Short Story: Post Mortem

 From my collection Passages, an autumn story for the autumnal equinox. Enjoy…


© by @AnnieDaylon

Isadora was not willing to renege a lifetime of promise. For years she had planned, scrimped, and saved and now, at last, opportunity was here. She sprinted through the autumn woods, tendrils of silver hair streaming behind her. Every few steps, she let out a delighted laugh. What a sight she must be! An octogenarian in a full-length, black-velvet skirt, with a bulging shoulder purse hammering her titanium hip. And yet, she was dashing along with the agility of an adolescent doe.  

As she neared the clearing, she slowed her pace and kept her eyes down. What if the cabin wasn’t there? For a few seconds, her mind flirted with the extermination of hope and her body responded by coming to a standstill. A sense of fragility imbued her and she felt as one with each crisp leaf she had just crushed beneath thoughtless shoes. With heart and hope plummeting, should she go on?

Overhead, the call of bird and whoosh of wing distracted her. Isadora’s lips curved into a smile. Canada geese. Bidding their annual farewell. She took a deep breath. Wood smoke. A comforting aroma. Emboldened, she raised her head and instantly clapped her hands in glee. It was there, all of it: the old, log cabin with its red-brick chimney; the faded, inebriated-looking Adirondack chair; the window boxes with their peeling, green paint and stubborn, pink geraniums. Still blooming. Amazing.

She felt content to linger, to stare, but a blast of cold air slapped her, snaked under her billowing skirt, and caused her whole body to shudder. She clutched her purse to her chest and rushed to the rickety porch steps which whined in protest as she climbed. Sidling up to the door, she knocked. A timid knock. She waited.

As Isadora hovered, another gust of wind sent leaves flying. They swirled and spiralled around her and fell at her feet in a mosaic of ochre, red and brown. Autumn. She grimaced. To some, autumn meant renewal. To her? Her whole life, she had watched as autumn approached, encroached, and retreated, taking all living things with it.

Isadora recalled her first encounter with autumn’s cruelty. She had been playing outside and a single oak leaf, which had magically turned from green to yellow, had fluttered down and landed on her shoe. She snatched it up and ran home, intent on show-and-tell with Mommy, by the fireplace. But an eerie sound emanating from the house caused her to hesitate, to peer through a side window instead of entering. Her eyes widened and flooded as she watched her father fall to his knees, wailing, at her mother’s bedside. Interspersed with his cries, were words of regret and apology. Hard to decipher but, within seconds, the young Isadora understood. Doctors cost money. Her father had no money and, because of that, her mother, like the leaf in her hand, was dead.

That autumn, Isadora watched leaves fall, one by one, until none remained. All winter, she listened as naked trees moaned, echoing her pain. She was alone. Shuffled from one relative to another. Abandoned by a devastated father who knew nothing of raising a three-year-old girl.

Every subsequent autumn, as leaves rained to the ground, regret haemorrhaged through her pores. If only she could have changed things. Doctors cost money. If only she could have given her father money. Somehow, she always felt that she could have done something. Should have done something. But she had failed.

As she stood on the porch now, waiting, Isadora’s hope began to dwindle once again. She repeated the knock. Still no answer. Anxiety crept into her body, causing her to tremble. She let out a sob, formed her fingers into a fist, and pounded the door.

This time the door squeaked open and a tiny girl, a mere waif, stood there. Isadora gasped and recoiled. When she caught her breath, she leaned forward. “Hello,” she said to the bedraggled child who was hugging a filthy, hairless doll.

The little girl was silent.

Isadora held out the purse.

The child’s eyes popped wide. “Mommy’s purse,” she whispered. “That’s Mommy’s purse.”

“Yes.” Isadora opened the purse, displayed its contents, and closed it again. “I kept it all these years, filled it, just for you.” She placed the purse at the child’s feet. “You know what to do?”

The child nodded slowly. “Doctors cost money.”

A tidal wave of realization flooded through Isadora. She had done it.  For a few seconds, she stood, frozen. Then, in measured motion, she turned and headed down the steps. At the bottom, she paused and looked back.

The little girl, waif no more, was still standing there. Her dress, new and pink and velvet, matched that of the pristine, porcelain doll she carried and her waist-length, glistening blonde hair was topped with a pink velvet bow.

 The two exchanged no words, only smiles.

Isadora walked away, gradually picking up her pace until she was skipping along the woodland path. Deep within her, sad memories began to disperse, dropping away one by one, like the falling leaves around her. Soon those recollections were gone, replaced by images of a happy little girl, learning, laughing, and singing, at her mother’s side. 

Isadora returned to the starting point of her journey—the funeral parlour—and slid through the front Passages Book Coverdoor. She entered the viewing room and floated for a while, staring at her body, resting in its mahogany coffin. She sighed in contentment and slipped back into place. Cradle issues resolved, she was ready for the grave.

 

 

My best to you,
Annie Signature Light Blue

 

The End of the Harvest

by @AnnieDaylon

What follows is a seasonal story, flash fiction, originally written for a 24-hour writing contest for Writers Weekly and currently published in Passages A Collection of Short Stories. It is definitely one of my favorites…

The End of the Harvest

© Annie Daylon

            The little boy stands at the log cabin’s rear window, peering out at us. The corn stalks rustle in the brisk breeze, waving at him. Laughing, he returns their greeting. I want to wave at him too, but my limbs are shrivelled now, useless appendages. I sigh. I observe the boy.

He seems happy. Does he know? Has he heard the news about the baby brother that his mom promised him? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he is too young to be told.

But I know.

His mom, my caregiver, whispered many secrets as she planted the fields. When my seed sprouted and breached the surface of the rich soil, she stooped and told me about the life that was developing inside her own body. She promised that she would create siblings for me just as she was doing for her little boy. I beamed with pleasure for I did not want to live a solitary life.

In a short time, her truth became evident: I was surrounded by an abundance of relatives—long and green, round and yellow, plump and orange. So strong was my appreciation of my caregiver, so great was my loyalty to her that I tolerated without question the summer heat and the frequent watering and the incessant buzzing of the hordes that swarmed around, flitting from flower to flower. Without complaint, I obliged when she redirected the growth of my rapidly spreading arms. ‘Not here, but there’, was her mantra, as she donned kid gloves and shifted my limbs around. So much attention. So much care. I noticed that the bodies of both my caregiver and me were becoming spherical, and that hers seemed to achieve the desired shape more easily than mine. Obviously aware of that, she added regular rotation to my fitness regime. I responded by becoming corpulent and carroty.

The summer lazed away and autumn slid in to replace it. The rains came. And the mud. And the children, bus loads of children, laughing and trampling and squelching through the muck. Choosing and plucking and stumbling away with their heavy bundles. One by one, my brothers and sisters and cousins disappeared. I wondered how it was that so many school children whirled around me, brushed against me, slid past me, and yet, none chose me. My caregiver explained that she had great plans for me, that I was the chosen one, the one who would light her doorway on that important night—All Hallows’ Eve. I would be the first to welcome the newborn child she would carry to the door that very day. I would witness the smile on her little boy’s face when he first saw his new brother. All this she promised me.

But sometimes promises are broken.

 When I had grown to the size of a soccer ball, I looked to compare my shape with hers and realized that her spherical form had vanished. Her body had flattened, returned to its former size. Her spirit, too, had vacated, leaving only sadness, which bled through her pores. Empty in both body and spirit, she had no words, no whisperings. On most days, she just stayed away.

So now I lie here—alone. Leading a solitary life after all, the very life I did not want. But what of the boy? Is he still waiting for his new brother?

The dusk deepens on this, All Hallows’ Eve. The wind picks up and the front gate swings and creaks. Puffs of blue smoke rise from the kitchen chimney. The house is well-lit now, but here, in my resting place, it is dark and lonely. As night falls, my body sinks and just sits, marinating in mud.

Suddenly, the cabin door opens and she emerges. She dons her heavy boots and, with her head low, trudges through the mud toward me. Nearer and nearer. As she stoops, I long to console her, to slide my arms up her back and embrace her. But my arms are just flaccid vines and it is she who comforts me, talks to me, apologizes for leaving me alone for so long. I want to tell her that I understand. She reaches into her pocket, retrieves a knife and frees me from my vines. Then, she hefts me into her arms and straightens her back.

On the way to the cabin, my caregiver explains that there is a new plan—that she wants me to smile for her young son. This evening, she will carve a grin on my face and, while she is doing that, she will tell her son that he will always be a solitary child. We reach the porch and hover there, waiting for her body to stop trembling and her tears to abate.

Despite her distress, I am pleased with this new plan. I want her to carve me a ridiculous grin, tooth-filled or toothless, whatever it takes to ease a lonely boy’s acceptance of unwelcome news. I know of the difficulty of the solitary life. Unlike the boy, I have experienced the joy of siblings; however, many died before maturity and all the others were taken away. Like the boy, I represent the end of the harvest. I am the very last pumpkin from the pumpkin patch. Together, the boy and I—and our mutual caregiver—will face the night.

*****

Passages Book Cover
My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue