“A Man Named Elk”

So today I started writing a short story (well, almost finished writing it). The story is based on a true story that my husband’s grandmother told us during a recent family reunion. The concept of the “family reunion” is new to me as my family didn’t have large family gatherings of this sort when I was growing up. This recent family reunion of my husband’s family (on his mother’s side) was only my second family reunion ever, and my first as an official part of his family. It was a Saturday and we made the hour and a half trek up from Tallahassee, Florida to Colquitt, Georgia, where his parents and grandmother live. A small group of family members, including us, were gathered together at his grandmother’s house and we were all sitting around a circle in the living room. The conversation had already begun before we arrived but we managed to fit right in. We learned of the happenings in the lives of distant family members and talked about everything from cures for the common cold to home treatments for cancer. We all made small talk about this and that  and finally the conversation made the gradual turn to story telling. All of us turned our attention to the matriarch of the family (my husband’s grandmother) and listened intently to her fascinating stories. One story in particular stood out to just about everyone there, including me. She told the story of cousin “Elk”, the man with a vicious temper who drove trains for a living and married a twelve-year-old. I don’t want to give too much of the story away for fear of spoiling the ending but let’s just say the story ends with a “bang”. For your enjoyment, I’ve decided to post the first few paragraphs of the short story to wet your appetite.

“A Man Named Elk”

It took all I had to make the pilgrimage back to my home town, my childhood home. I traveled across the country, from the west coast to the east, to return here. Though the world has changed quite a bit since I was a young girl, this place has remained constant. It holds so many memories of summers spent in the unbearable heat, of homemade jelly and peanuts picked from the fields next door, and of a time that was more innocent and kind. My grandchildren were kind enough to help me make this journey, and they were sweet enough to listen to an old lady’s tall tales. My childhood was filled with many memories, some good, others not so good. As I look out of the window at the old house next door, a white dove flies past. I know that must be Mrs. Eva, keeping watch over all of us. She always was an angelic spirit. Her son, Charlie, and I were as close as two kids could be when we were young. It was tragic what happened to her, simply tragic. Though my memory fails me at times now, I will never forget that summer.

“Ida! It’s time for lunch!” Mama yelled out of the screen door.

“Coming, Mama!” I replied.

Mama always made lunch at noon on the dot during the hot summers. I think it was her way of making us come in out of the heat. We would come in, sweat dripping off of our faces and gnats swarming around our ears and eyes. Mama wiped our faces with a cool wet cloth before we were allowed to eat. She had made homemade peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches with a glass of fresh milk to wash it down. Charlie and I spent almost every day together like this. He was my neighbor and we were practically inseparable. He had troubles at home which kept him coming over as much as Mama would allow. His Ma and Pa were fighting a lot when his Pa would come around. Mama said they had been separated for a while and it was for the better that they were. I knew it bothered Charlie to see them fighting so I believed what she said.

“Y’all eat up, now,” said Mama to us as we ate our sandwiches.

“We will,” we replied in unison.

Charlie was itching to get back outside and continue our game. We played a game during the summers that would last for months. We didn’t have a name for it but we knew how to play it. We’d run around and pretend like we were all sorts of different things. Sometimes we were pirates on the search for hidden treasure. Other times we were explorers discovering a new land for the very first time. We would change up our characters every few weeks but the game always flowed seamlessly. I could see Charlie begin to tap his foot on the floor beneath the table and look out of the screen door. We hurried up and finished our sandwiches and started for the door.

“Wait, now,” Mama stopped us before we could break free. “You didn’t drink your milk. Milk will help you grow into strong boys and girls. You want that, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mama,” I responded, unenthusiastically.

We came back to the table and sat down to drink our milk. We couldn’t drink it too fast or it would make our stomachs hurt so we took sip after sip until we could both see the table through the bottom of the glass. I looked to Mama for her approval and she nodded once, indicating that we could return to our outside adventures. We bolted through the screen door and down the front porch steps out into our imaginary world of treasures and sword fights.

If you like the story so far, then you’ll like the rest of it. I will hopefully finish it up in the next few days and be able to get it out there on Amazon within the next couple of weeks. Also, don’t forget about my upcoming novel, The Last Navigator. That will also be out for purchase on Amazon in the next couple of weeks so check it out when you are searching for a good summer beach read.

Until next time…

J. G. McNease

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