Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write for the BIOGRAPHICAL Genre (12/04/14)
TITLE: Blue Flowers
By Allen Povenmire
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Her mother went callously about the business of scratching out an existence on the remnants of useable land she and the older sons toiled over. Juanita helped as well, up before the sunrise gathering eggs and toting water from the well. In the dimness of the kitchen, her mother began a breakfast of cornmeal mush and biscuits. The sole exchange between Juanita and her mother was a slight nod as she took the pail from her and poured the water into the tin basin on the table.
"Go git ready for school, Skeeter"
Juanita drew warmth from the nickname, passing through the dingy sheets hanging in the doorway that led to the backroom of the house. Often she would pretend to be a princess readying for the ball, while slipping on her faded, handmade blue-flowered dress...
At seventeen, she’d grown bitter at the depths of her poverty. Juanita managed to finish high school, despite the taunting she endured from classmates who looked upon her as a poor, dirty outcast from the farm. Her mother watched through empty eyes as her daughter slowly packed a grip one night and walked out with nary a departing word. Juanita never turned back, and the threadbare relationship she held with her mother grew even thinner.
But the world proved to be harsher than she had imagined. Juanita skipped from one nickel and dime job to another, often sobbing herself to sleep in her one-room flat, as insects and rodents scurried about. Perhaps she’d judged her mother too harshly, but she clung to her prideful determination to carve out a life on her own. She drifted off to sleep, gazing emptily at the shabby blue-flowered wallpaper...
At twenty-seven, Juanita’s husband found more regular railroad work in Missouri. The young family was allowed to ride on the back platform of a caboose to their new hometown. Juanita allowed herself a slight smile of hope, perched atop suitcases and other belongings with her two older children. She tightly clutched her newborn, as the brisk autumn air blew through Juanita’s blue-flowered scarf...
At thirty-seven, her life nearly ended as a careless driver ran a stop sign, while browsing through photographs he just picked up at the drugstore. Juanita lay dazed on the floorboard of the family station wagon, unable to move a shattered knee. As paramedics eased her gurney into the back of an ambulance, Juanita took great solace at the little voices from the curb.
"We’re ok, momma. We love you!"
Juanita turned to see her children, standing together along the curbside. She whispered a prayer of thanks and slowly faded into unconsciousness as the attendants warmed her with a soft, blue-flowered blanket...
At fifty-seven, she wiped away a tear, sitting alone in the back of the limousine that had carried the family to her mother’s graveside services. Though she’d spent the last few years dutifully caring for her elderly mother, Juanita still felt the anguished twinge of a relationship so torn by the times. She softly dabbed at her eyes and gazed out at the blue-flowered arrangement sitting beside her mother’s grave...
At seventy-seven, she stood over an open casket, saying goodbye to a man with whom she had found true romance. Gazing at the only man she’d ever loved, Juanita gently reached in and touched the hands that had held hers for nearly 60 years. She softly murmured a few parting words, turned away, and reached in her handbag for a blue-flowered kerchief...
At eight-seven, her life's song in its final stanzas, Juanita’s days are taken up by caregivers and the routine of assisted living. Although many memories have been robbed by the evil wretches of dementia, her eyes still twinkle when she sees her baby boy come for a visit.
We sit eating ice cream, watching the old black and white westerns that she loves, until she’s ready for her afternoon nap. Helping her into her bed, I wonder how many more times I’ll get to tuck her in, like she must have done for me so many years ago. I kiss her gently on the cheek, pulling the blue-flowered quilt over her shoulders...
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