Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Teach yourself everything.

I haven’t done a Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge for a little while and this week’s one intrigued me. It was:
You still have 1000 words. But you’re going to break that up into 10 chapters.
Now, ostensibly that works out to about 100 words per chapter, though variation on that is fine. However you see fit to make it work. The goal here is to maintain brevity but increase scope. Can you tell a larger story in a smaller space? Does breaking it up make that easier — or harder?
The starting line was a Writeworld challenge, too so I am killing multiple birds and clearly I have a thing about grandparents and funerals.

Teach yourself everything.
“You’re not fooling anyone,” her brother accused.
She had been dabbing at her eyes surreptitiously. Didn’t want anyone to see her cry.
He gave her a weary smile.
“He’s not dying,” she insisted. Their grandfather was too vital to be ill; he had worked all his life, been married once, raised a half-dozen kids, built a house in his spare time and been a pillar of the community, as they say. He always had time to drive across town in his truck built from spare parts to replace the air conditioner for a widow.
“That’s not what the doctors say.”
The doctors were right.
The casket was open but she couldn’t bring herself to look inside it. Whatever that husk was, it wasn’t him; the essence of him was gone.
She glared at the plastic crucifixes and refused to cry; too angry to allow the tears to fall.
She ducked a hug from her mother, something she would have to deal with later. In the large family she had always been the odd one out; the prickly one that people found hard to deal with.
Her grandfather had persisted. And she had loved him for it.
At the wake, she wandered around listening in to conversations about him until it got too much for her and she headed for home.
Home was a side-gabled wooden bungalow. No prizes for guessing who had helped her renovate it. It was tiny and perfect for her. She hung her coat on the coat rack he had helped her put up before sitting in the high-backed Shaker rocker he had made. Everything in her house reminded her of him.
He had told her that waiting for the right man to buy her a house was dumb. Start small, he had said. First real estate purchase was a garage. Every cent saved for it. Each year she sold and bought something larger.
Grandpa had found the house. Discounted because a witch had lived there, or so people thought. All her possessions were still in the house. They did a lot of trips to the dump, clearing boxes of odd stuff out of the attic.
But she kept all the books.
They looked old; leather bound and filled with pages of crabbed handwriting. They fitted with the house. Jenny Merrimack was written in them all in fountain pen. It took her some time to learn to read her writing. Maybe she skipped handwriting classes for herbology because she knew an awful lot about plants? Jenny did and soon she did, too.
She re-planted the garden with the things that Jenny would have liked. Cottage garden style fitted with the age of the place. And a lot of the plants had other uses.
With her grandfather gone, she spent more time with Jenny’s books.
Her brother kept ringing her and inviting her to dinner. She kept finding reasons why she couldn’t go.
Talking to Jenny came so naturally that she didn’t even notice when she started doing it.
Or, when Jenny started talking back.
Death magic is hard.
She shrugged.
He’s been dead too long to bring the body back; he’ll just be a shade.
“Does a shade have a voice?”
I have a voice.
“Did I do that? Bring you back.”
We did, but you did so well that I have all my memories intact.
“Can we do that for Grandpa?”
Together we can do almost anything.
“Then, that’s what I want.”
Hey, pumpkin.
What is this? I always said to work a little bit every day on the big projects.
“I am so glad to hear that!”
Another thing he had always said was to teach yourself everything.
© AM Gray 2014

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