This is the second piece from Aggie Villanueva’s writing contests at Visual Arts Junction. As always, the prompts for the contest is one of Aggie’s artful photographs like this one, Hushed Recall. I’m pleased to present the contest winners here.
Heather Spiva, the winner of the professional division, is a freelance writer from Sacramento, CA. She loves reading and writing and spending lots of time with her two young boys and firefighter husband. When she has free time, which is rare, she spends it gardening or eating chocolate. firstname.lastname@example.org
I didn’t see it at first.
Maybe it was because the sun was setting and the endless spread of wheat in the sky blinded me. Even if this had been my view for almost twenty years, it still made me stop.
I hadn’t been gone forever; only away from the farm for a year. But when I rounded past the barn and took a short cut to the house, I tripped.
No one saw me fall. And if they did, I didn’t care. If living on my own taught me anything it was “get over yourself.” You know, as in, forget about your mistakes, keep moving forward; that type of thing. I wasn’t embarrassed by anything anymore; I didn’t have time for regrets.
I lay still, like the oak trees lining the perimeter to our property. With the cool, damp floor and smell of dry grass awaiting the dew of night, I don’t know, it was like I couldn’t get up. The grass had claws or something and this time, they had tied me to their fortress; waiting to eat me alive. I’m not sure how long I was there. But it was long enough to see the sky move, and watch the stars poke through their thick tapestry.
“Ellie? Ellie where are you?” I could hear anxiety in my sister’s voice. Sam was looking for me, but I could do it. I couldn’t get up. What was wrong with me? Maybe, I’d hurt my head harder than I thought.
I reached up to feel my head, but felt nothing.
Rolling onto my back, I breathed deep. The sky was fuchsia now, just like Mrs. Nelson’s flowers in her front patio. Surely, she would’ve cared to see me on the ground, floundering. Living with her had been different. She was old and senile; hated my skinny jeans and red lipstick. But it was her love of flowers; that was the tie that kept me paying $600 a month for a studio above the garage without a washroom.
I reached out, hitting my hand on metal. The sound of my mother’s engagement ring pinged softly on it. Flecks of rust tumbled off the rim, like crumpled sycamore leaves from November before the snow and after the heat.
Dad was the last one to use the tractor. He was the reason I tripped over it.
His stroke was unforeseen.
The cancer in mom, also unforeseen.
“Ellie? For Pete’s sake, I don’t have all night. I’ve got to get back home to the kids.”
I sighed. The only reason we were here was to figure out what to do with the house. I looked at the rust on the ring and put my hand behind my head, grinding the two elements into the dirt. The sky was black now, except for a faint glint of a sparkle on the horizon.
I wanted dad. I wanted him in his overalls. I wanted mom and her pies, and her thin hands working on the tractor engine.
“Ellie? What, are you dead?”
I raised my hand, heavy in memories and rust and diamonds. “Sam, I’m here.”
I got up, walked in and turned on the porch light. I paid over my share of the life insurance to Sam.
The house and barn had a new owner.