If the character’s name is Chris, I might not notice.
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Reaping the Whirlwind – by Haley
Carry Hearne sat below her oak tree, pretending she was underwater. It was just like being underwater, like when she would sink to the bottom of the pond, open her eyes, and then look up to see the sun skip across the surface and form octagons of orange and yellow. Then the beams seemed to sear through and endless shafts of gold would fall down to her where she waited as long as she could until shortness of breath overtook her willpower to stay in that world.
It was almost just as pleasant to pretend, though, and the sun was being very obliging, painting those orange and yellow octagons on the grass through the canopy of leaves above her. The leaves even chattered like the lap of little waves and since it had just rained, the land smelled fresh and wet. Wetness was synonymous with excitement for her and she could feel it. It was a day of high adventure, but for a girl of only nine years, every summer morning was an adventure day. No one could ever guess what would happen and the journey of anticipation was the first exhilarating thought that occurred to her when her eyes blinked open from the deep forgetfulness of sleep.
She almost didn’t care what happened for the rest of the day. It was so pleasant, listening to the leaves and the wind that was sweeping through the fields of long grain beyond the derelict and sun-grayed fence down the hill. She wouldn’t even have cared very much if her brothers came tearing through the pasture to call her back to the mundanity of her country life. They had a propensity for that annoying habit, but her few moments of being underwater were enough for her today.
They were her sacred moments of solitude even though she knew Pop and Gram never really approved of them. Yet, for all their significance, she was never able to answer when she was asked why she deemed it was a good use of time, sitting for hours at once under a tree. Those hours were just important, that’s all. In those moments, she could think, and thinking came very hard to her, though Pop and Gram didn’t realized this either.
“Thinking comes hard to you, child,” Gram always said when Carry failed once again to communicate her reasons, “because you don’t apply yourself. If you did a little more of that and a little less sitting under a tree, you might do better in school.”
What did that mean, apply yourself? Carry did. Everyday she applied herself. She couldn’t help it if she hated division and couldn’t keep adjectives and adverbs straight. But school wasn’t the thinking that mattered. No, what mattered was trying to remember her dead mother’s face and when she sat beneath her oak tree and pretended she was underwater, she felt closer to Mama than ever.
The water had always reminded her of Mama and she didn’t know why. She had asked Pop about it once, but he had only shrugged his shoulders like he always did when she asked anything about Mama. Then when she pressed, he weakly muttered something about water being special to her.
Perhaps water had been just as important to Mama as quiet times were for her. In the song of the leaves, the wetness of the grass, the smell of cows and grain, Carry could hear Mama’s voice, feel her spirit, and give substance to her vapid presence. Pop and Gram just didn’t understand, and Jimmy and Terry barely did either. She was alone in her longing and in those quiet hours, she came just a little closer to finding what she was seeking.
What she was seeking, though, even she never fully knew. To feel Mama was near by? Perhaps, but she could never believe it. It would be too much like believing in ghosts and Gram had always made it perfectly clear to her and her brothers that ghosts were not only imaginary but figments of an evil imagination. Ghosts were horrid beings that people “with their minds in the gutters” made up to frighten naughty children. They were the same people who believed in vampires and werewolves.
“Does that mean ogres aren’t real either, Gram?” Jimmy had asked her skeptically. There was nothing that pleased five-year-old Jimmy more than believing in the fantastic and Gram had stuck a thorn through his bubble whether intentionally or not.
“Of course they aren’t, James.”
Carry had looked up into her grandmother’s lined face, forgetting to think again just how old she looked as a sudden and horrible thought occurred to her. “But if ghosts ain’t real, then what happens to a person when they die?”
“When I die, child, I intend to fly straight to the Happy Land, not spending my eternity haunting some person’s cobweb riddled house and I think most people feel the same. And, for Heaven’s sake, child, don’t say ain’t.”
It wasn’t that Carry thought Gram a liar, but it would be so much more pleasant to think that Mama might just be a ghost and hovering somewhere near. Just because someone was a ghost didn’t make them a bad one. Mama would be a good spirit who looked after those she loved, like angels did. She might even be one of those water spirits she had read about in school, the ones that lived in wells and sang at night, the ones she had never told Gram or Pop about since she was afraid they would make her stop believing in them as well.
The wind picked up again in one of its lively, spasmodic gusts that blew Carry’s braids out in front of her shoulders. She could have turned the wind into the tempestuous tide of her underwater world, but she had lost all pleasure in pretending. Thoughts of death and ghosts were dark ones. She hadn’t wanted to think of Gram talking about flying to the Happy Land since doing so seemed so much closer to her than any of the rest of her family because she was so old. Doing without Gram was just as horrible a notion as that of not having a final place to go after one died.
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