AW Flash Fiction — “Redemption” — 3/21/10

AW Flash Fiction = 90 minutes from reveal of theme (“redemption”) to posted story.  I like the general story though I know the writing could use some tweaking.

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Someone messed with ol’ Ms. Thorpe’s waterin’ contraption last weekend. I know because I was one of them that done it.

We didn’t mean no harm, was just havin’ some fun. Frankie’d dared me to tie the hose up into as many knots as I could. He’d then slung it up into the tree in the empty lot between Ms. Thorpe’s house and mine. We took turns swingin’ on it. It’s a wonder we didn’t wake her, as much whoopin’ and hollerin’ as we did in that lil ol’ swing. We left it there. We figured someone’d rescue it for her eventually. But no one did.

“Hey Ms. Thorpe. Is that your waterin’ thing up over in yonder tree?” my Mama asked as she walked by. Me and my friends, we was playing in the lot next door so we heard what they said.

“Yes, Ruthie, it is and a sore sight to see. I guess it’s ruirnt.” She shook her head sadly.

Frankie started snickerin’ so shot him my best dirty look. Didn’t need to carry on like that and give us away, not with my Mama standin’ there.

“Your flowers are looking a bit parched. Maybe you should find another way to water ’em,” my Mama said.

“I tried but I ain’t got the strength to carry the water or make the trips up and down them stairs over and over again.” She shook her head again, her wispy bun threatening fall down as she did.

“Cain’t you get you a new one, Ms. Thorpe?” Mama asked.

“The good Lord only gave me enough money to put food on my table or buy me a new watering machine. If it’s me or the flowers, well…” She stopped and hacked a few times then finished off with a “mmm, mmm, mmm”

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that and I’m sorry that someone would do somethin’ so mean to force you to make that choice. It just ain’t right.” She clucked her tongue waved goodbye then called me in to clean up for supper.

At the dinner table, we held hands for grace as usual only this time Mama added, “And please Lord, in you can find some way to save Ms. Thorpe’s beautiful flowers. Those flowers are the only bright spots in that poor woman’s life. Thank you, Lord. Amen.”

“What did you mean, Mama, about Ms. Thorpe’s flowers?” I asked as I took a bite of her warm cornbread, the butter runnin’ out the sides.

“Poor ol’ Ms. Thorpe lost all her sons in the war, all four of ’em, William, Henry, James and Sonny. None of ’em ever married or had any kids. They were all she had ’til she planted the flowers. She’s been tendin’ that garden for years. I think that’s all that’s been keepin’ her walkin’ upon God’s Earth.” She took a slurping sip of her soup. “I don’ know why some folks have’ta be so mean.”

I went to bed that night with a heavy heart. If Ms. Thorpe’s flowers died, she’d die too and I’d have been the one to kill her. I cried and wondered what I could do.

I didn’t sleep well but that’s ok ’cause in the mornin’ I had me an idea of how I could fix Ms. Thorpe’s problem. I ran over to Frankie’s house to see what he thought.

“See if we pick up them soda bottles, we can get a nickel for each one. Twenty bottles is a dollar.” I knew where there was tons of bottles someone had tossed. Many was broken but I bet we’d find enough to get Ms. Thorpe a new watering contraption.

Frankie frowned. “How much is that thing gonna cost us though?”

“I went to the hardware store and they done told me that it was ten dollars,” I told him. “So that’d be…”

“Two hundred bottles!” Frankie exclaimed. “How we gonna find two hundred bottles?”

“There’s some down by the railroad. I seen ’em,” I told him. “We can take your sister’s wagon and cart ’em to the Seven-Eleven.”

Frankie blew out a puff of air then shook his head. “Well, okay but I don’t think we can find that many bottles before them flowers’ll be dead.”

That day we cashed in forty bottles. Two dollars. And the good Lord saw fit to send rain to buy us some time.

The next day, we combed the area near the old movie theatre and found fifteen bottles. Near the school we found five more and at the train station we hit the jackpot and found forty. We now had six dollars. And the good Lord saw fit to send more rain that night.

On the third day, we looked and looked and only found five. We had six dollars and twenty-five cents. But the good Lord saw fit to send more rain that afternoon. It rained so hard, we couldn’t do no more lookin’ that day.

The fourth day, we went back to the train station and found twenty more bottles but as we was cartin’ ’em away, the station master yelled at us to leave the bottles because they was the station’s and we was stealin’ if we took ’em. We ran away when he asked us our names.

It didn’t rain at all that day and the sun burned hot as fire. Soon the puddles was all gone and we was so hot and tired, we had to spend twenty five cents to get a drink. We was back to six dollars again and the good Lord decided we needed still more sunshine, so he cranked up the sun and sent us to the swimming hole. We didn’t find no bottles that day.

On the sixth day, a miracle happened. We was walkin’ down by the river, stayin’ in the shade as much as possible, when we found a big ol’ box under a tree. I looked inside and there was nothin’ but bottles. Frankie and I counted ’em as we put ’em in the wagon. Sixty bottles, so many we had to make three trips to get ’em all down to the Seven-Eleven. We now had nine dollars. Only one more dollar to go but as we was walking home, I spotted something shiny on the sidewalk and dang if it wasn’t one of them great big silver dollars. Ten dollars! We had ten dollars!

We ran to the hardware store and lugged the waterin’ contraption to the counter to pay for it. Miss Nell Jones rang it up on her register then said, “That’ll be ten dollars and fifty cents, please.”

“But it says it’s ten dollars,” I said, my voice shakin’ with tears I was tryin’ to hold back best I could.

“There’s tax too, darlin'” she said.

“I only have ten dollars,” I said and to my horror a tear rolled down my cheek. Frankie threw up his hands and left the store.

“I’ll pay the fifty cents tax,” said a man’s voice behind me as he counted out ten nickels into Nell’s hand.

I turned and smiled at the man. “Thank you, sir,” I said as I wiped my eyes and put Ms. Thorpe’s brand spankin’ new waterin’ contraption in the wagon.

The man wore an army uniform of dark green with lots of medals on the front. He smiled and saluted me then left the store but not before I caught his name on his uniform pocket–Sargeant William Thorpe.

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