Short Story Season

Modest waves of water washed over the marbles. Minor puddles formed in my cupped palms. The creek had been flooded lately, but my grandmother still planned on doing the scavenger  hunt.

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Her eyesight was failing; bright Irish eyes were fading behind fields of cataracts. Wrinkles lined her rough hands that were sculpted through years of working with clay. In her fists, she held the marbles she had shaped into stars and hearts earlier in the week. She told me she could be leaving soon, and she wanted this last rainy summer to immortalize her in shades of red passion and brilliant yellows. The stars and hearts clinked together subtly. She coughed.

While she went to hide the rest of the marbles, I took the treasure map inside where the other grandchildren sat in muddy shoes on the linoleum. Nanna’s cursive looped around the page as if the very words were flirting with the idea of mystery. “From the living room, to the creek, and beyond the pasture – X marks the spot,” I read aloud. The twins scoffed, complaining it was too far of a walk, and it was too wet outside. I frowned at them. They’re rare marbles, I explained. I revealed the process and the dye, the colors as vivid as the morning glories and rose beds in her garden by the kiln. I recalled the beauty of inspiration and the excitement of crafting. I confessed to them the adoration our grandmother had for each of us, all baked into a variety of shapes and colors in otherwise ordinary clay. They then grabbed for the map, barking orders to start the hunt immediately. Giggling, I shushed them. “Let me check and see if Nanna is ready for us yet,” I said, backing out of the door.

The water was upset, and I sensed it as soon as I set foot outside. A quiet flow was replaced by a choke, a gurgle, as the creek struggled around her body. I saw where the ground had slipped from underneath her, a slippery betrayal disguised by the runoff. The marbles, once in her sturdy hands, were buried in the water’s tomb.

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