#FamilyLegacy Short-Story Chapter 4

I see the hill that starts Highway 13, through the middle of town. I’m less than a mile from home, a feeling of relief passes through my entire body as I flip my turn signal to the right and gently tap the break for my turn.

I don’t see the car that rams into me from behind. I slam my brakes into place, the tail of the car skids around, another jolt farther to the side as a second car hits the first. Metal scrapes against plastic. Now facing the opposite direction, I see the eighteen wheeler slam on his breaks but unable to stop.

Time seems to have slowed down. I dig in my pocket for my phone and press 9…1…1.

The last thing I hear, before the world goes dark is my cousin asking, “911, what is your emergency?”

#FamilyLegacy Short-Story Chapter 3

Jack pauses to cough into a handkerchief. “It might sound cliché, but the weather wasn’t that good that night either. Dark clouds covered the stars, thunder rolled, the lightning crackled but rain hadn’t come yet. It didn’t drop until after the car fire got going really well.” He zones out, not seeing me. So far gone in the past that I can almost see ghosts flit across his eyes.

My voice comes out soft and breathless. “That’s horrible.”

“Yep, but it wasn’t like your mom had the best beginning to life either.”

“How so?”

“Well you know how your grandma died with Tasha Raelynn’s brothers and sisters in the train wreck yea?”

“Yea.”

“Well she ended up in her grandparents care after that. Her dad was a criminal that was in and out of prison. Your strict great-grandmother swore Tasha would never be raised by him. He died in federal prison of prostate cancer or something.”

“That would explain why I never got to meet him.” I bite my lower lip in surprise.

“Then your great-grandpa still has some PTSD from WWII.”

“I know that. It has gotten better over the years, but he still has some bad days.”

“Who wouldn’t after taking shrapnel from a grenade from the wrong side of Normandy Beach?”

I gasp. “Wait, he took friendly fire?”

“Yes, ma’am. He hasn’t told you?

“No. He doesn’t talk about the war and no one else will talk about family history at all.” That would explain the deafness in his right ear.

“No one thinks it was on purpose, but it still happened.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“Your mom and I did some digging into the family for a school project.”

“Neat.” I saw solemnly.

“Well I better be off. I just came by to say hi to Tasha. If you need me, you know where to find me.”

I give him a quick hug. “Ok. See you later.”

He dusts off his pants and leaves with a quick wave. He stops and turns back, “you know the saddest part of this mess is the wreck happened just one week after you were born.”

“I hadn’t realized it was that soon. I didn’t get any real time her after all.” Shock.

I get up and stretch. “I need to get back to Shayla before your grandparents scar her for life.

Bye Mom, I’ll be back to see you, maybe next year. I will make sure to bring Shayla too…at some point. Probably not until later when she can fully understand death, but still she will come to know you. We have all the hours of home videos for her to go through.” Out of selfishness, I decide that I will keep the gory details of mother’s death to myself.

My little girl never needs to hear of how her grandmother died in a fiery car crash that threw her from the Trans Am because of her lack of seat belt. Or how the drunk driver got away with murdering her and three of her best friends.

One last look at the pink quartz tombstone in the shape of a heart, then I am on my way home and back to my daughter.

Tasha Raelynn Smith

Daughter and Beloved Mother

1975-1991

#FamilyLegacy Short-Story Chapter 2

We sit in perfect silence for a bit. The judgy brunette from earlier, dragged her husband back down the aisle and left. I guess their family time requirement is done for the year. The late summer air breezes around us, setting off a light shiver through my body. “I hope you’re warm enough Mom, it’s awfully cold for this time of year.” I pull my knees up and wrap my arms around them.

A soft hand settles on my right shoulder. “It’s funny that this place is named “Cope Cemetery” since we have to learn how to “cope” without those that are here.” Jack Jones comes to sit next to us. He looks nice in his new Amish clothes.

No one would have thought that Tasha’s best friend in high school would have joined the local order of Amish, but when you live so close to Missouri’s northern Amish country anything is possible. He still comes into town every once in a while, but no longer frequents the Southside bar or chases every skirt he sees. At one time there was some speculation that he is my father, but he would never own up to it.

“Hey Jack. How’s the farm?”

“Same old, same old. It’s never dull, but duller every day.”

I giggle. “I think the country life seems interesting, but I don’t know if I would be able to survive without indoor plumbing.”

He sighs and folds himself down next to me. “It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s not too bad.

Awkwardly, we fell into a short silence. “You were Tasha’s best friend in high school right?”

“Yes, I was. I was also in the car crash with her.” his sandy brown hair falls in front of his eyes as he bows his head.

“Can you tell me about it? No one in the family will say anything.”

“I don’t think your family would appreciate that.” We look over at Tasha, but she doesn’t object.

“She won’t mind. Now that I’m old enough.”

Jack rubs the back of his neck. “Well it was amazing that any of us survived in the first place.”

“I figured it was bad. I know…three people died?” I think that is right, but not sure.

He nods his head in confirmation. “The drunk driver, however, got away with a slap on the wrist.” After all these years, there is still a lot of anger in his voice.

“Wasn’t there some kind technicality, because it was a blind corner or something so the judge was lenient?”

“Yes, as you come out of Jamesport, there is a wide high corner with a wrought iron Horse and Buggy statue. Both the hill and monument block the view of oncoming traffic. Our driver, best friend Sadie, didn’t see the dim headlights in time. If I wasn’t on the passenger side, I wouldn’t have survived. The driver’s side had it the worse.”

#FamilyLegacy Short-Story Chapter 1

I trap my daughter’s hair under a worn-out handkerchief. I will fix the small Afro when I get back, I think I’ll try cornrows this time. “Shayla, please try not to scratch for mommy.” I sigh, she vigorously rubs her arms instead. I have to clip her nails too. I don’t want her to get scars, something else for her father to blame on me. My great-grandma hands me two large oven mitts. “What do I do with these?”

“Put them on her hands.  I’ll give her another oatmeal bath while you’re gone. We will beat these chicken pox, eventually.”

“Thanks GG. Need anything while I’m out?”

“No dear. Tell Tasha we said hi.”

I wrestle with Shayla as she doesn’t like wearing the mitts. “Will do.”

As I pick up my keys my little girl runs to me, “Pwease don’t go mommy!” Clinging to my leg, she starts crying making me feel worse for leaving. The large oven mitts are almost comical on her tiny arms, going so far up they almost touch her shoulders.

My scrawny ninety year old great-grandfather strides over and picks her up. “Get going. She’ll be fine.”

I hide my tears and turn to walk out the back door. The only door we use now so my little girl doesn’t fall off the six-foot high porch.

My stomach is churning more with each step I take to the old clunker I own just for making this trip once or twice a year. I go through my pre-check ritual, making sure the tires and lights work. There’s nothing leaking or the well-kept engine isn’t making any funny noises. “Either would be a no-go until it’s been sent to the shop.” We don’t take chances with cars in this family. There have been too many car accidents, it’s almost a family tradition. I chuckle at my own morbid joke as I turn the ignition over.

Trying to calm my nerves, I start to sing a jingle from elementary, as I pull out onto highway 6. “G-A-double L-A-T-I-N spells Gallatin, Missouri.” My singing is horrible, but it does the trick, soon I am able to glide cautiously down the road and not be as paranoid as usual. I move to the “Bulldog Fight Song” we sang at every pep rally, as the car eats away the miles at a steady pace.

 

The freshly re-rocked drive to the gate feels as smooth as a gravel road can get, but the anxiety and nausea returns as I pass under the wrought-iron gate. Only one word between its pillars, “Cope,” but it feels as if there should be more and give entrance to Auschwitz itself. I park the car, take a deep breath…then step out into my own personal hell.

There’s great-uncle Dean, 35 due to drunk driving. A third cousin, another car accident at just 21. Oh, great-aunt Sherry looks good. Cancer wasn’t too kind to her. “Just a few more feet.” There are more family members here, but I try not to think about the multitudes of others here for one reason or another.

Finally, my mother’s spot comes into view, “Crap.” I trip in a hidden mud hole, but pinwheel my arms to stay upright. I’ve had enough practice thanks to my clumsiness.

The sky is crystal clear today, the opposite of my heart. “Hey, sorry I haven’t been back for a while. I’ve been pretty busy. Your granddaughter, Shayla, turns one tomorrow. She looks just like you did when you were younger.”

I hold the picture of my little girl for her to see that they share the same frizzy dark brown hair and dark blue mesmerizing eyes. Shayla’s hair is obviously curlier thanks to her father’s heritage. Unfortunately, you can’t see the gold specks that flicker in the light when she is up to no good. “She didn’t get your beauty mark though. She does have the slanted line birthmark on her right shoulder, she wouldn’t be family without it.”

Her crystal clear laugh rings through the air brought on by the breeze, but says nothing. Leaving me to wonder what she would think of my child and the situation I have found myself in, and how similar it is to hers back in late 1990.

     I hate this place, no matter how much maintenance the owners do to it, it still smells of death and looks about the same.

“I would have brought her to see you, but the family says it’s not appropriate.” A single tear wets my cheek, “John left last month his reason being that he tried to love his daughter but just couldn’t, so Shayla and I are back to living with great-grandma and grandpa.”

Carefully, I move a vase of old flower stems, the petals all dried and blown away by now, to sit next to her. “You’d be proud of me. I have stopped drinking while I was away. The postpartum has really been kicking my ass… sorry, arse I know how you don’t like the cursing, but the family is helping me get a handle on the depression though. So no plans of taking myself and eight other family members for a ride to play chicken with a train.” A soft chuckle escapes my lips before I can stop it. “Sorry, bad joke, I know. Your mom didn’t mean for it to happen.” At least we don’t think grandma Joy meant to kill six of her seven children, one of her sisters and herself when they were out running errands. The police believe the car stalled and they couldn’t all get out of the car before the locomotive rammed through the ’57 Chevrolet. “Guess crazy kind of runs in the family.”

Silence tears my words from me as I think back to the story my great-grandparents told me last year when I turned eighteen. They were always ranting and raving that I was turning out to be just like Tasha Raelynn and if I wasn’t careful I would end up in the same place she is.

     I think I am off to a better start. I managed to keep my legs closed for eighteen years. Two years longer than she did. My boyfriend stuck around longer as well. No one in the family knows who my biological father is, but Shayla knows hers. Though we did both meet the boys in high school and had children out of wedlock. Which to most of the family, including many who have survived the war and grew up in a more straight-laced time, believe that is a Cardinal sin.

A woman looks at me funny as she passes to visit one of her relatives. I glare back, I’ve not seen her here before, and perhaps her family is new here. She carries a bouquet of red roses and drags a reluctant husband down the aisle. Again I laugh as I picture a similar experience.

Shortly after she got pregnant, the baby’s father disappeared. My great-grandparents were up in arms about it, much like when they heard my news. I remember great-grandma hissing, “Tasha Raelynn came home practically pulling this poor scrawny boy’s arm out of the socket. Proclaiming that he is the one that got her pregnant.” All while she scowled over her coffee at the memory. Great-grandpa just quietly sucked on his corncob pipe, judging me as always.

“I saw the home movie where you brought him ‘round for a time to make it seem like a real relationship. I can’t believe you ever tried to pass that little gay boy off as my dad. Of course the family saw through it immediately, you couldn’t hide the fact that he was wearing his mother’s pearl earrings or beige lipstick.” I scoff at her naiveté, another thing that separates us. I’m not as gullible as she was back then. “Of course the great-grandparents had more colorful words for him, as they have more colorful words for everything they consider ‘indecent.’ You should hear half the things they say about Shayla being half African American.” I push my anger aside, not wanting to mar this meeting with bitterness.

The Loss of a Great Grandfather (A Short Story)

Those damn bagpipes haunt my dreams, every single night. While the horned version is heard throughout the town every afternoon at seventeen hundred hours. That tune signals the end of the day and that the fallen have returned home. It has to be the saddest song in the world, in the history of music.

A the song blasts through my hearing, I can see him. Thin and frail, his tattered uniform resting, folded neatly on his chest, my family had opted to put him in a white t shirt and overalls for the great-grandchildren to recognize him. The funeral home tried their best to put a soft smile on his face, but it did not turn out quite right. His full head of white hair was combed perfectly to represent the gentleman he was, even if it was against Army regulation length.

I haven’t felt much of anything since the day my dad received the phone call from the hospital telling us that my great-grandpa had past away. I remember having to ask two or three times for him to repeat the message, because I couldn’t believe it. I had just seen him two days before and he was fine. Well maybe not that fine, he did say something about great-grandma being there next to me and the best friend he lost in the war was looking out the window saying something about “the U-boat’s about ready Jackson.” He was having one of his bad days, but not so bad that he didn’t recognize me. I was grateful for that moment.

At the funeral I did okay up to the point of the graveside service. Beautiful summer day, what would have been his 88th birthday, and the nameless preacher prattled his “ashes to ashes” speech that I didn’t listen to…or don’t remember listening to. My eyes were glued to the dark brown casket draped in the red, white and blue flag. I couldn’t get my mind to move past the thought that this man had survived D-day at Gold Beach, shrapnel from enemy fire and the loss of his childhood sweetheart, to be brought down by the flu.

Again all was fine until they played that blasted song and three men, just three men, pulled their trigger seven times. Even though they aimed for the open sky, each shot was a fresh wound in my heart. My body trembled with every bang, until I couldn’t take anymore and had to walk away. They presented my great-uncle, the jerk of the family who hadn’t seen him in the five years before his death, with his flag. And just like that, my great-grandpa’s life was officially over. The family scattered like roaches in the light of a fridge before he was even lowered into the ground.

Now no one ever talks about him. What he did for his country or family. If it wasn’t for pictures and fading memories, no one would know he even existed.

20 years later and I’m at my husband’s funeral. Staring at an almost exact casket and mentally preparing for the seven gunmen. I learned my lesson the first time around, always get seven. Our big military family surrounds me on all sides as the preacher gives the almost identical speech I don’t remember from back then. The only difference I see is great-grandpa was surrounded by Army uniforms, now I am in a sea of Marine blues.

 

#FindingFamily Chapter IV

Carefully I skip down the stairs to the restaurant, admittedly giddy and loving the feel of the long wool coat flapping on the back of my legs.

Worry crosses my face when I see just how fancy the place was and how under dressed I am in an old black mini skirt, stiletto heels and a newer dusky-green tee-shirt. “I’m sure whatever you are wearing under my coat is fine.” I heard him whisper in my ear.

I jumped, “Mr. Barrowman, can you hear now?”

He chuckled, “Yes, they took out the hearing devices about an hour ago.” He glanced at his watch.

He placed a hand on my back, “This really wasn’t necessary, I appreciate it immensely but really not required.” I started rambling on, I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

“Anytime my colleagues get chewed out by someone trying to help me, I have to take them out.” His easy going demeanor was relaxing my nerves and I was starting to realize he really is just a sweet normal person.

“Oh no, they told you? I’m sorry. They just ticked me off and I flew off the handle, if I need to I can go back and apologize.”

“No need for that, they needed the wake up call and I’m glad I got to see someone stand up to them for those who are afraid or unable to.” John ordered us each a Beef Wellington, after being talked out of shrimp as I am allergic, and a bottle of Medoc red wine. “So what is your story? How did you end up on that crosswalk tis morning?”

“It’s not pleasant dinner conversation Mr. Barrowman.” I smiled weakly and sipped the delicious wine.

“John, please, and I think  that someone like you would have an interesting story.” He gave me his gorgeous grin and  my crumbling resolve was falling faster than a bowling ball two inches off the ground.

“Umm…not much to tell really, grew up in Missouri, a very small town. My parents should have never been together, volatile is the word that comes to mind with those two. Saved up my money, graduated high school and got admitted to Oxford. Those are the highlights.” I chugged my glass and refilled it in the awkward silence.

“What happened to your mom?” he asked quietly, his demeanor changed from his happy usual self to one of solemn.

Suddenly my seat was uncomfortable, I squirmed around. “umm… my…father kind of a took care of her two months ago. He is in prison now.” I keep my eyes focused on the white table cloth, picking at imaginary threads.

“I’m sorry. You are right, not a good dinner talk. I’m sorry you’re father was an arse. It sounds like it is behind you now and you are rising up from the ashes.” It was is turn to squirm. He was changing the subject, “What are you going to study at University?”

“Music. I’m pretty good with a cello, but I would like to be a classical music professor.” I feel the blush rising in my face, I’m still embarrassed about my choice of career. “My family has never thought of it as a good choice, but it’s where I want to be.

“Are you just into classical music or do you like other music?” He must have noticed that it was a touchy subject and tried to change it.

We talked for four hours through the great dinner and the most amazing chocolate lava cake ever. After he helped me put my coat on, he called for a car and decided to escort me back to the hostel.

 

Tune in next week for Chapter Five and don’t forget to like my Author page for updates on this and more!

#BookReview: Lass of the Ley Lines by Kate Screen 4\5 Stars

Overview: Millie Canvers just quit her job, squatting in an abandoned house and gave her last bit of food to a girl worse off than she is. The only thing she has going for her is a strange pull to an old castle and the original family’s ancestors wanting to help her. An old man gives her a crazy mission, to cross time and save his family from ruin. Knowing that he is probably crazy, she listens and goes for it. Making the jump she lands in the 1300’s with no clue how to complete her mission, with out falling for the enemy.

Review: Pretty good. The girl is down on her luck and you feel so sorry for her, but admire her fight to survive after everything she has been through. It’s a short and sweet story.

Recommend: Yes

Memories

Everything we do or see in life either creates a memory or reminds us of past. Scents, sights and songs can trigger happy moments with loved ones and bad times between friends. What is your happiest memory? Or your saddest? I bet there is something that would trigger that memory.

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Juicyfruit gum and pipe tobacco remind me of my great-grandpa. He always had a pack of gum in the front pocket of his overalls. The pipe tobacco was for his smoking, which great-grandma didn’t like. My earliest memory of him was when I was about one, he was trimming a tree in the backyard. I was on the back porch, about six feet or so off the ground, and wanted to be down there with him. One of the railing slats I was holding onto came loose, and I fell. I fell to the bottom of the stairs where a concrete slab caught my fall. Cracked my head open enough for six or seven stitches.

The rest of the time, was happier. The smell of fresh cut grass reminds me of how he would drive his Indian lawn mower everywhere. He would take it to town instead of driving his car, unless he had to take grandma with him. He had a little trailer that he would hitch up to the mower and drive me around with him.

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My worst memory of him, was the day of his funeral. He served in the army during WWII, so it was a military funeral with the bugle and 21- gun salute. For the years I couldn’t hear taps being played without breaking down. The sound of three gunmen, firing rounds was the most torturous. Each shot was another stab in the heart and another realization that he was really gone.

He was buried with the rest of our family, and one thing I always remember doing with him on memorial day was visiting his mom’s marker. She never had a headstone, just a metal placard marking her place, and grandpa would always put flowers down. As his funeral ended, I wandered off to visit her because he couldn’t. I felt that I needed to, because I knew it was important to him and the others wouldn’t.

I miss him very much, but it’s the little things in life that keep me remembering. Like right now I’m chewing juicyfruit and remembering his hugs.

#BookReview: Spearwood academy Volume 5 by A.S. Oren 5/5 Stars

Overview: Feeling the need to save her friends and family, Avalon transports everyone to the farm she grew up on. Here we learn how the twins become hybrids, and why their half brother wants them dead. After making sure her friends and family are safe, Avalon’s mother tells her not to use her angel powers or she could die. They only have a few minutes to relax before they are attacked by the brother’s henchmen. They fight for their lives, and again Avalon is knocked out by a dragon that looks exactly like her. When she wakes up, she is back at school and supposed to be brainwashed again. This time she is protected from the process, but most of the boys are brainwashed to either hate Avalon or think she is the school slut. Someone dies in her arms and she is pinned for the murder. Again she has to run through a deadly obstacle course to decide if she lives or dies. She makes it through, but her battle is only beginning as she is led back to her room by one of the bad guys. After struggling she is confronted with someone we don’t get to meet.

Opinion: Ahh! The last one in the series so far. A lot of action in this one. Not many answers as we are dragged back to the school and forced to find out who is still on our side. Heartbreak as a team member dies and the rise of a new enemy. The new one can’t come out soon enough.

Recommend: Yes

#BookReview: Spearwood Academy Volume 4 by A.S. Oren 5/5 Stars

Overview: We finally meet Avalon and Amr’s parents. We learn through scattered memories that she was not abandoned by her parents as a baby, nor was she completely ignorant of her world like we thought when she first went off to school. We find a new love interest, and a traitor in the midst. At the end, our big battle comes between an older brother we didn’t know exist and our hero’s are left unconscientious.

Opinion: it seems like just when the story is getting good, or picks up the pace, the book ends and you have to move on to the next one. Again we are getting some answers, but even more questions. Who is the older brother? Why doesn’t Amr know of him? If the twins are somewhat symbiotic, why didn’t they realize it before despite the warped minds? If every time she was warped, why wasn’t Amr warped as well? Those last two could just be plot holes though.