Tilson (A Poem)

Margaret asked,
“Do you want his letters?”
And my grandmother said no.
My grandmother’s memory
of her brother
never faded.
Year upon year
to her,
he remained crystal clear.
And one day,
his fiancé,
who’d kissed his coffin
when he came home,
asked if she should return the letters
he wrote to her.
“Those belong to you,”
my grandmother answered.
Letters and pictures –
these are the things we hold onto.
But it’s the memories
that keep our loved ones
with us
when they’re gone.
We –
not words or pictures
or gravestones –
we become their legacies.

Some Phone Call; Or, What We All Need to Hear (A Poem)

Can you hear me?
It’s me, that is, you,
calling from the future –
not so distant but who’s counting
as we edge closer to forty –
to tell you:
Drink more water.
And please eat the cake.
Tell people you love them,
and share what you like.
Getting laughed at isn’t so bad.
Remember that time we forgot
that thing? Yeah, that really important thing?
Turns out, it wasn’t so important after all.
Funny how that happens.
I wish I could say
in sentences that make sense and feel complete
that I’m proud of us,
even though we often forget to eat.
(You should probably work on that.)
That we should sing more and worry less.
That it’s okay we can’t ride a bike.
(No, you still haven’t tried to learn.
No, you don’t really care.)
And your hair? Luxurious. Leave it.
(And say thank you for the compliment,
instead of just nodding your head, awkwardly.)
You’re not a mess.
At least, not any more than anyone else.
We’re all just out here,
pretending to know what we’re doing,
even after all these years.
So don’t let fear get in your way, okay?
If I had more time…
Can you…
I’m losing…
…just one…thing

Three Spring Haiku

Each year I’ve waited
For the little frogs to peep
The first sign of spring

Birdsong all around
Morning dew in the meadow
Breathe a sigh of spring

Last night I saw them
The first of the year’s fireflies
Summer’s on the way

Home (A Poem)

I’ve built my house,
on a bed of dreams,
a million little hopeful timbers,
with nails made of joy and grief.
Life takes hold of us that way,
you know –
the sweet made sweeter
by bitter loss,
the loss made better by
the time that came before.
Funny, that I didn’t even realize,
how the building and building
never felt like a chore.
And now, my house moves
with me wherever I go,
but also stands
forever at a crossroads,
a perpetual choice between
this and that
or that or that.
And though it doesn’t matter,
I wonder:
How many lives have I
not chosen?

Holley’s Flood (A Short Story)

*A quick note: This is April’s short story, just a little late. Life happens, right? Anyway, enjoy, and be sure to check back at the end of the month, when I’ll post a story for May!!*


The heat came first. It scorched the newly green grass and wilted the daffodils to brown, drooping husks, and we all sat and languished under the bright, white sun. We couldn’t remember a spring drought so long and miserable. And so when the rain came, first as only a gentle patter, all we felt was the sweet sense of damp, cool, long overdue relief.

On the day the heavy gray clouds rolled in, just after lunchtime, Mr. Holley’s rickety tan truck made its way down the gravel holler and up our driveway. We heard him coming long before we caught sight of him. Mama was sitting on the carport, stringing beans for dinner, and I was at her feet, playing jacks.

“Afternoon, Mr. Holley,” Mama said.

Holley tipped his straw hat and told her, “Y’all better get ready.”

“What for?” This was me, my head tilted up and my hands stilled for a moment. The jacks and ball lay strewn around my scabbed-over knees.

Old Mr. Holley was known to all of us to be a little different. No one would call him crazy, not exactly, but he just seemed to look at the world in a way that others around the valley couldn’t understand. I thought he might be some kind of magic. Mama thought he was touched in the head, which is a thing we used to say, back then. Whatever the case, when Mr. Holley came to your door with a warning, you were just as likely to listen as not, depending on the day of the week and whether the sun had come up that morning.

“Rain’s fixin’ to pick up,” Holley said. “I reckon it’ll flood by Thursday.”

“After all this heat,” Mama said, “a good rain won’t hurt.”

“A little would be fine,” Holley said. “But I’m telling you, expect a flood. A big one.”

Mama nodded and said, “We’ll make sure we have oil and some water in the tub.”

Mr. Holley moved on after that, up and down the hollers and all through the valley, and despite his warnings, we just weren’t all the worried. No one could remember the valley ever having flooded, not in their grandparents’ time, or their grandparents’ grandparents’ time.

The rain started in the evening, just before dinner.

“Good for the apple trees,” said Pa, home from his day shift at the garage. “Especially after the drought.”

Mama told him what Mr. Holley had said, and Pa just shook his head and sighed.

“That poor man,” he said. “I remember him from when I was a little boy. Not quite right, but he’s always been a gentle soul.”

And that was that, at least for a few days. Mama didn’t make sure we had extra lamp oil or food, didn’t fill the tub with water, and Pa didn’t much worry about the house.

“Even if it did flood,” he said, “and it won’t…”

Here, he looked at me, his face calm and steady and brave.

“…but even if it did, we’re high up enough here that we’ll be just fine. Don’t you worry.”

Still, the rain didn’t stop. That first night, it fell in fits and starts, light showers and big, slow drips. But as the days wore on, sodden and muddy, it grew. Mists became walls, drips burst wide open into waterfalls, and I sat by the window, watching and waiting, afraid that Mr. Holley might just have been right after all.

Mama spotted me as she came through with the vacuum cleaner.

“Don’t you worry,” she told me.

“But it’s never rained like this before,” I said.

“Oh, it has. Trust me. I’ve been around a while longer than you.”

She put her hand on my shoulder and gave it a squeeze, and left a kiss on the top of my head. And even though she smiled at me, I could see something behind her eyes. Something tense and tight and all coiled up. I know now that it looked a lot like worry.

That night, sitting around the table eating soup beans and cornbread, we got the first report. It came from Mrs. Fugate, who lived just around the corner from the old red barn by the road. She’d walked over with a basket of oatmeal cookies, now drenched beyond recognition. Her shoes showed it, and she apologized up and down for tracking mud all over Mama’s kitchen floor.

“I sure am sorry,” she said, every word coming out faster and faster. “I just felt like I had to let you know. There’s water over by the wayside, out on the highway.”

“It can’t be that bad,” Mama said.

“The Warners and the Blackwells have gone to stay with family up the mountain. Left this afternoon.”

“Oh,” Mama said, and sat down in the nearest chair.

“They’re saying it’ll head towards town next. Jonas and I are leaving in the morning. Better safe than sorry.”

Mrs. Fugate left in a bigger hurry than when she came in, still apologizing for the mess, and Mama looked at Pa.

“We’ll be fine,” he said, and walked into the living room.

We heard the TV click on, and the droning sound of the news.

“Go on to bed,” Mama told me. “And don’t be afraid. Linda Fugate’s always going on about something.”

I tried to sleep that night. I tried my hardest. But all I could hear was the never-ending whirr of the rain, and all I could picture when I closed my eyes was water, a frightening rush of dark, powerful water. I’d never thought much about it before, but it hit me pretty hard that night, as I lay in the dark, that I didn’t know how to swim.

We woke up that morning on an island.

“How…” whispered Mama.

All around us, brown, muddy water lapped at the hillside. Pa stared at it from the carport.

“We’re high enough,” he said.

“Thank goodness,” Mama replied. “But what about everybody else? Oh, those poor people!”

“Nothing we can do,” Pa said. “Nothing but wait.”

In a million years, I don’t think we could have ever imagined this. People chose the valley because it was peaceful, because it was quiet, because it snowed just right in winter, and rained just right in spring, and the lightning bugs came out every year by the first day of summer vacation. There were no surprises in the valley, and life could go on day to day to day with certainty and rhythm.

“God almighty,” Mama whispered.

And we all just stood, stock still and in shock, until the terrible silence was broken by the hum, somewhere off in the distance, of a motor.

“Who on earth…” started Pa.

But we knew. We knew who. And it was no surprise when Mr. Holley rounded the corner in a small wooden boat, big enough for himself and maybe four other people.

“Holley,” called Pa.

“Mornin’,” Mr. Holley called back.

He pulled as close as he could get to the house. We could see that he had bags and boxes with him.

“I’ve just dropped off medicine for Ms. Amos,” he said.

“She’s okay?” Mama wringed her hands.

“Oh, fine. I told her what was coming same day I told you. She was ready.”

“Do you know about any others?” Pa asked.

“I’ve checked on most everybody,” Mr. Holley said. “The Fugates left last night. Only y’all and the Taylors left to go.”

“Holley,” Pa said, “how in the world did you come by a boat?”

“I built it,” Mr. Holley said. “Knew I’d need it. Just felt like the right thing to do.”

“You built it…” Mama said. And then she laughed out loud.

“Don’t y’all worry too much now,” Mr. Holley said, as if he hadn’t heard her at all. “Rain’s set to stop tonight. I reckon it might take a few days for the water to recede, but I brought y’all some water and jerky.”

“Thank you,” Mama said. “Thank you so much, Mr. Holley.”

“I have to get going now,” he said. “Still have to check on the Taylors, like I said, and Beula Price needs some kibble for the hounds.”

“Sure,” Pa said.

“I can drop back by, if you need anything,” Holley offered.

“I think we’ll be fine,” Pa answered. “But you keep yourself safe, Holley.”

We said some quick goodbyes, and Mr. Holley pulled away in his ramshackle boat and was out of sight within a minute.

“Well, I never…” started Mama.

“I know,” said Pa.

“How do you reckon he knew?”

“Good guesser?” Pa said. “Either that, or we all need to start really listening to Mr. Holley, don’t we?”

The floodwaters were gone in days, and the rain tapered off to reveal beautiful, blue, sunny skies. The destruction, the mess and the mud, it was a sight, but everyone, and I mean everyone was safe. Even Beula Price’s hounds. The papers called it a miracle. Mama did, too, and Pa always listened a little closer when Mr. Holley came to call.

To this day, if it weren’t in the record, I’d think it was all a dream. The valley has never seen that kind of weather again, and I doubt it will, even in the future. We still call it Holley’s Flood, not because he predicted it, and who can really be sure he did? But because he looked after all of us, because he saw fit to stay and help, even though, by some feat of guessing or magic, he knew it was coming. And when I look at the world now, I hope it’s full of Mr. Holleys, and of people just strange enough to listen to them.


Thank you for reading! This is the fourth of twelve stories I’ll write for my 2023 Short Story Challenge. The theme this year is: Wild.

Here are the first three, if you’d like to read them: 

Dark, Dark, Dark

Fairy Tale

Spring Mountain Child

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 May.

Good Morning, May Monday! (Thoughts, and a Poem)

It’s a new week, and a new month! I’ll have a short story out on Wednesday (April’s, just a little late), and in the meantime, I’m playing catch-up from our weekend with family (which was lovely and, as usual, too short). It’s looking to be a busy week, and you know, I’m really fine with that. I always feel like I have more energy and more determination in spring. It’s like watching the earth come alive again makes me feel more alive, too.

So, onward! And here’s a poem to get the week started. 😊 Happy creating, y’all!


Lady May (A Poem)

Crowned in flowers
and robed in sunshine,
Lady May walks now
from slope to valley,
forest to river
to field and pasture.
And in her dewy wake,
she lines them with color,
paints them green and blue
and pink and white,
bright yellow and regal lavender,
and leaves behind
the joy and hope of a world
come alive once more.

I Am Somewhere Else (A Poem)

You’re talking to me,
I know,
and I sort of, mostly hear you.
See, I’m not quite here
(though not quite not) –
I’m somewhere else,
far away
right in front of you.
It’s not one place,
so I can’t tell you where,
or when,
or exactly how I came to be there.
Or even, truthfully,
when I might be back.
You’re frustrated,
I can tell,
but just consider this:
How wonderful to travel
without tickets
or borders
or worries about time and money
and a place to stay.
I’m lucky, I think.
…what did you say?

Spring Mountain Child (A Short Story)

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.

“…making arrangements?”

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.”

“Different how?”

“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: 

Dark, Dark, Dark

Fairy Tale

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.