Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Writer's Island-The Stranger

Once it had been Anna's favorite time of day, this hour just after supper when the sun was settling in behind the stand of pine trees in the western fields, the length of the front porch cast in cool shadow. She would come outside after helping Mama wipe the dishes, pour pitchers of water over the huge ferns swinging gently from the rafters, and settle into the rocking chair, book in hand, ready to read until dusk overtook her page.

Yet ever since Clayton had been gone, Anna's restful evenings on the porch had been spoiled. She felt anxious sitting there, the long dirt road leading from town staring her in the face, the road that might bring an ominous stranger bearing the worst of all possible news.

Eleven months, fourteen days since Clayton left with Harrisburg's First Militia and sailed across the Atlantic to France. Anna smiled sadly, thinking of the dreams she had once harbored about France, her imagination filled with ideas of love and romance. And now, it could be the place where her beloved Clayton lost his life, fighting in this horrible World War that made no sense to her or anyone else in their small town.

Anna glanced nervously at the dusty road, squinting for a moment against the sun's glare. Her imagination was now preoccupied with tales she'd heard of smartly clad soldiers in dress uniform, black armbands adorning their sleeves, soldiers that always came in pairs, politely knocking on your door, hat in hand, to deliver news that would shatter your life forever.

Turning quickly away, Anna grabbed up the heavy glass pitcher that served as a makeshift watering can and hurried down the steps toward the back yard pump."There's no use in thinking about such awful things," she firmly lectured herself. "I just have to believe with all my heart and soul that Clayton will come home safely."

And so it was that Anna remained busy refilling her pitcher, pouring fresh water into each ferns dusty bed, while the sun eased itself lower into the evening sky ~ so busy that she almost didn't see the lonely figure trudging toward her, dressed in the unmistakable khaki colored puttee's that looked so odd on boys barely out of knickers and more accustomed to overalls.

Catching sight of this stranger, Anna literally felt her heart sink, powerless to stop the pitcher as it slipped from her hand, shattering in a million shards of glass on the wooden floorboards. The seconds passed like hours, her gaze fixed on this solitary man coming ever nearer, until the first glimmer of recognition began to dawn.

This lonely figure, thin and long legged, one arm swinging familiarly at his side, the other - wait, the other caught up in a sling!-but there, definitely there, and yes, the shock of blond hair catching the last flicker of sunlight. This was no stranger, she realized. Impossible as it seemed, it was Clayton.

He stopped abruptly when he caught sight of her slender body come flying off the porch, and he continued to stand stock still while she raced over the yard and down the road to meet him, heedless of any rules of grace or propriety, her dark hair unloosened from its pins and streaming in the breeze behind her.

"My God in heaven!" Anna cried, throwing her arms around him, almost pulling back in surprise at the frailty of his body, aware that she could feel every rib as she pressed her own sturdy torso against him, and then pulling him even tighter into her chest, willing him to take strength and sustenance from her.

Clayton's one good arm enfolded her and he buried his face in the fragrant smell of her clean, sun warmed hair. Anna felt a deep shudder pass through him, and she pulled back, raising her eyes to meet his.

And then her heart sank once again.

Staring off into the horizon beyond her were not the bright blue eyes of the boy she had loved and sent sailing off to war, determined to lead the victory charge for freedom. These eyes were empty and dim, filled with nothing at all like hope or pride.

They were the eyes of a stranger after all.

for more stories of strangers, go here



Blogger Michele L. Tune said...

Wow... I'm speechless...

Blogger Jo said...

Oh this is so lovely, so sad. Very well done.

Anonymous gautami tripathy said...

The empty feeling will disappear with Anna's love!

Blogger paris parfait said...

Your well-written story brought tears to my eyes. Bravo, Becca! Of course we can hope Anna's love will bring him the redemption he needs.

Blogger judie said...

I LOVED it! It seemed like the beginning...and end....of a Daniel Steel novel. I bet you could write the whole middle part that we only imagined here. Really, really good story!

Blogger LittleWing said...

what a beautiful short story...i am glad i stopped by...littelwing

Blogger Shaz said...

You write so beautifully, I am touched x

Blogger Darlene said...

Oh the blessed gift you have!

Yarn away some more, Becca

thank you,
xOx darlene

Blogger Greggo said...

beautifully written, and heartbreakingly powerful.

Blogger Remiman said...

What a beautiful story teller you are! You brought us through the agony of worry to the happy ending only to tweek us with the reality that is life. Marvelous, truly marvelous.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very poignant story. Well written. You're very good at short story writing, aren't you?

Anonymous lissa said...

kind of hopeful and sad at the same time.

Blogger wendy said...

loved it,,,I've been away too long...Just saw Across the Universe today. You may like it...It had the same vibe...and the Beatles too....

Blogger tumblewords said...

Stunning story - each step filled with emotion, tension building, and the unexpected ending. Nice!

Blogger ...deb said...

Gripping story, well told. A suprise that feels real.

Blogger Redness said...

So beautiful, so sad, so well written, Thank YOU!

Anonymous MissMeliss said...

This is lovely, Becca. Truly so.

I've given you a treat at MissMeliss.com.

Blogger Michele L. Tune said...

Hi again, Becca!

If you're up for some fun, and have time to participate, find out about Crazy 8s, here:



Anonymous Matthew said...

What a great story! I was on the edge of my seat until the end...


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