Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Just Her Luck

She wanted to be near the grass.  We liberated her from the confines of a cane wheelchair and settled her on the edge of a red and green plaid wool blanket spread at the base of an oak tree.  Propped up against the trunk-a cardigan sweater cushioning her back-her fingers could idly seek and explore the verdant bladed coolness of the lawn while she read from the thick volume of Hemingway balanced on her lap.

Her name was Josephine, though we called her “Little Jo.”  The nickname had nothing to do with her reduced stature as she sat in her chair-the consequence of having suffered a severe case of childhood polio-but innocently enough because she was the youngest among our newly formed circle of freshman-year friends.

On that Saturday in late September, we’d decided to picnic beside the small river that meandered enchantingly through the middle of campus.  Trees were turning, and the noonday sun was friendly, though not blistering as we ate our lunch, and then ambled along the river’s banks tossing stones and feeding leftover pieces of bread to the ducks.  Little Jo, hatching a spot on the blanket, seemed, in those gilded moments, to be genuinely happy.

I’ll never know.

More than a score of years have bloomed and withered since that day-the searing burn of senselessness smoldered to ashes of sadness-and I realize now what a bitter awakening it may have been for Josephine.  In the sheltered town she’d come from, she might not have felt her limitations as keenly.  But looking on from her patch of plaid wool, our strong and supple limbs a mocking picture of grace and unencumbered potential she would never have, she could not ignore the harsh truth.  Perhaps the world was really only going to open up for the rest of us.

Somewhere, in the space between our goodbyes of that autumn afternoon and Sunday morning, she cradled a four-leafed clover she’d found, and wished herself away.

 

writing prompt

http://writeonedge.com/2013/09/write-at-the-merge-week-36/

http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/2013/09/trifecta-week-ninety-three.html

53 comments:

  1. I'm stunned. What an enchanting and emotional read. The imagery was wonderful and well used throughout. Thank you for sharing this heartbreaking picture.

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    1. Thank you so much Ben! What a lovely comment!

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  2. Awww, this is so heartbreaking. It is very well written and made me feel so sad for Little Jo. You definitely have a way with words, my friend!

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    1. Thanks Tammy! I really appreciate that!

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  3. Oh this is powerful writing I know because I was so wrapped up in the feelings of Josephine I could feel her pain. I have tears in my eyes. This is sad but sad to say reality. HUGS for the wonderful writer Valerie. B

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    1. B-you are so welcome! It's only fair that I return the favor after reading your wonderful stories!! :)

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  4. Powerful and beautiful. Such a great entry, Valerie!

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    1. That means so much! Thanks a million!!

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  5. Valerie, your writing immediately finds the emotional truth of your characters and then blossoms it out for the rest of us to see and understand.

    This is, as Ben says, an enchanting and emotional read. And, that beautiful last sentence is stunning.

    You are a beautiful writer :)))

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    1. Having talented readers like you leave such inspiring comments is such a reward, Jo-Anne! Thank you so much!

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  6. I love "a mocking picture of grace" awesome.

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  7. Wow - so lovely and melancholy. The turn of the story at that brief 'I'll never know' is powerful.

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    1. I wanted to foreshadow just a bit to add emotion-I'm glad you liked that line. Thanks so much for your comment!

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  8. Oh you really make me feel for her. And have curiosity for the narrator.

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    1. Lisa-my only regret is that I didn't let Jo live in the present day. A happier ending, perhaps:)

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  9. So. Very. Good. I've been into period fiction of late, and this fits right in to my favorite time. You've written bittersweet, regret, stunningly well. Your visuals are clear as well. Top of my list, for sure.

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    1. Debbie-I adore period fiction. It's what I'm drawn too more than any other genre, and you can bet I'll be looking forward to keeping up with your work!! Thank you so much!

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  10. Acute collections of emotion...how utterly beautifully written.

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    1. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, dearest Dawn:)

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  11. You make me feel for Josephine with enough details to make me feel as if I know her, but not so many that it held the story back. The last paragraph was bittersweet; Sad for those left behind, but I like to think Jo found a happier place to rest.

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    1. Thanks Janna! it's a fine line I think I'm getting better at walking! I really and truly appreciate your thoughts!!

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  12. ohh..am rendered speechless by the sad beauty this piece!Valerie,as usual your writing is exceptional!I missed reading you and this makes me so glad to be back after 3 months :-)

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    1. Thank you so much, Atreyee! I'm so glad to see you back again! I missed you:)

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  13. There are so many feelings in this. It's really captivating.

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  14. Thanks to Dr Salk and Dr Sabin, we hardly see a victim nowadays.

    Loved the character of little JO. :-)

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    1. So true, AC! What a staggering gift to humanity their contributions were! Thanks so much for reading this!

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  15. That was so beautifully written and truly touches the heart.

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    1. Thank you Renada! I appreciate your sweet comment!!

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  16. "Wished herself away" is such a powerful image. Stunning, yet simple. This was great!

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    1. Thank you so much! I know it was a sad ending, and I wanted to put it in the softest of terms. I'm so glad you liked this one:)

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  17. Really beautiful. "The world was really only going to open up for the rest of us." Love that line.

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  18. Wow. It's so sad. I don't believe it though. I don't believe that the world would only open for the rest of them. I believe that we all have our calamities be they internal or external. I know there have been times in my own life when I have wished my own life away. I am so thankful that I came to realize that the world opens and closes for all of us in different ways.

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    1. This, unfortunately, was based on a friend I had in college. I was stunned beyond comprehension at the time. I still wonder why none of us saw the signs that she was so unhappy. We never got the chance to try to talk with her about it because we didn't know. I still remember when I found out about her. I just couldn't believe it. I guess in the case of Little Jo, and my friend, it's all in what they perceived to be true, and not necessarily was true.

      Thank you so, so much for sharing your very insightful and thoughtful comments! I love the dialog that comes from a piece of my writing! :)

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    2. And I totally agree with you that the world opens and closes for all of us in different ways. That is so true!! :)

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  19. I have to come back and add that this was a really good piece of writing because it stirred me up. It made me kind of angry.

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    1. You have really made my day with your thoughts! Thank you so much, again!!

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  20. Valerie,

    Your writing has such a lovely softness to it--even the piece you wrote about the little girl being verbally abused by her mother. You are very adept at adding just the right amount of tension, poignancy.

    Another beautiful piece, my friend! :)

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    1. Thanks Ivy! Really and truly thanks! I don't know what I'd do without you and your wonderful comments! I owe you:)

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  21. Excellent my sweet Valerie! Packed full of photos in my mind; each time I read your works. I was consistently wondering where we were going with Lil' Jo. The story didn't go where I thought it would; which I loved. You are so skilled at that talent. More, more and must have more of your stories, dear one. I.Love.You.

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    1. Thanks, my friend:) I think the pain in my heart manifests itself in my writing. I've come to realize that I can use that to make my writing stronger, but sometimes it takes me places that are hard to face. I.Love. You. Too. :)

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  22. Amazing writing. You painted a picture with your words that was easy to dive into. You really pulled me in, and then you broke my heart.

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    1. Thank you so much, Jennifer! I love your comment! It's gorgeous and eloquent and sums this story up well:)

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  23. Killing us softly, Valerie!
    The last paragraph is gorgeous and devastating.
    What a lovely tribute.

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  24. Thank you so much, Kymm! I am always flattered to have you read and comment! Kind of like finding money in my pocket that I'd forgotten about:)

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  25. This is such powerful writing. Amazing. Thanks for linking up. Don't forget to come back and vote for your top three.

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  26. As usual, your writing pulls me in and I can't stop, even as i begin to sense something something might not be right.

    I remember when a friend of my daughter's, a teenaged boy, killed himself. He did it by jumping off an overpass. It took ages for my daughter to come to grips with it. No one realized, especially the friends. I think this happens with youth. The young are so full of life; they can't imagine someone not being in the same place.

    I hope you have a nice weekend, Valerie.

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  27. Just wondering how you are? Take care and hope everything is going well for you, my sweet! ♥

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