Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)
TITLE: I Will
By JoAnne Potter
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Dave and I had been married four days. October fell gently that year and by the middle of the month, trees started to release red and gold leaves so they could play in our whirlwind as we drove across the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our honeymoon was bringing him home and taking me to meet Grandma Minnie. When we turned into town, the tree canopy parted to uncover a grocery store that stocked more white corn meal than flour, a gas station that sold six kinds of chewing tobacco but no gum, a flower shop I never saw open, and two churches, both Baptist. Bungalows and single-wides lined the intersecting streets. A few wore green steel roofs, some shutters, but all had porches and every porch held chairs, mostly cane rockers so perfectly balanced from use that the wind set them swaying. Wild rhododendrons, their disobedient blooms a long memory, rose up leathery green in front yards. Men in overalls held up doorposts. Calicoed housewives shook rugs.
The road up the mountain ran out of pavement about halfway. No one can see Grandma’s house from the road. Right after the front gate, the ground falls away and the house lies in the start of a valley that reaches miles down before hills rise up round and green. Mist muffles that valley most days until noon but burned off by the time we came through the gate. Dave’s stories of this place inhaled and took on life when their characters came into view: the hayfield he burned down, the smokehouse he stoked, and the dead willow he ringed for its abundant switch production. The milk cow had long ago died, so the churn stood neglected, but bees still crowded their stands and tobacco hung by brown stems in the barn.
As we walked down the hill, we saw Grandma sitting on the porch. She looked to be knitting, but did not bend over her work. Dave’s childhood lived here. These arms had consoled him when he skinned a knee. These hands kneaded his biscuits. These fingers ran under the words in her old Bible while he learned to read. This heart taught him honesty and honor, the first qualities in him I loved. These eyes looked out for him every day he was expected home. We had not called ahead, but she waited still.
I stopped at the head of the path when I saw that Grandma held a shotgun rather than knitting needles. Her gray hair pulled straight back from her face and she wore neither glasses nor smile. Blue and yellow cotton pulled tight over her knees. Dave walked up to her without a word. Slowly, her chin lifted, but no recognition dawned until she met his eyes. She turned then, leaned the gun against the house, and Dave pulled her up. She came only to his shoulder. She laid her head on his chest, but did not weep. He did. When he loosed her, he drew me in. Her cool blue eyes slid from my wedding ring down my prim white blouse and slacks.
--I’m so glad to finally meet you, Grandma.
She made a noise rather than reply, low and throaty, a growl born of defense and doubt. A bobcat cried out from the hollow woods. A hawk circled overhead. She took a step toward me. She had laid down one weapon, but cut with another.
--Will you treat him better than the last one?
Dave laughed while I gasped. He saw love’s concerned confrontation, but somehow, Grandma knew. The raw echo of her prophecy cut deep. The valley rang with it. Honor had married good intentions and would hurt again.
Will you love him long, as I have?
Will you forgive?
Will you cover?
Will you wait?
I meant to. I really did.
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