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TBT: The Peach

I wrote this short story when I was 14:

peach

The Peach
 
By: Terree L. Klaes
 
Jamie and Rick raced along the river’s edge. The grass was lush and green. The blossoming flowers were giving off their sweet spring scent, which tickled their noses and made them laugh in their childish way. It was that time of year when everybody forgets their responsibilities and puts their minds on the great outdoors.
 
As Jamie and Rick reached town, they looked back at the beauty and pleasantness of the colorful field and the long, silvery river. Slowly, they walked along what every town has, a Main Street. They passed all of the Victorian-style homes with their bright gardens and neatly mowed lawns. The older couples rocking on their porch swings waved and gave the two children happy smiles. Jamie and Rick smiled back, as their mother had taught them for good manners.
 
            At last Jamie and Rick had reached the home of the elderly Mrs. Peach. It was a fitting name, as she was a bright and cheerful woman with a peachy complexion. The only things to give away her old age were her thinning gray hair and a slump to her walk. Mrs. Peach was the one Jamie and Rick went to visit every day after school, and of course, during the summer. They brought her everlasting happiness, and in return she made them cookies, cupcakes, or brownies every day. This had been Jamie’s last day of fifth grade, and Rick’s last of third. They had both been anxious to tell Mrs. Peach all about their last day and why their smiles seemed to sing songs of all good things.
 
            As always, Mrs. Peach led the kids into her cozy white and baby blue kitchen to the breakfast nook for their treats. They both wanted to talk at the same time, which made Mrs. Peach laugh about their enthusiasm. It was like any other day at Mrs. Peach’s apricot-colored house with the white picket fence. She talked of her two children whom she missed very much. They didn’t visit her often. “Michael and Allison have such busy schedules. I wouldn’t want to be a burden to either of them,” she always said.
 
            She talked about how much joy a grandchild would bring her. Jamie thought it would be a sweet and polite gesture if she and Rick called Mrs. Peach ‘Grandmother’. Mrs. Peach loved the idea and had to give them each a kiss on their foreheads.
 
One odd day when Jamie and Rick went off through the field to visit Mrs. Peach, they arrived to see a tall man with a shiny bald spot on top of his head step out from his car and walk up the front lawn to the large oak door. This strange man didn’t knock; he just walked right in! Jamie and Rick both thought it would be best to come back later, but their childish curiosity led them up to the full length porch, decorated with its many different plants.
 
The door was left open, so Jamie and Rick made no hesitation of entering, it being, they felt, a way of invitation. Just as they had stepped into the brilliant, happy living-room, the balding man appeared, and walking right behind him was Mrs. Peach. They both carried suitcases. When Mrs. Peach glanced down at Jamie and Rick, she smiled, but the man kept his lips in a straight narrow line, using his eyes to give them a semi-cold look. Mrs. Peach put down her suitcase and reached out to hug them both to her sides. Then she bent down to plant soft kisses on the tops of their heads where their light brown hair was neatly combed.
 
“Dear children,” Mrs. Peach said. “I will not be living here anymore. As of today, I will be living at Willow Groves Nursing Home. It is just outside town, so it is not a far walk from your home. You can still visit me every day. You will, won’t you?”
 
“Yes, Mrs. Peach. Of course we will. But why are you moving there?” asked Jamie innocently.
 
“Well children, Michael has decided I am getting too feeble to live on my own in this house, and he thinks it best if I am taken care of 24 hours a day. Not that I agree, but maybe he does have a point. I am having more trouble getting around. As long as you two come visit me often, I’m sure it will be all right. I love both of you as if you really were my grandchildren.”
 
“Oh, we love you too, Grandmother. We will come every day. You’ll never get lonely.” Jamie reached out to hug Mrs. Peach, and Rick joined too. Then Jamie glanced up to see Michael staring at them as if he were witnessing something repulsive. She couldn’t help but stare at the man who was taking Mrs. Peach away from her beautiful apricot-colored home, decorated with pastels on the inside to make her days cheery and joyful. It wasn’t fair not to visit even once in three years, and then take her off to a place where she would surely become aware of her age, give up all of her youthful chatter, and wallow in a pool of unhappiness so that she would have no freedom.
 
Mrs. Peach gave Jamie and Rick each another kiss. Then she picked her suitcase up and walked out the front door, followed by Michael, who turned back to tell them to leave his house instantly. He gave a quick glare, and then was out the door helping Mrs. Peach into the car.
 
“His house! Does he mean he’s going to live in Mrs. Peach’ house? He just can’t. He’ll ruin it,” Jamie said miserably as she and Rick shuffled out of the house, turning to look at all of the special touches Mrs. Peach had put into her home, like the birdfeeders in the front lawn, and the floral door knocker. Michael was truly an evil man to do something so terrible to his own mother, who had so much heart to give if he would just let her. Jamie hated the thought of visiting Mrs. Peach in that terrible, lonely place with so many unhealthy old people. Nevertheless, she had promised that she and Rick would visit.
 
That summer Jamie and Rick learned a lot about what being given and denied love could do to a person. They learned a lesson never to be forgotten.
 
Jamie and Rick went to see Mrs. Peach in Willow Groves for the first time since she was dragged from her spicy-smelling home which had all the comforts she deserved. It was an interesting, yet sad place; all of the elderly people seemed to be rotting away. Most of them were by alone. The home wasn’t a complete loss though. There was entertainment in the recreation room: Scrabble, checkers, books, TV, and occasionally, live music were the choices of what to do.
 
When Jamie and Rick asked a passing nurse where they could find Mrs. Peach, the friendly-looking nurse smiled and directed them down the hallway. “She’s been very lonely the last few days. I’m so glad someone has come to visit her. She needs company. What did you say your names were?”
 
“I’m Jamie, and this is my little brother, Rick.”
 
“Oh, perfect! Mrs. Peach has been talking a great deal about you two,” the nurse said as she opened the white door which led into a small room with only a bed, a dresser, and a closet. There was only one window to let in Mrs. Peach’s beloved sunlight, only it was facing south. How could Michael lock up his own mother in a terrible place like this? Didn’t he have any feelings?
 
Every day, Jamie, Rick, and Mrs. Peach all played Scrabble and checkers in the recreation room. That was until one specific day when things went a little differently than usual.
 
It was bright and sunny. Jamie and Rick were on their way to see Mrs. Peach. They wanted to get there for lunch.
 
When they arrived, Jamie asked the friendly nurse to show them to Mrs. Peach. The nurse, who had been smiling, took on a different look; a sad, unsmiling look that made her seem almost pathetic. “All right, children. But I’m warning you now, Mrs. Peach is acting a little differently. Please don’t get too impatient or upset. She doesn’t realize… Please.”
 
Jamie and Rick turned puzzled looks at each other, and then hurried to catch up with the nurse. They reached Mrs. Peach’s room, and the nurse slowly creaked open the door to let Jamie and Rick in, then left.
 
            “Hello, Mrs. Peach. Are you ready to go play checkers?” asked Jamie.
Mrs. Peach turned to Rick. “Michael, would you please push Allison on the swing? I’d like to get a picture.”
 
“I’m Rick, not Michael! Remember?”
 
“Allison, take your brother for a walk.”
 
“Mrs. Peach, I’m not Allison, and that isn’t Michael. We are Jamie and Rick. Don’t you know us anymore?”
 
Just then the nurse arrived back at the room. “Children, I think it’s time you went home.”
 
“What’s the matter with her? Why doesn’t she know who we are?” asked Jamie.
 
“She is old and not as healthy as she used to be.”
 
“But she looks healthy. She’s not dying, is she? Please don’t tell us Mrs. Peach is dying!”
 
“Not exactly. Yes, she does look healthy, but it’s not a physical health problem. She has a mental disease which runs in older people. She has become senile. Mrs. Peach does not always see things as they really are. She sees things as the way they were. It’s sad, but I’m afraid there is little more to do for her. Children, I hate to say it, but I’m going to have to ask you not to come back again. I fear it will just hurt you to see much of her in this condition. You can write, and she’ll write back, when she is up to it. You may not agree now, but it really is the best idea for you to just leave her alone. I’m sorry.
 
“But we’re going to miss her so much!” cried Jamie.
 
“I know you will, sweety. Don’t worry. We’ll take good care of her. Now, would you like to say good-bye?
 
“Yeah.” With that, Jamie and Rick ran back to hug Mrs. Peach.
 
“I love you too Allison, honey. I love you too.”
 
Jamie and Rick wrote three letters before they got one from Mrs. Peach. Usually she called them Allison and Michael, but once in a while she remembered who they were and what they had meant to her. They wrote back and forth for almost a year before, finally, there were no returning letters.
 
Jamie went by herself on day to Willow Groves. She found the friendly nurse and asked her about Mrs. Peach. Jamie was not at all surprised to learn she had died in her sleep two months earlier. It did hurt her, though. To Jamie, Mrs. Peach really had been a grandmother.
 
That afternoon Jamie and Rick went for a walk by the river. The soft grass was still damp from the rain the day before. They entered Main Street and walked by all the fragrant flowers and green lawns. Soon they approached a familiar apricot house with the little white picket fence. The sign in the yard which had said “For Sale” now said “Sold.”
 
The front door opened and out stepped a little old lady. She was fragile-looking, with the sweetest blue eyes Jamie and Rick had ever seen. The old lady beckoned with her hands for them to come to the porch with all the well-kept plants, and have some cookies with her. They were hesitant at first, but she gave a pleading look with her beautiful, charming blue eyes, and they were faithful to her call. Jamie and Rick had so much love to give. How could they possibly deny anyone?

 

 

TBT: To Smile Again

I found a short story I wrote back in 2006, so I figured I’d share it for my Throw Back Thursday.

To Smile Again

By: Terree L. Klaes
Oct 2006

 

“You used to know how to smile.”

“You used to know how to make me smile.” The remark pierced straight through Rick’s normally thick skin, and he turned his eyes down, no longer able to look at Nina’s despondent face. What seemed like hours passed with nothing but the sound of distant water dripping from the bathroom faucet on the other side of the cockroach infested apartment.

“What made you decide to find me now, Rick? Did you need a last look at what you destroyed?”

“You have that backwards, Nina. You destroyed yourself, and tried to take me with you.”

“Liar! Besides, I didn’t mean that. I meant us. You destroyed us, and turned your back on me,” Nina screamed as she looked towards the small plastic baggie and mirror laying on her nightstand.

“Don’t you pin his on me. We were happy, big sister, until you started snorting that stuff up your nose every chance you got. You were supposed to take care of me, but I had to take care of you! I had to call 911 when you started convulsing on the floor because that junk had messed you up so badly!” Rick was shaking with emotion and adrenalin was running through his pure veins.

“You walked away from me when I needed you.”

“You needed me to support your habit, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I love you, Nina. Nothing will change the fact that you’re my sister, but I can’t do this anymore. You’re on a carousel, and I need to get off.”

Nina laughed. “A carousel? What’s that supposed to mean, Rick? You always have all these crazy phrases, and pretty words to explain everything,” she said as she stared with cold eyes, right into Rick’s soul. “Is that just a fancy way to say you think I’m nuts?”

“You’re not nuts. But you’re in some sort of destructive cycle,” he said as he instinctively grabbed her little, white, powdery bag and headed towards the bathroom.

Nina moved with an agility and speed which Rick had not seen from her in years. “Don’t do it! I won’t let you do it!” she screamed as she threw herself onto Rick’s back, grabbing at his hand which contained her treasure. “Let it go!”

Rick managed to twist around so he could push Nina away. She came at him again with her nails and attempted to scratch her stash from his hand this time. She was just about to bite his arm when he threw her to the floor. Nina bumped her head on the bathroom doorknob as she went down.

“Bastard! Look what you did to me,” Nina cursed as she showed Rick the blood on her hand after she reached back to touch her head. Then she glanced toward the floor and noticed a familiar white dust coating the area in front of the bathroom door. Already, two small crimson drops had landed in the center of the mess from the deepest of the four parallel scratches Nina had left on Rick’s forearm.

Nina flopped herself forward onto her hands and knees. She began scooping the cocaine into a little pile with her hands, smearing the blood into the pile, making a pasty glob.

As Rick watched this desperate move from his sister, he felt queasy. As he took a large step over her to enter the hallway, he dropped the little plastic bag on the floor in front of her, knowing she wanted her fix bad enough to scoop every last bit of the blood stained powder back into that bag. He couldn’t look at Nina now. Very quietly, Rick said, “I just came by to say goodbye, Nina, and give you one last chance for me to help you.”

“Obviously, I don’t need your help, Rick!”

“Yeah, obviously.”

“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I hope you die over there in Iraq!”

onebloom.com

Found pic at onebloom.com through Google images

“I’m sure you do, Nina,” Rick whispered as he walked briskly to the door. He suddenly couldn’t get out of that apartment fast enough. He rushed down the stairs, taking two at a time.

“Where are you going, Rick?” Nina quizzed as she leaned over the railing in front of her apartment door, looking down at Rick who was already two flights below her. He only had one more flight to go before he was out of this place, and out of Nina’s life. He didn’t want to stop, but he couldn’t help himself. His steps slowed and then halted. Rick glanced up towards Nina.

“Nina, I’m through with all of this. I hope you figure things out and get help. But I can’t baby-sit you anymore. I won’t even be here.”

“I know. I know you’re right. And I know that you hate me. And I don’t even blame you, Rick. I’m so messed up. I don’t really hope you die. I want to die.” Something dangled from her right hand as she blew Rick a kiss. “I want you to take this with you. Wear it.” With that she dropped the object over the balcony. As Rick held out his hand, the chain from the necklace slipped over two of his fingers. Hanging from the chain was a locket that had belonged to their mother years ago. Inside were side by side pictures of Nina and Rick. “Please wear it Rick. While you’re gone, I promise I’ll check myself into a clinic. This was rock-bottom today. I can’t go on like this. I know that.”

Without saying a word, Rick slipped the chain over his head, and gave the locket a kiss before he tucked it out of sight and into his fatigues. “I’ll see you in six months, Nina,” he said as he strode the rest of the way down the stairs and out the door at the bottom onto the busy street.

Six months later, just in time for Nina to check out of the clinic, she received a necklace from Rick. His dog tags.

 

 

 

We Need to Talk

Here’s a piece of something.  I don’t know what:

Angie rolled her eyes at her mother, not so much in the directly disrespectful manner of an average fifteen-year-old girl as out of expectation of what was to come.  Another lecture of how life and kids were back when she was Angie’s age.

“But Mom, when you were my age, I bet you were already about 40,” she said, punctuating her sentence with a laugh.

Not that her mother would ever really tell her about her childhood.  Vague lessons in life and generalities about time spent on a farm, in “the city,” and in an RV bumping around the U.S. were all Angie ever heard of.  Somehow her mother always managed to avoid giving specifics by adding more generalities on top of the others, until she had built an entirely empty empire.  When Angie was little she never questioned anything her mother said, but she wasn’t so easily fooled any longer and she wanted real answers before her mother passed away.  After all, once the cancer defeated her mother, Angie didn’t want to be an orphan.  There had to be some family somewhere.  Somebody had to have driven that RV, right?

Her mother took Angie’s hand between her two frail ones and held it to her lips, pressing them gently to the back of Angie’s hand, as soft and yet strong as a hummingbird flutter.  “I know what you’re thinking, Angie, and you’re right.  We need to talk.”

Ready to Break Some Rules?

My students would laugh at this following tidbit of a story, or shake their fists at me in anger.  I always tell them not to begin their essays with onomatopoeia.  Seriously, it tends to feel quite juvenile and often they cannot make it flow into their writing.  It might read something like this: “Boom.  That’s the sound the locker made when they boy slammed it shut in the hallway yesterday.”  Agh! It makes me want to pull out my eyelashes one at a time, and it reminds me of Ben Stein’s character on The Wonder Years and in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Then I found an old bit of something I wrote back when I was their age (tenth grade).  I do not teach creative writing though, just academic writing, so there is a difference.  It’s not quite a masterpiece; however, I always was fond of this:

The Gate by Terree Klaes (That’s how I used to spell my name- you know, for create purposes)

Bong! Bong! Bong!  Three a.m.  “Where is he?” I kept thinking to myself.  It was cold out and my whole face was getting numb.  I hated meeting him in the park so early in the morning.  Why couldn’t I just send him the money?

He had said a quarter to three.  I remembered because he had called me at work.  That was something he had never done before.

Once every month I would meet him by the entrance of the park, across from the clock tower.  Never before had he been late.

I always felt like criminal, standing by the gate with a big brown envelope tucked in my trench coat.  What I had done was nothing compared to what I felt like doing to him.  Many times I had imagined him coming to the park for his money.  I would pull out a gun and shoot him in the chest. Finally, I would be through with him.  But I couldn’t take a chance on something like that.  That could just get me into more trouble.

Why he insisted on torturing me, I couldn’t figure out, besides greed.  I had paid back every cent of the money I took.  The way I looked at the situation, it was over.

A shadow was coming up the sidewalk.  At this hour, it had to be him.  The figure walked past.  An elderly woman.

Now he was a half hour late.  Should I leave?  I didn’t know.  If I did, and he showed up, he could ruin me.  But what if he just wasn’t coming?  Then I would be at the park all night.

I had decided to leave the envelope with the money by the gate.  If he showed up, he would find it.  If not, it would be a nice gift for someone else.  Just as I was about to set the envelope down, I heard footsteps.  It was him.  Finally.

We got into an argument about the price I should be paying.  I was furious.  I opened my purse, puled out a gun, and shot him in the chest. Then I ran as fast as I could with the money still in my trench coat.

Nobody ever found out who killed him.  No one had any idea.

I was just thinking about how I also broke the rule I teach my students about not writing too many short, choppy sentences, and yet I had done it to create a feeling of impatience and frustration.  I guess I like to apply the idea of, “you have to know the rules first before you can properly break them.”  Not that this little story is perfect; I was only 14 or 15 when I wrote it.  I’ve been trying to figure out if I should try to do anything else with it or just let it rest in peace.

Always Wear Clean Underwear

I was looking through some old files on a flashdrive and found this story I wrote a long time ago for some sort of short short story contest.  It did NOT win, but it made me laugh a bit, especially since I completely forgot I wrote it.

Always Wear Clean Underwear

I could have avoided all that trouble if only I had remembered to wear clean underwear.  Mom always said, “Be sure you wear clean underwear.  After all, you never know when you might get in an accident and you’ll have on dirty underwear.  How embarrassing that would be for you!” Does anybody ever really think that will happen to her?  Honestly, my problem wasn’t having on dirty underwear, rather none at all.  Let me go back to the beginning before you get the wrong idea about me.

Yesterday was laundry day.  The problem is that I left my delicate load in the washing machine overnight and by the time I realized my error, it was time to leave for class and my panties were still damp.  I’m not the type of girl who feels comfortable going without undies, but I had little choice.  I grabbed a pair out of the load as I transferred my delicates to the dryer, scooped up my book-bag, and was in my car in a flash.  Having a car with darkly tinted windows can be a great advantage, and I used the opportunity to hang my panties from the little hook over the window in the back seat.  This was great, as I had never actually found a use for one of these strange catches before.  The drive to campus was about 45 minutes and I was hoping this would be long enough for my undergarments to reach a comfortable moisture level.

My radio was blasting as I sang along with “Tainted Love” on the 80’s station.  Suddenly, the ring-tone of “The Imperial March” broke into my trance.  “Hey Danni!  What’re you up to?…. Of course I’m out of bed.  I have class this morning….. Sure, I’ll swing by to get you, and Brianna….. See ya in a few.”

I cranked my radio back up and returned to my singing.  I felt like the next American Idol in the comfort of my own car.  Yes, I had become quite comfortable in my usual routine of my morning commute.  I didn’t even mind the short detour to get my two best friends, and I had completely forgotten about my panties.

As I pulled up in front of Danni’s apartment, I saw that she and Brianna were out front waiting.  They didn’t see me though, since they were talking to Cameron on the front steps.  Cameron is a superior specimen in every way, and it is no secret that I’ve had a crush on him for about a year now.  The problem is that I never seem to have the ability of making enough small talk around him to keep him in close proximity for long.  I could have sat watching him for hours, but class was in ten minutes, so I honked the horn to get my friends’ attention.  To my surprise, all three came strolling my way.

Brianna opened the door.  “Hi Kat!  Is it all right if we give Cameron a ride?  His car won’t start,” she said, winking at me.

“Oh, sure.  There’s plenty of room.”  With that, Brianna hopped into the back seat, scooting over behind me.  Danni told Cameron she didn’t mind sitting in the back, but he insisted he would sit back there.  Once they were all in, I got the car back on the road.  Danni was digging through my CDs when Cameron said, “I thought your name was Kathryn?”

“Yeah, that’s right.  Why?”

“I just thought it was odd that your panties say “Angel”.

Smash!  In my moment of shock and humiliation, the front end of my small sedan crumpled into the back of a soccer-ball stickered mini-van full of kids carpooling to school.   The airbags had deployed.  “Is everyone all right?”  I heard myself asking, as if outside of my own body.

Once we all realized we were not only still among the living, but also mostly unharmed, we all got out of the car to check on the van full of kids.  The side door on the vehicle opened and there was pandemonium as eight kids spilled out.  Everyone seemed to have a cell phone in hand, and only a few minutes passed before the first cop arrived on the scene.  The officer was taking my statement at the back of my car when one of the kids suddenly yelled out, “Hey, lady!  Is that your underwear on the ground?  Looks like it fell out of your car.”

Copyright by Terri Klaes Harper 2006