Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Outstanding (04/21/11)
TITLE: The Rain Barrel
By Loren T. Lowery
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Lightening flashed in the night sky. Gray clouds hung silently in the air, undisturbed by the clap of thunder that followed and shook the house. A soft breeze, scented with the earthy smell of wetted grass blew in from the meadow in front of the home. The breeze teased a wisp of her hair. She raised a hand to brush it back from her face.
A screen door creaked opened behind her followed by a spring-crisp banging of wood against wood. A hollow shutting sound, testimony to empty rooms inside. “Carol?”
She did not acknowledge the voice, her sister, Joyce.
Joyce moved closer to lay a hand on her shoulder. “That was Reverend Hanson on the phone. He said he’d be here first thing in the morning.”
Carol looked down at her hands and then out at the rain barrel. “Jonathan pulled water from that barrel just before going to the hospital a week ago. To water the violets, there on the rail,” she pointed, “he planted them from seed, you know. Violets are next to impossible to grow from seeds. But Jonathan was able to do it as easy and as natural as breathing.”
Joyce moved to sit across from her sister, on the floorboards with her back against a support post next to the steps. “He was a good man. No one can say different.”
“And handsome, he took after his daddy in that regard, but he got his grace from his mama.” Her voice drifted, her hand fluttering just above her belly. “When we learned Jonathan was dying, we talked about my not being able to conceive. I…I felt like, I don’t know, like somehow I failed him.” She glanced at her sister. “You know what he said?”
Joyce shook her head.
“He said my love was enough. It lasted him a lifetime” Tears clouded her eyes. “He said he was the luckiest man in the world.” She looked over to her sister. “Do you think when we get to heaven and look back, we can count the days we were loved to be the most extraordinary?”
"Yes, with my whole heart."
“I do, too, in a way - for those who’ve passed at least. But to those left behind, it is as a light has gone out. A very bright light, and once gone it leaves a world far darker than it was before.”
Rain continued fall and another breeze picked up carrying the same scent of the fields to the north while picking up the soft rustle of the violets on the rail. Carol rose and walked to the rain barrel at the end of the porch. She stuck a hand in the cool, boiling water.
She turned, her voice almost lost in the din of the wind and rain. “Time is like water, isn’t it? Flowing through our fingers, unable to grasp, leaving only its wetness to witness its passing.” She paused. “I told Jonathan I would never stop loving him; but even as he lay dying in the hospital, I was afraid of forgetting.
“Frightened of not being able to hold onto the memories of our love, but only to the terrible aspects of the moment.” Lightening flashed and a copper sheen from the bottom of the rain barrel shone upward. As thunder rumbled, Carol reached down; not into the barrel’s depths, but only to touch the water’s surface in an enigmatic caress. A smile shadowed her eyes.
“This was our wishing well, this rain barrel,” she whispered. “Every penny we ever owned must be at its bottom.” As the lightening diminished, so too the copper sheen of the water flickered out. “We had the most remarkable of days before his sickness.”
Joyce got up to comfort her sister. “And, like Jonathan in heaven, you have those memories as well. I know you too well, Carol. Death will never dampen them.”
Carol looked out beyond the porch, to the dark invisible rain falling from the darker, invisible clouds. She swirled the water in the rain barrel once more. “Yes, I have the memories.” She turned to face her sister, eyes glistening. “Do people who’ve been loved know how lucky they are? Truly, truly lucky?”
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