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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Staff (01/31/13)

TITLE: Mama Sang Soprano
By Vicki J. Cypcar


The midnight blue 1972 Skylark convertible came to a stop at Camden Church Cemetery. Cassie Kirkland removed her bright yellow scarf and sunglasses before grabbing the picnic basket. Robert smiled at her as the dust settled, “This doesn’t exactly look like a park Cassie.”

“I know, but it’s a family tradition, we can eat in the shade, beneath that massive oak tree.

As Robert unfolded the picnic blanket Cassie knelt beside her mother’s grave. “Hey Mama, were doing good, Julie and John are in college. We are here to sell the house Mama, I’m sorry, but Robert really wants to retire in Palm Beach.”

They feasted on fried chicken and coleslaw as a gentle breeze rustled the leaves. Mourning dove coos filled the air. Cassie closed her eyes and smiled, “I didn’t realize how much I have missed this place.”

After lunch Robert dropped Cassie off at the house before heading to town for paint. The realtor suggested they paint the faded yet ‘too cheerful’ house brown before listing it. It was the only house in Camden, Kentucky painted canary yellow. Cassie’s father never was fan of yellow, so his selfless act forever served as a vibrant testimony of his eternal love for his wife Doris.

As Cassie walked through the front door into living room she stared at the dust-covered Kimball upright piano. Brushed the dust from the bench and sat down to play her mother’s favorite song, “How Great Thou Art.”

She rose to her feet, opened the piano bench lid and discovered a collection of her mother’s music books. A yellowed stack of note cards, the ones her mother always used to teach the fundamentals of music. She shuffled through the wrinkled cards and softly read aloud; “Rest, Measure, Flat, Sharp, Staff.”

Robert returned to find her thumbing through the memorabilia. Cassie began to ramble on about her childhood memories. Robert settled into the oversized recliner and began to drift off to sleep, embracing the silence. Clearly, decades of urban living had worn him down.

A flood of memories filled Cassie’s mind, she remembered how her mother sang soprano in the church choir. As a ministers’ wife, Doris devoted hours to the choir members teaching them music. She would carefully turn the pages of the tired hymnals with the broken spines.

During the depression, the women of Camden parish congregated like moths to a flame on Wednesday evenings; freed from their stained aprons for a night of melodic harmony.

When Cassie turned ten she joined the choir. It seemed her Aunt Mary Beth always had a teething infant balanced on her hip as she held her hymnal with her free hand. She was always having babies. Mama always told Cassie big families were very blessed families.

In winter months the floors of church creaked and the wood burning stove dried out their throats. Miss Jean Ellen would always have a box of Sucrets lozenges to remedy the vocal drought. She always gave Cassie the empty boxes where she could keep her treasures, like coins and her favorite fishing lures.

At Christmas her mother always directed the Christmas plays. Boys were shepherds and stood with wooden staffs, and girls were angels with garland halos. One year they used real sheep and one of them defecated on the stage, which made the entire church smell ‘authentically’ like a barn in Bethlehem.

In warm months the congregation would picnic right after church service. It always seemed odd to be eating fried chicken and potato salad right next to a cemetery full of dead family and friends. Funny, how she never understood it before today.

She looked around the room. She could almost hear the eternal echoes of her mother’s voice. The golden voice that once penetrated through the drab farmhouse walls so long ago. Regretfully, she began to place the items into a moving box, tears filling her tired eyes.

Silence ushered in the amber hues of sunset. The brightness awakened Robert from a restful sleep. He opened his eyes and contently watched Cassie for a few moments. Slowly he rose to his feet and approached Cassie, reaching for her right hand. “You don’t need to do that. In fact, we have somewhere to go.”

Puzzled Cassie asked, “Where are we going at this hour?”

Robert smiled, “I need to go back to the hardware store before they close.”

“For what?”

“To get some canary yellow paint, so we can paint ‘our’ house.”

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This article has been read 326 times
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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/08/13
This is a lovely, bittersweet piece. You took me right to the cemetery in my mind. I grew up across the road from one, and was familiar with it. It never spooked me but helped me understand how love can endure beyond the grave. Your story captured that message quite well. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.
John Huckstep02/10/13
This was a joy to read. Nice job.
Catherine Craig 02/10/13
Catchy title! "...like moths to a flame..." and "...vocal drought...". Left no problem with visualizing each step of the way!
Jan Ackerson 02/12/13
Lovely ending, and I really enjoyed your attention to detail.

The only critique I have is with your use of commas and semicolons. There were places in the story where each was used incorrectly, interfering with the flow.

On the other hand, I very much appreciated your use of intentional sentence fragments. You understand writing for effect, and this story shows tremendous potential.
C D Swanson 02/13/13
This touched my heart. Nicely done. God bless~