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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Blue (10/08/09)

TITLE: Faded Navy Blue
By Betty Castleberry


The dwelling stood at the edge of the swamp behind two big cypress trees. Its rough hewn lumber, once painted navy blue, had long ago weathered to a silvery gray.

The front door opened and a bent, elderly lady appeared. She pushed her tongue into her cheek as she looked around, temporarily erasing the wrinkles her eighty three years had engraved there. She pitched a bucket of waste water across the porch and onto the sticky black dirt beyond.

To her right, a deer leaped away, startled by the sudden presence of a human. A slow smile spread across the old woman’s face. “Don’t be scared of me. I’m jest an ole lady.” She cackled at herself and went inside the tiny one room shack.

As was her custom every afternoon, she prayed, then opened her Bible and began reading. When she had finished, she picked up a photo and kissed the handsome image. “Evenin’ Bart.”

The young man in the Navy uniform smiled back at her. She spoke again. “It’s me, Sary. Your sweetheart.” She replaced the photo. “But then who else would it be anyhow? I’m the only one that ever talks to ya.”

Pouring herself the last cup of murky black coffee, she dumped the grounds onto a chipped saucer. “There. All ready to use again tomorrow.” A piece of cheese, the mold cut away from it, completed her meager supper.

She spoke to the man in the photo again. It was the same thing she had said to him for over sixty years, only changing the status of the shack as time went by. “I wish you was here with me. No tellin’ what we coulda done together. We never had a chance to find out, did we, Darlin’? I reckon the Lord needed ya more than I did. You always loved blue, ya did. I got me a little place and painted it blue, just to please ya, Bart. Ya woulda liked it. It used to be just the color of your uniform there, and the trim was a baby blue, jest like your eyes, but it ain’t had no paint on it for some years now. I ain’t been able to take care of it much. My rheumatism is so bad I can’t do much a nothin’ these days.”

The tears came and she wiped them away on the sleeve of her worn shirt. She took her coffee outside and sat on the wobbly steps of her shack. In the distance, she could hear the sounds of the freeway. She sighed. “Didn’t used to be sounds such as that out here. You can hear them eighteen wheelers whinin’ all the way back here now.”

Sary had learned to become fairly self-sufficient, only occasionally venturing out for a few supplies. Once when she had needed some things, she had walked to the freeway looking for a ride into town. A kind lady had picked her up, mildly scolding her for hitchhiking. She had turned down the ten dollars the driver offered, instructing her to give it someone “who really needed it.” The lady asked her to promise she would never hitchhike again, and she hadn’t.

Sary shook her head at the memory. “If’n a stranger didn’t kill me, I reckon I’d die walkin’ now-a-days. These brittle ole bones can’t handle much no more.”

Placing a hand on the small of her back, she struggled up off the steps and went back inside. The pain started in her belly and rose up into her chest, then it abated, just as it had been doing for the last several days. The difference was that time it was much more intense and lasted longer. She nodded, knowing what needed to be done. Collecting Bart’s photo and her Bible, she laid down on her bed. She placed them against her chest. The pain started again. Her eyes closed.

Hardly anyone noticed Sary‘s passing. Her niece from Alaska refused to come down and take care of her “crazy" aunt‘s affairs. That is how most people viewed the old woman- crazy, if not downright dangerous. They couldn’t see past her ramshackle cabin and odd habits. Neither could they see the gentle soul who loved the Lord and a certain sailor, all of her life.

Sary did get her final wish. The sheriff found a hand scrawled note in her Bible which read, “Bury me in navy blue.” They did.

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This article has been read 747 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 10/18/09
This left me feeling sad for Sary--what a lonely, solitary life this sweet woman led.
Mona Purvis10/20/09
WOW. Compelling story of a very strong character whose love was in Heaven awaiting her.
Was she lonely? I don't know. I would love to have known her.

Dee Yoder 10/20/09
Oh, this lady is precious! So sad, but endearing. I could really see the images you painted in this story.
Ruth Brown10/20/09
What a bitter-sweet story.
Makes us feel deeply. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 10/21/09
Wonderful character study, Betty! You're SUCH a good writer! I'm always, always staisfied after I read one of your stories.
Kate Oliver Webb 10/21/09
A beautiful story! Perhaps Sary was lonely for a while, but I felt she came to terms with it and enjoyed living with the memories of her sweetheart, and the presence of her Lord. Her relatives certainly missed out on knowing a very special lady.
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/22/09
Your characterization is outstanding here. I can just see the old lady...clear into her heart.
Mariane Holbrook 10/22/09
It's such a tenderly written piece and you fleshed out Sary enough so I felt I'd known her for years. It's well-written stories like this that fill our library shelves, depicting rural America in such a deeply personal and endearing way. Very good job, my friend!