The winter ground had thawed and gone warm and soft on Spring Mountain when my grandmother first told me about the child.
“Wild as a fox at midnight,” she said. “But pretty as a picture.”
We were walking together from the church in town to the pharmacy on a sunny Sunday morning. My grandmother needed to pick up some medicine for my grandpa, and she’d promised me a Cherry Fizz if I came along quietly.
“Who was she, granny?”
“Well, here in town, they reckon she came from up on the mountain. No one’d ever seen her before.”
“But how’s that even possible? A little kid couldn’t live up there all alone.”
“Well, I never said she was alone,” my grandmother answered me, “now did I?”
“So she had a family?”
“No one knew,” my grandmother said. “She just appeared one day, like she’d been here all along. She sat out by the old ball field and watched the boys play a while, then she wandered off again.”
“What’d she look like?”
“She was just a little thing,” my grandmother said. “She had light blonde hair and blue eyes. Some people said she looked like she wasn’t quite of this world.”
We’d turned into the pharmacy by now, and my grandmother shopped while I sat at the counter with my Cherry Fizz.
“…holdin’ out long as he can…”
That was Granny.
Mr. Stevens, the pharmacist.
I knew they were talking about my grandfather. He’d been sick for a long time, as long as I’d been alive, it felt like. Other kids got to fish, or play ball, but my grandpa had never been well enough for any of that. So we played chess, and watched his shows, and drank Mountain Dew floats together on the front porch. I wanted him to live forever, but lately, his hands were too shaky and sore for board games, and he’d fall asleep in the middle of the news. He always told me you should watch the news. I knew Mr. Stevens and my grandmother were talking about Grandpa, and I didn’t like what I was hearing.
“Granny,” I yelled. “You done?”
My grandmother sauntered over and looked at me, stern and sharp, and said, “You remember our deal?”
“Yes’m,” I said, my head bowed.
“Just sit quiet until I’m done. Won’t be long, I promise.”
I did as I was told, and I did my best to tune out everything around me until I felt Granny’s hand on my shoulder.
“Ready steady,” she said.
“Ready,” I told her.
We set off towards Granny’s house, two blocks away and a couple of streets back.
“Granny,” I said.
“Hmmm,” she replied. She seemed somewhere far away, I thought.
“How’d you meet Grandpa?”
“I liked to run,” she said.
“When I was a little girl,” she said, “I liked to run. I could outrun any of the boys, easy, and they didn’t much care for that. Or for me.”
“I can’t imagine anyone not liking you,” I said.
And I really couldn’t. My grandmother made dinners for the sick and carried groceries for the weak and always had candy in a crystal jar on the coffee table. She ran church luncheons like no one else could. She took the time to decorate every little part of her house at Christmas. Who wouldn’t like her?
“Things were different back then,” she said. “I was different.”
“Well, I was new, for one thing. My family moved here when I was about seven. They kept to themselves, and that was different.”
“Okay,” I said. “But different doesn’t mean bad.”
“No, it sure doesn’t,” she said. “But I think we sort of scared people, my folks and me. I liked being outside, playing in the creek and getting my hands dirty. I liked the way the dirt felt, like it was something alive.”
“Ew,” I said.
“And I liked worms and bugs,” she added, and looked down at me with a toothy grin.
“I didn’t go to school, since my parents taught me at home. I didn’t know a lot of people, but I sure liked to run, and I’d come into town every Saturday to play with the other kids.”
“They weren’t scared?”
“Oh, they were. But I think they wanted to prove they were brave,” she said. “They liked the challenge. Boys…” she said.
“So how’d you meet Grandpa, then?”
“Your grandpa was never much of a runner,” Granny said. “He’d sit off to the side, and he never really talked to me, but every time I won a race, he’d smile.”
“He liked you,” I said, in that kind of sing-song voice that kids always use.
“I reckon he did,” she said. “And one day, I sat down and said hello.”
“What’d he say back?”
“I guess it was hello,” Granny answered. “But you know, I don’t much remember, because we were always together after that, and we talked about a lot of things. I remember all of that, but not the first thing he said to me. Isn’t that sad?”
“Yeah,” I told her. “It is.”
“He didn’t like to run, but he did like the woods, and so he’d come up the mountain with me and we’d walk and talk. I’d show him my favorite bugs, and he’d show me his favorite flowers.”
“Grandpa doesn’t go in the woods anymore,” I said.
“No,” Granny replied. “No, he can’t move around like he used to. But we had lots of good years up in those woods.”
“I like that,” I said.
“I did, too,” she said. “I like our house just fine, but I love the mountain. Your grandpa does, too.”
“So that’s why you married him, then? Because he liked the woods?”
Granny laughed. “Oh, sweet pea,” she said, “there were all sorts of reasons. He liked the woods, and he liked me, and he was even nice to my parents. Came all the way up to their cabin and asked my father if he could marry me. Wasn’t one bit scared.”
“Do you miss those days?”
She looked out and ahead, and sighed. “I do, all the time. But I’m happy with life here. It’s darn good, in fact. Grandpa says he tamed me, and I say I couraged him.”
We walked for a bit in silence, until we got to their house. Grandpa and Granny lived in a brown and tan Craftsman cottage with a big front porch and a yard full of flowers. I loved that house. I love it, still.
We walked up the steps and Granny was just about to open the door. I looked up at her, at her long, light hair, tied in a bun on the nape of her neck. At her blue eyes that wrinkled when she laughed big.
“Granny,” I started, and then stopped myself. Even young as I was, I thought it wasn’t possible, and then I thought, well, if she wanted to tell me, one day she would.
“Go on now,” she said. “You can’t be starting something and not finishing. Ask what you wanted.”
“Are you her? The girl from the mountain. Is that you?”
She laughed again, a big, wide laugh and slapped her knee. “Oh, lord, child, is that what you think?”
I shook my head, vigorously. But then, I nodded, just small enough for her to see.
“If’n I was,” she said, “I’d tell you this: There’s a little wild in all of us, no matter where we come from.” And then, she winked.
I’d like to think my grandmother was the little wild child from Spring Mountain. I’d like to think she never lost that part of her, and that some part of me carries it, too.
Thank you for reading! This is the third of twelve stories I’ll write for my 2023 Short Story Challenge. The theme this year is: Wild.
Here are the first two, if you’d like to read them:
I hope you join me and write some stories of your own this year! It’s fun, and I hope this will be a happy year full of good stories. But just reading is fine, too, and I’m glad you’re here.
The next story will be posted at the end of April.
7 thoughts on “Spring Mountain Child (A Short Story)”
Reminds me of time spent with my grandma. Nice, conversational style.
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Thank you! It’s been a little while since I’ve done a really dialogue-driven story, and this was fun. 🙂
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“I knew they were talking about my grandfather. He’d been sick for a long time, as long as I’d been alive, it felt like. Other kids got to fish, or play ball, but my grandpa had never been well enough for any of that. So we played chess, and watched his shows, and drank Mountain Dew floats together on the front porch. I wanted him to live forever, but lately, his hands were too shaky and sore for board games, and he’d fall asleep in the middle of the news. He always told me you should watch the news.”
That was my favorite paragraph-so vivid and relatable. Also thank you – tonight was one of those times i check out one or two other bloggers pages that have liked one of my posts. Once in a while , it’s paid off- and this was one of those times. I may just join in and write a few short pieces, not that i generally write fiction. Could be a fun challenge as i know quite a few local writers:)
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I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, and thank you for sharing your favorite part! And for the follow, as well. I’d love for you to join the challenge! It’s a lot of fun. 🙂
Very beautiful story. I loved the message, and I enjoyed the writing style. Great stuff.
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Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
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