Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ARTIFICIAL (08/11/16)
- TITLE: As Told by the Cane
By Tracy Nunes
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“Jules? Babe, did you hear me?”
Hear him? Yes, she heard him. Had he heard her? When she said she wasn’t into old stuff? Any old stuff. Even old people had a musty smell that give her the shivers.
“Yeah, I heard you. My brain is torched and it spread to my tongue…can’t talk.”
“Babe, it’s once a year. We’re almost finished.”
Jules closed her eyes. She could see herself pushing over all the tables, stomping all of it under her feet. Instead, she took a deep breath. Opening her eyes, she saw a grape popsicle in Matt’s hand - a “you know you love me” smirk on his face. Grape was her favorite. She took it without a word.
Just breathe, and eat this popsicle. Soon, I’ll be back in our must-free, air conditioned condo.
“Here, come under this tent and eat that. It cures Torch Tongue,” he chuckled.
Seeing her shopping bag, he asked, “You bought something? I thought this was all trash to you?”
“That tent you passed by was a home design wholesaler. I got three for ten dollars. I’ll glitter them and use it for candles.”
Matt shook his head. Surrounded by items that told history-filled tales of tragedy and heroism and…life, his bride chose a cheap reproduction so she could sparkle it. Bad enough that he had to keep his treasures at his store, but this frustrated him. Saying nothing, he walked out of the tent, unsaid words on his tongue.
Jules sat down on one of the chairs with an exaggerated thump and ate until her lips turned purple. The icy treat cooled her blood and she relaxed. Before long she drifted into a shallow sleep…
“That’s not real - you know that, don’t you?”
Startled, she tried to get her bearings, looking around for Matt.
“Don’t worry. Your man is down the aisle dickering with Mabel about her corncrib. He doesn’t know what he’s up against dealing with Mabel. She’d as soon arm-wrestle you to the dirt then budge an inch on her price.”
“I’m sorry…who are you?”
“Oh, Miss, my apologies. My mama taught me better manners than that.”
He stuck out his knotty, spotted hand to shake hers, “Name’s Clem. How do you do?”
Jules ignored his hand but gave him her name. Then asked, “What’s fake?”
“That store bought stuff. It’s got no story.”
Shaking her head, “I don’t need a story for a candle holder. You sound like my husband.”
Just then Jules noticed Clem’s cane. It was a good four feet long and beautifully etched with detailed scenes from top to bottom, one scene leading into another. Even the brass band around the top was laced with exquisite designs.
He noticed her gaze. Smiling, he nodded at the cane. “Now, that’s a story…”
Clem began to weave a mesmerizing story about his four times great granddaddy, Locklin, who came from Ireland. The hardships that he and his wife faced, the children that lived and the ones that died. The horrible winter when he fell and broke his leg while tending to the cows in a blizzard. The leg never mending right and Locklin walking with the cane from then on.
“Great granddaddy sent his son to the peach orchard to find the straightest, thickest branch he could and made himself a cane. On bitter-cold nights he took to carving what was going on in their lives. And, how God carried them through it all. But when his wife died, he couldn’t bring himself to carve no more. He passed it on to his son who carved about his mama and daddy - and so on. Ran out of room before I was born. It was passed to me but I’ve got no living kin. Don’t know what will come of it when I’m gone.”
A sad looked briefly passed over his face, then he turned to Jules and grinned.
“But it’ll keep telling its story to anyone who will listen…”
At that, Clem pushed himself up to standing with his cane. Tipping his tattered hat, he slowly walked out, whistling, his cane leading the way.
Leaving Jules to ponder her purchase.
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