Thursday, September 15, 2011

Another Short...

A writing prompt from Writers' Digest spawned this little thought. It's a bit rough, but I felt compelled to see it through.

Original prompt:
After living for years paycheck to paycheck, a windfall of money comes your way from a distant uncle. But in order to receive the money, you must complete a mission from your uncle’s will. What’s the mission and did you do it?

The Last Postcard

“Tara, I’ve some bad news about Uncle Jim,” Momma announced gently.

I knew what was coming next. My heart was going to break
There was no need for her to say anything additional, but she continued, her voice cracking like fine porcelain, “He died, two weeks ago. He was trying to save a family from a burning building…”

Momma had said that Grandfather believed Jim was the only son-in-law worthy of the title until Aunt Jolene and Cousin Grace perished in an apartment fire. Momma had watched it happen on the news channel. Jim had to hear about it from his commanding officer while they were in Grenada. Momma said that he was never right after that. He slipped into a bottle before I was born and then after my third birthday, he simply disappeared. I was the only family he spoke to after that.

He’d send me a random postcard, or he called when I was the only one home. I remembered the last conversation we had, about my dreams to attend an old world university, but there was no way we could ever afford the opportunity. We lived in Wilcox Springs, population 530, jobs 14. My uncle Jim may have been running from the pain of his past and this forsaken town, but it might’ve been the best thing he ever did after he crawled out of the bottle. 

My grandfather died angry with him. Jim had unfairly become his greatest disappointment. His wife, his three-year old daughter, both gone in one horrible night? How does one deal with such an immeasurable loss? A war-torn soldier like Jim might never find closure. “Fire claimed him?” I asked Momma hoarsely after the silence grew too much for me to bear. “I think somehow he would’ve wanted that.”

“He’s left this for you,” she said, pulling a postcard out of the legal-looking envelope. 

Too stunned to cry, I inspected the postcard, recognizing his terse script. Remember, Tara.  I turned the postcard around to view the peaceful grounds of Trinity College. “This is enough,” I said honestly.

“Honey, that’s not all,” Momma whispered, catching my gaze as she offered me the documents in her hand.

I took the communication delicately. The black words on white background played games with my vision momentarily. “To Tara,” I read aloud, shaking, “who reminds me of all that Grace would have been, I give all I would have given her had she survived me, to be held in trust with a small monthly stipend, and the remaining in full upon successful completion of a degree from Trinity College, or other higher learning facility of your choosing.”

“That sneaky, drunken fool made a fortune and he’s left it all to you,” Momma said without venom, tears dancing happily in her eyes.

I clutched his last postcard to my heart and refused to let go.

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