenly bliss that was her world, her sad world, the world that was only gay and joyful from them. Her family. 
    Although she was getting old, she was getting weak, she had them. Her husband, her children, her mother and father. They kept her rooted to the earth where she was, where she stayed. She tried, tried, not to bring up the topic of death around them. 
    If only death were easy.
    She had known, all along. She had known ever since that one December morning, when the doctor pulled her in, into a private room, where there was no time to be happy. No time to feel blessed, no time, no time. 
    The doctor, he’d been handsom. He’d had short raven-black hair with a stout beard and a sharp nose, and eyes as green as emeralds. He had spoken the words, softly, sharply, so only she could hear, although the room was quiet, empty. Her children and husband, they were in the waiting room, when the doctor had spoken:
    You are going to die.” 
    She’d been upset, and all the tears of countless nights and days, all bubbled up into one, like a bucket almost overflowed, like a stream, clogging and pooling, like a gutter, filled up with leaves and mud and rainwater. She was like a sponge, soaking it all up, and then letting it loose. 
    Once, she’d almost come close to telling them, that night in the kitchen. That one night, when her husband was gone. When he wasn’t there, wasn’t there to tell her not to do it. Not to tell them. Not to give in. 
    She’d gathered them around the table, all in their bedclothes, with mugs of hot cocoa, steaming, and an old book of stories from Grandma. She’d rescued it from the attic, and decided that now, with a story before bed, would be the way. 
    But she had held back. 
    All the effort, it had made her cry, all her tears spilling over the kitchen, her children, those lovely little blessings, cleaning up her spill. They had rushed to her aid, sat by her side. She’d fallen, fallen, fallen…
    “Ready to go inside?” Angela’s call startled her. She jumped out of her memories, from her drifting pool of a life. She almost fell off the chair, but her oldest child, her daughter, Angela, was there, helping her. 
    “That was a good game of catch,” said her husband, and her children gripped her in a tight embrace. She felt it. It was time. 
    All the countless seasons of holding it in, the secret, transparent, just behind reality, finally, she could grasp it. It was one thin strand, the strand that contained death, her death. 
    She wondered how her children would take it.
    She stood up and followed them inside. 
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Worn by Daiyao Zhang

Worn

Stop on Main Street and look up at the sign that tells you where you are even though you insist you already know.

Do you see how the sign reaches towards you as if

you have a secret to tell?

Do you see where the rebels tried to tear it down, where the snow melted and fell,

where the baseball finally dented the corners after hours of target practice?

Now look at the cracked pavement, note the maniacal grin that meets your eyes, the

pothole mouth that will never close

Do you see the balled up Wall Street Journal on the ground? Do you see the

worn words of tired ghosts, stolen children, kidnapped homes?

Can you feel the relaxed page of comics sweeping over you like your mother’s palm,

can you see the wrinkles in the op-ed page, waiting for you to smooth it out?

Can you see the same wrinkles in the mother who swept her palm over you? The

way she smoothed out the collar of your shirt with the same hands.  

Can you see the way she silently stirred the pot with your favorite soup, and spoke about her days of blissful childhood?

Do you remember the way your sister leapt into the days and swam into the nights

and stared at the moon like a newborn wolf?

Do you see the town you passed on the way to piano class, the one with houses that

had chipped paint and drooping Christmas wreaths?

And finally, look at your hands.  Do you

see the creases in your fingers, the lines on your palms?

how many years

have you worn?

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