The screen door slapped Katie’s butt as she carried groceries into the kitchen. She sighed. Her daddy sat in the same chair she’d left him in two hours ago. Dark shadows haunted his eyes. He’d been like this since the funeral.
“Daddy, help me put things away.” Fear made her voice sharp, but he didn’t notice.
After finishing, she sat down beside him and picked up one of his calloused hands. She held it tightly, needing the contact, but he jerked it away.
Tears burned her eyes. She refused them. Instead, she pleaded, “Let’s have dinner at the fire pit tonight. We’ll have hot dogs and tell stories, like we used to.”
He pushed himself away and gruffly said. “Child, I’m going to sleep.”
As he climbed the creaky wooden stairs, Katie’s tears fell sloppily down her cheeks.
Later, her mama’s brother, Gene joined her at the fire pit. He was helping with the farm. They roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.
As stars popped out in the indigo sky, Uncle Gene told Katie funny stories about her mama when she was growing up. Their laughter echoed in the dark.
The porch light came on and the screen door banged open. Katie watched her daddy walk slowly to the fire pit. He sat by her. She smelled Ivory soap and felt a twinge of hope. He had bathed.
Gene stirred the fire and said, “Good to see you, John.”
“I heard the two of you talking about Louise. You forgot to tell her the bucking bull story.”
Raising his eyebrows, Gene chuckled, “That’s your story to tell, not mine.”
Katie encouraged him. “Yeah, tell me the story, Daddy.”
Her daddy began to talk. “It was my fault. We went to her boss’s Western party. Tom had one of those mechanical bull machines there. The guys bet on which of the ladies could stay on the longest.
“I guess I needed to impress Tom because I bet a hundred dollars on your mama, money we sorely needed for the farm. I figured if she rode horses, she’d stay on that bull machine.
“To be fair, your mama warned me. She called me a fool and said mechanical bulls were more like Tilt-A-Whirls, than horses. She reminded me why she didn’t like Tilt-A-Whirls.
“Well, Tom’s girlfriend, Caroline had the longest time of six seconds. Then, it was your mama’s turn. Without hesitating, she climbed on that bull. It started bucking and spinning. Your mama’s face turned green.” He looked at Katie and smiled.
Frustrated, Katie yelled, “What happened?”
“She got violently sick. Everyone was ducking and running, but she hung on and rode that bull for seven seconds. She wasn’t about to lose that money. Your mama was one stubborn lady.”
Katie watched as the memory made her daddy burst into thigh-slapping laughter. As she joined him, relief filled her heart.
Sometimes the past is the place you go for comfort.
* * * * *
This story is for a Write on Edge Writing Prompt: Week Two. We had a choice between a picture and the following quote:
The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. ~ L. P. Hartley: The Go-Between (1953)
My story is loosely based on the quote. I want to thank everyone at Write on Edge. I haven’t been able to write fiction lately and I’ve missed it. I feel a bit rusty. This challenge called to me and even though I took some liberties with the prompt, it felt so good to put down some words and tell a story again:~)