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FICTION


TITLE: Eternal Rest
By Arlene Showalter
06/02/10
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"Don't be frightened son," She touches his golden-kissed curls with skeletal fingers. "We'll always be together. I promise."

A battle swirls outside her home as beleaguered Rebels fight misguided Yanks. Shrapnel punches through the trees. Bullets shriek toward their targets. Horses scream. Rebels yell. Yankees curse.

And yet the mother sits in serene faith. Nothing can harm her son. Nothing.

She hums a lively Irish air, learned on her grandfather's knee, while whistling bullets tattoo in perfect time. She rocks her body gently, squeezing her son's silent form...and waits for liberating death.

"It's a boy!" The midwife had exclaimed moments after his birth. Heavy boots thundering toward her bed announced the rapid approach of her husband. Even through pain-filled exhaustion, she appreciated his flaxen curls and bonnie blue eyes. How she loved to lose herself in those twin oceans.

She held up the product of their undying love to him. His massive hands swallowed up the wee, wailing bundle. He looked down at her, awe filling those blue, blue eyes.

"We made this?" he asked. Reverence gentled his tall voice.

She nodded. Joy surged from her weary toes to her vacant belly, moved upwards to caress her throbbing heart and settled on smiling ruby lips.

"He'll be the quickest, bravest horseman in the county," he predicted.

"And the handsomest," she added. "Just like his pa."

Smallpox slunk into town. It couldn't touch them. It mustn't touch them. But Husband's eyes deepened to midnight sadness. Why? Understanding eluded her.

Then Jeff Davis called for soldiers to turn back the inexorable tide sweeping through their country like a raging blue inferno. Husband planted a final kiss on her bloodless lips and departed. Worry concerned her not. She still had their son. They were safe.

The blue tide swept closer and closer, until it flooded every acre of the south. Now it lapped at her very door. Canister and grape rip through her husband's peach orchard, launching cascades of bark, branches and fragrant blooms.

Satiny petals flutter to the earth, blanketing the dead with gossamer shrouds. They shade sightless eyes from the noon sunlight, dancing through denuded trees.

Mother and nature hold their breath, waiting for man's madness to pass. But the blue tide surges on. She can make out words, hear the grunts, and realize the inevitable outcome.

Her butternut kin, devoid of food and shoes, are dropping to the ground which had conceived them. Death's bitter odor unites with sweet-scented blossoms in unholy matrimony.

The thud of angry boots hit her porch, loud and insistent…roaring. Ever roaring. She grips the cold body of her dead husband's pistol, hidden beneath her apron.

"Watch son," she instructs. "This one's for your pa."

Two blue bellies burst through the door. She picks her target. Simultaneous shots spar. She lurches forward to gaze upon her son one last time as warm blood pulses from her. It flows onto his perfect face. The shiny black eyes stare up at her as her life seeps over his permanent red smile, soaks through his corn-husk body and reposes on the floor.

We're together son. Just like I promised.
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