Short Stories with Thomas Walker #2 (1 Viewer)

Thomas Walker

Jul 16, 2018
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Indiana, USA
Hello once again!

Once again, I have written a short story that I would like to post here for your enjoyment. This one is a little longer than the first one, but I am sure it will grasp your attention right to the end.

The idea for this story was given to me by a close friend for use in a class project. She simply told me that a character should be walking down a stream admiring the rocks, and my imagination took over from there. Enjoy!

Memory Lane

The foliage grows denser as the path I follow continues down the hill. I find myself moving branches from eager trees to make way for my slender form to traverse the forgotten trail. Poison ivy and nettles line each side of the fading aisle and bushes have sprung up where the tire tracks of an old family toy once ran. Nature is busy reclaiming her territory before my very eyes.

Almost obscured by the vines that grow up an enormous oak tree, a hand-carved sign beckons my touch. I gently brush aside the green tendrils and read the nostalgic, yellow letters: “Memory Lane”. After all these years, this aptly named trail brings back memories of my early childhood, growing up, and watching these very trees reach towards the bright blue skies.

Climbing over a fallen log, I find myself facing the creek. There’s not as much water as I remember, but the last time I set foot on this property was a good fifteen years ago. Lining the sides of the giggling stream is an endless bed of fragile shale, fading from a dirty grey to a deep, bold grey near the water’s edge. Dotting up and down the creek bed are little pebbles, red and black, small and large, sharp and smooth. Each has its own story to tell, if you only choose to stop and listen.

I trudge upstream for a few yards, hunting pensively for glimpses into my own past. Spots where I notice a missing tree, or a bend in the water that wasn’t there before, or even such details as the different sounds of the wildlife that quietly watched me from afar. I am truly a foreigner in this changed landscape.

I sit on a sizeable stone next to a tiny waterfall, only an inch or so high. From the cool water I retrieve a small rock, no larger than a dime, timberwolf colored, smooth as a marble. I press the pebble up to my cheek with one hand and slowly close my eyes…

“Izzy!” my mother called from the top of the hill. She was holding something in her hand, but I couldn’t quite tell what it was from where I stood in the creek.

“Coming Mommy!” I promised as I splashed haphazardly across the stream and up the slippery slope, sending rocks and dirt tumbling into the water. I hopped over small sticks and weaved around prickly bushes and rejoined the trail leading up to our brand new home. Almost tripping over my own feet in my unfathomable excitement, I crashed into my mother’s legs in a loving embrace.

Chuckling at the reckless spectacle, she picked me up and sat down in her wooden chair, setting me in her lap along the way. “Izzy, I have something to give you,” she said, putting on her most serious face to let me know I needed to pay attention. She revealed a small box in her hand, the object that she had held a moment earlier.

“In this box, there’s a very special rock, more special than any of the rocks in the whole creek!” my mother informed me with her storytelling voice.

My eyes lit up in amazement. “Is it more special than me?”

She laughed at the idea and said, “Nothing is more special than you, Izzy, but this rock is the most special rock in the world. And I’m giving it to you. To keep forever.”

“So I can be extra special?” I inquired excitedly.

“Yes, so you can be the most special little girl in all the world.”

“I thought you said I was the most special little girl in all the world before.”

“That I did, Izzy. But with this special rock, you’ll be more special than all the other little girls together!” she stated with a radiant smile. Eager to obtain this elite status, I reached for the box in my mother’s hand.

“Not so fast, little one. You have to make a promise first.”

“What kind of promise?” I was ready to do whatever it took to get that rock.

“You have to promise to one day give this special rock to your future daughter so she can be special like you.” I nodded my head until I realized that that wasn’t enough.

“I promise,” I said with all the conviction I could muster. My mother opened the box and revealed a very simple necklace. Inside the pendant was the most perfect, timberwolf pebble I had ever seen. I could even see my reflection on the little stone’s immaculate surface.

I looked up with delight at my mother, who peered back down at me with a loving smile. “I love you,” she said silently with her lips. “I love you too,” I mouthed back. I reached up with both arms and pulled her into a huge hug...

I open my eyes. My vision is blurred slightly and my nose is trying to emulate the running creek. I wipe one eye with the knuckle of my hand and streak the moisture around my cheekbone to the corner of my mouth. The salty drop lingering in my mouth and the sight of the timberwolf pebble loosen the valves behind my eyes and draw forth a saline flood. Through my own irregular sobs, I can still hear her distant laughter...

“Ellie!” I call down the hill. I perk my own ears to locate the anticipated response.

“Coming Mommy!” answered my daughter from somewhere over the fallen birch tree outside my mother’s old home. The distant rustling of branches and snapping of twigs signalled that my request was being heeded. I watched as Ellie suddenly appeared over the decaying log, the biggest possible smile on her face. I glanced down at the little box in my hand, the same box my own mother had given to me when I was Ellie’s age. I did my best to control my overpowering emotions as I prepared to fulfill my promise.

When I looked back up, however, Ellie had vanished, along with a section of the birch tree. A child’s scream pierced the air for a fraction of a second before echoing back from the surrounding hills and rattling in my skull for an eternity. I was pulled from the memories of my mother to the shocking present in an instant.

“Ellie!” I shrieked, dropping the box and taking off at a sprint down the dirt path towards the creek. My vision tunneled and all that I was focused on was the path in front of me. My shoes kicked up dust and dirt behind me and my fists pumped at my sides, propelling me towards my only daughter. Never in my life had I longed to hear any noise from my little Ellie more than this moment, but the forest was deathly silent.

My legs gave out a few feet from the edge. My knees scraped the gritty earth through my handmade dress and my hands landed in the decaying dirt where the birch tree once lay. “Ellie!” I cried again between my frantic breaths. My eyes scanned the creek bed in search of her little red pants or her bright yellow t-shirt. My search quickly honed in on the enormous birch log which now crossed the stream. My brain only halfway comprehended the red trails polluting the formerly pristine waterway.

My shoes, ill-equipped for outdoor use, quickly fell apart as I scrambled my way down the sloped towards my helpless daughter. In my bare feet, surrounded by the ice-cold creek, I wrenched at one end of the great, white behemoth attacking my little girl until it swivelled at one end and landed back on the shale with a resounding thud. Exhausted, I dropped into the frigid stream knees first and scooped up little Ellie’s limp form into my arms. I already knew that she was gone, but I wasn’t yet ready to say goodbye...

As the memories pass, I wipe the tears from my eyes. I reassemble myself and stand up in the old creek bed. I try not to think about the mostly rotted log beside the creek as I make my way up that fateful slope once more. Ahead of me, the empty shell of my mother’s collapsing home seems to plead for me to come home. My feet carry me up the hill to the sad, old structure, it’s red paint nearly completely washed away with years of rain and wind. I finally reach the front porch, pausing only for a moment to catch my breath. My mission lies just around the corner. My eyes begin to water once more, and I force myself to continue.

Surrounded by a tiny white fence is a small patch of green grass, one of the few areas of the property open to the sky through the trees. A stone lies on either side of a newly planted redbud tree. Simply printed on the faces of each stone are the words “Eileen” and “Ellie.” My vision clouds once more as I approach the latter stone, and I wipe my eyes once more.

From my jacket pocket, I pull out a little box, practically falling apart from years of service and discolored beyond recognition. Carefully, I open it and lift the timberwolf necklace from its confines.

“Ellie,” I whisper to the stone. “A long time ago, I made a promise to my mother. I promised her, that one day I would give this necklace to you. I promised her that one day, this necklace would make you the most special little girl in all the world. Ellie, I want you to know that to me, you are… you… were… the most special little girl I could have ever asked for. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you this sooner.”

I finish choking through my apology and lodge my hand in the dirt in front of Ellie’s stone. Carefully, I place the necklace inside the hole and replace the grass over the top, patting it down with both hands.

I then turn my attention to the second stone.

“Mom,” I force through tears. “I love you with all my heart. I’m sorry I couldn’t fulfill my promise like you wanted me to, but I did the best I could. I hope you’ll forgive me.”

My fingers glide across the face of the stone, conveying a long overdue reparation. Through my once more blurred vision, I turn back to Ellie’s stone and mouth silently, “I love you,” before finally turning away and wandering somberly back towards the peaceful creek.
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