This one’s for you, Cari. I wrote this a few years back, as a challenge with Josh, and my daughter, Brianna. We were sitting around the living room, chatting, when I challenged them to a short story competition. I’d never really written a short story before, so this was new ground for me. I enjoyed it though. Hope you do too. 🙂
Her fingers felt like two hot stones that had soaked up the angry sun. The sweat was gathering on her back and Ellie knew that she was racing against the clock. She’d been out there for two hours now; digging, planting, and turning over the dry, crusted earth. She wiped her brow, smearing dirt on her face; mixing with the sweat that ran down into her ear. There wasn’t even a hint of a breeze.
“Good thing too,” she thought.
A gentle breeze would only have lulled her into the hope of being comfortable. She wasn’t much of a gardener, but her mother (and her mother’s mother) had toiled away in the burning sun, just as Ellie was doing now, and so she felt it was her womanly duties, if nothing else, to keep the grounds. It was her heritage. Her land now. Her large fingers tore at the soil and she carefully placed each small stone that introduced itself, into neat little piles. The smile that was beginning to form at the corners of her mouth, was evidence that she was quite pleased with herself. She squinted and stared up into the sun. The lemon-yellow glow, radiated out from the heavens, wrapping itself around her very heart it seemed. Panting, she let her eyes drift across the canvas of the sky, and thought of the tangy lemons in her basket over the stove. She would take a few, squeeze them tightly into a pitcher, (after cutting them in half), careful not to let the seeds fall in. She’d add a few cups of sugar (she could practically taste it now), rushing to the pit of her stomach as if it too were trying to get away from the burning heat.
Ellie wiped her hand on her brown, faded dress. You know the one. A rip, there at the hem from rushing through life, month after month; chores and endless lists to check off. A button, missing in the back, directly across from her burdened waist; proof that she’d rewarded herself bountifully after each carefully planned meal. The floral pattern, was beaten away by the unforgiving sun, year after year of hanging out those old stained linens. Why, they must be forty years old by now! Ellie wasn’t aware that she’d drifted off again; her eyes fixed to those linens as if it were the sheets themselves that took her back to her Jonah, and the sound of his harmonica…and her laughter. But Jonah was gone and so were the years.
She wiped her eyes, again streaking dirt across her lid. Her parched mouth brought Ellie’s eyes away from the sheets and back to her tired old hands. Lemonade. Ellie put her packages of seeds next to the neatly stacked stones, and tried to rise. It felt as if the sun had exploded in her chest; her breathing coming in heavy gasps and she fell to the ground, kicking the stones as she went. Ellie closed her eyes, for the sun was blinding, and she pulled at the grass, reaching for something.. (for what, she did not know) something to feel connected to. Even with her eyes closed, she felt the shadow move over her face. Ellie opened her eyes. The sun was hiding behind the peculiar man, causing a cool shadow to fall on her. For that, she was grateful. The ripping pain in her chest, seemed to have vanished, and Ellie was wondering who the stranger was that stood before her.
”Can I help you Ma’am?” he asked kindly.
Ellie shook her head, as if to say no, but then nodded her head in confusion. The glow of the sun seemed to make him glow as if he too, were indeed part of the sun.
”Y-yes…thank you….sir….,” she answered; her voice trailing off, barely above a whisper.
She looked up and into his eyes. How could it be? Her Jonah was gone, and he looked nothing like him, but his eyes..she could almost be certain they were Jonah’s. Yes. She was absolutely certain that she’d looked into them before. She reached up, placing her hand into his waiting one. The man pulled her up; a gentle nod and smile as he did and Ellie let out a breath of summer air, returning his smile, and gently squeezing his hand. The sight of her linens, dancing happily in the breeze, caught her eye. The gentle wind kissed her hair, refreshing her for the first time in months. She could hear the faint trail of a harmonica playing, as many do in the country, and still holding the man’s hand, Ellie looked around, to take stock in all that she had to be thankful for. This is the house, that sheltered her through the many seasons of her life. The garden there, was her daily companion; patiently teaching her how to grow.
”Are you ready?”, asked the man.
Ellie paused, and looked back at the scattered stones. Lying next to them was the body of Ellie Parkins. Ellie saw herself, but felt as if she were looking at a stranger. Dirt streaked her forehead, and a faint smile, was still painted on her mouth. Hanging on the clothesline, were those white linens, which also seemed to glow with the strength of the sun shining through them. Ellie looked up at the man, and with one last sigh, she pursed her mouth together and nodded at her friend, as they walked together toward the shining sun…
I can hardly believe it’s been seven months since I last posted! Life has been super crazy and I’ve been trying to get all of my ducks in a row. I feel like I’ve been stuck for the longest time- spinning my wheels and going nowhere. I’ve been out of school for a year and a half now…free falling into nothingness. Days pass with minimal actions and reactions; sometimes it feels like life is passing me by and I’m watching it ride off in the distance. I’m just not entirely happy unless I’m doing something and getting things done.
The last time I posted, things were at a standstill, academically. My undergrad. college was holding my transcript hostage until I paid my balance (of $1,200) down completely. The chances of that happening were right up there with me learning Chinese overnight- it just wasn’t happening!
Bless my Mama’s heart. I explained my situation to her- she’s been my champion throughout my entire undergrad. studies- year after year, cheering me on, relentlessly and lovingly. I share what I’ve learned with her in the area of psychology and self-help and she shares in my joy. In a strange and neat way, we’re doing this school thing together. So when I let her know just how dire things were, she texted Josh to tell me that she had the entire balance- all $1,200 waiting for me to pick it up at her place. I just bawled my eyes out there in the hallway. She truly is my hero.
And so now, after much time doing absolutely nothing with my life, I’m able to get back on track and begin work on my Master’s degree soon. After much contemplation, I’ve decided on becoming a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor. It’s not going to be an easy road, but I’m up for the challenge. I’ll need to study for 3 or so years, and of course, there’s internship/practicum (560 hours) and as the years go on, I’ll need to put in 4,000 or so hours to be a CADAC II and eventually CADAC 4- CADAC being a Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor. Being certified and licensed are two different things, particularly in the area of reciprocity. (One pertains to remaining within one’s state only, and the other allows for the practice in various other states.) But first things first!
My plans are to work on the education part, and then as time goes on, intern as a mental health tech. in a rehab. facility for 1 to 3 years, so that I can gain the necessary field experience to have a very good job down the road. With a Master’s in Substance Abuse Addictions Counseling + 4,000 hours of experience, I’ll be able to secure a job of $45,000 or so, starting out. Now that may be peanuts to some folks, but for me, it’s more than enough. I’m in the process of cleaning up my credit, so over the next 5 years, I should be in a very good position to work on buying a home (at a fairly low mortgage rate) and be right on track in most areas of my life.
I’ve officially been accepted into my Master’s program and am SO thrilled to begin school on October 3rd. That gives me a good month to clean my house. 😉 Josh and I are still trucking along- he’s the love of my life, truly. We’ve been each other’s heart beat for 11 years now! Where does the time go?
Brian and his gal, Gabby, have moved out so Josh and I finally have the place to ourselves for the first time ever. I wish I could say we’ve been sad, but um…we’ve been running around in our underwear hooping and hollering and acting like it’s a frat house! 🙂
I feel the grey clouds rolling out and everything’s starting to take on a vivid, golden hue. When I was a child, I never imagined that I would become a counselor when I was older. My dreams are literally coming true, and I am so happy. ❤
Rim Rock Trail- Garden of the Gods, Illinois- Helios film lens/manual-Aug-2017