Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: FAMILY VACATION (07/30/15)
TITLE: While I Remember
By Zacharia Fox
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“What’sa hurry, Dale?” Clint lagged a few paces, fanning himself with his straw hat.
Dale glanced back at his brother. “Ya' gettin’ old?”
“Old’n in search of the golden years. Someone done lied to me.”
Dale laughed as he looked at the stream that formed the northern border of the property. “You r’member when Daddy took us out here huntin’?”
Clint caught up, and chased the sweat from his brow. “Course. You r’member when you forgot to bring the shells?” They both chuckled.
“We’s two miles out ‘fore Daddy caught on.” Dale swatted at a fly crawling on his face.
“He was hot as the Georgia summer that’s burning us now.”
“He was. I’m sure glad you took care a this old place, Clint. It wouldn’t be right for someone else to have it. This land’s meant to be wild, like Daddy, like you.”
The tall grass stood at attention in the dead heat as Clint swept his hand over it. “I’m happy the family’s here. This reunion, it’s what a pair a’ old souls like us needs. I’m glad you put it together, Dale. You’re grandkids and mine here together.”
They walked a neglected trail until they came to a willow that brushed the ground. Clint pulled back the curtain of leaves and the two stepped into a haven from the relentless sun.
Dale patted Clint on the back and the brothers knelt by two wooden crosses. Old flowers lay at the base of each cross, faded and cracked.
Clint took off his hat. “Momma, Daddy. It’s been a while since me and Dale come out here…” Clint’s eyes misted. “We miss ya’ both. Probably won’t be long ‘fore we come join ya’. When Jesus calls my number, I’ll be comin’. I love ya’.” Clint wiped his eyes and nodded to Dale.
“Listen, Clint. I don’t make it back to Georgia very often.” Dale bit his lip to hide its quiver.
Clint studied Dale.
Dale stared back at his brother, remembering the days when the their biggest problem was finding time to break away to fish, and when a bottle of soda was a ten cent taste of heaven. He remembered camping by the fishing hole and swimming in the quarry. He remembered sneaking communion wine and herding cattle long and late. He remembered, and he didn’t want to forget. “I come for a reason. I wanted all this here, where it started for us.” Dale eyes blurred with tears. “I been to the doctor, and they run some tests.”
Tears burst from Clint’s eyes. Dale started to cry, but he had more to say. “Doctor says, I have dementia. It’s bad. A year from now I won’t recognize ya’. I needed to say bye to the ranch and to Momma and Daddy. I needed to tell ya’ bye while I r’member to.” Clint grabbed him and squeezed.
Dale felt Clint’s body tremble. After a minute, Dale went to let go, but Clint held on. “Why does time turn us all back to children?”
Dale pulled back. “I think Daddy’d say, ‘never doubt in the darkness what Jesus showed you in the light.’ We can trust Jesus. Not too much longer and he’ll be calling us home to a different family reunion.”
Clint wiped the tears from his eyes and patted his brother on the cheek. He grinned before he said, “You always did have a bad memory.”
They reminisced the whole long walk back to the ranch. When the weekend was over, and all the kids and grandkids left, Clint walked Dale to his car. They hugged, and laughed and cried, each dreading that last goodbye.
“If you die b’fore I do, tell Momma and Daddy how much I miss em.” Clint shot warning glance at Dale.
“I will, I will.”
Clint caught his arm. “And hey. Don’t forget.” They both chuckled, and then they ran out things to say, and they knew the jokes were only a mask for the ache. They hugged and looked at each other, recalling a lifetime spent together, each crying for fear of losing the other.
“Bye.” Clint pursed his lips and nodded.
“Bye.” Dale kissed his brother on the forehead.
Dale cried for several minutes, as he drove away. Eventually he regained his composure, and scratched his head. “Now, where am I headed?”
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