Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Weary (05/03/12)
TITLE: The Weeping Willow Waltz
By Marlene Bonney
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“But, at least their clothes is clean and their hair neatly combed,” a wisp of unaccustomed pride welling up inside Cassie, because if it weren’t for her, Daisy, Polly, Ben and Charlie would still be abed on their misshapen floor mattresses. Even now, their Pop was sprawled across their only cot, snoring off the weekend’s boozing binge.
It had been a challenge to keep the younger ones out of his way this time, the stormy weather keeping them indoors. Cassie had become “innovative” (a spelling word from last week’s lessons) by creating a treasure hunt that took them up to the nooks and crannies of an attic right out of a haunted story penny-novel. She’d even managed to make a picnic out of their meager food supply, minus the curdled milk beside the overripe bananas blackening on the scarred kitchen counter. They made a game of cleaning up, pretending they were Peter Pan’s lost boys—brave in the face of another motherless adventure.
Cassie’s mind played ping-pong between planning a sparse evening supper while tying Daisy’s runaway shoestrings, chiding Ben and Charlie for throwing rocks at the birds and calming Polly’s fears of just about everything. Somehow they all arrived in one piece without being tardy. Cassie relaxed somewhat as she relinquished her charges to capable Miss Robart, their stern but kind, teacher.
“I’m going to be a schoolmarm just like her someday,” Cassie dreamed between lessons, “and I’ll be ‘independent’ ”—another fascinating spelling bee word.
Cassie only occasionally wondered what it would have been like if her Ma had not run off. The trips back and forth to their property’s impractically distant well would have been a burden even for her.
“I don’t mind, Miss Robart. There’s a beautiful huge ol’ weepin’ willow tree on the way. I just love watchin’ the dew-drenched branches dancin’ and glist’ning through the rays of the risin’ sun—like romantic shimmering cascades of sage green.”
“Cassandra, I vow, you have such a talent for telling stories and describing nature! I’d like to share some of my books with you to further develop your writing--you will enjoy Emerson and Browning’s works, especially.”
Consequently, Cassie expanded her vocabulary, retrieving an aged dusty Webster’s dictionary from the attic. But, between house and garden chores and tending to the needs of her younger charges, she would fall asleep with a book, as exhausted and tired as Rip Van Winkle.
By the time she was sixteen, Cassie’s strength had been stretched beyond its limits. Physically, she was toughened and muscled by the hard work; but emotionally, she was drained and heart-weary. Her aspirations of becoming a teacher had faded over the years like a photographer’s underdeveloped tintype, the willow tree with its drooping mass of tangled tendrils as forlorn as her tedious life . . .
Grace, tearfully interrupting her mother’s narrative, “I never realized how burdened a childhood you had. No one could guess you’ve ever been discouraged, Mom; you’re so upbeat and cheerful.”
“Sweetheart, I am telling you my history now because soon you are leaving for university,” gently placing a worn Bible on her daughter’s lap, “this has made all the difference in my life. I know you’re already a Christian, honey, but there will be times when you are discouraged and tired, lonely and care-worn. When that happens, I trust you will open this Book and be uplifted.”
Grace gently lifted the cover of the Bible to find this inscription:
“To Cassandra, my inspiration,
upon her graduation.
‘Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.’ Isaiah 40:31.
Fondly, Your teacher, Miss Emily Robart”
Mother and daughter walked arm-in-arm over to the transplanted weeping willow tree, watching its glistening limbs dancing in the light of the silvery moon.
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