Maddie's Family Reunion--Flash Fiction
It was a lemonade-on-the-porch-swing kind of day in the quiet rural town. No clouds filtered the sun, and only a timid breeze tickled the ears of the pussy willows along the stream bank. Maddie Stevenson sighed a contented sigh as she sat, gently swinging and enjoying her drink.
She thought back to the family reunion. So many grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews! It was great to see them all together. She drifted into sweet reverie. There was Grandpa Jones, celebrating his hundred and second birthday, and as spry as ever. She spoke at length with her sister, Rosalee, reminiscing about their hijinks as children.
Around the grounds she walked, sampling all the delicious goodies everyone had brought. Her great granddaughter, just recently graduated from college, had come with her boyfriend, but the whispers were that he was really her fiancé.
Maddie always enjoyed her visits with Maybelle Tibbins. She was such a longtime friend of the family that she practically was family, always there to help in times of need. Maddie asked her about the latest hat she wore; Maybelle had a weak spot for new hats. This one was gaily decorated with bright flowers on green straw, and tied with a bow under the chin. Maybelle said, “Oh, you wouldn’t believe it, but this darling chapeau was sadly tossed aside in a corner at the second-hand store! I just had to rescue it! It looks like it’s brand-new, doesn’t it?” Maddie agreed, and made little sounds to echo her surprise that such a darling hat would be almost in the trash bin.
As she ate a piece of birthday cake, she was surrounded by the youngest members of the clan, all eager for one of her stories of the old days. She finished her cake and launched into one of the favorite tales.
“It was a day much like this, only school was in session as it wasn’t quite summer vacation time yet. All the girls were wearing summer-weight frocks, you know, because it was such a nice warm day.”
Maddie paused, knowing the suspense would prompt one of the grandchildren to demand more details.
“Was it after school, then?” asked little May Alder, the youngest of the group surrounding Maddie.
“Yes, it was,” Maddie continued. “The class had just let out; we were all in one classroom in those days, so all the grades were together. As we started our walk home, which was about two miles, we chatted about the lessons, and about what we were going to be doing during summer. It wasn’t really a vacation back then of course. We were expected to help with family chores. The girls cooked and cleaned and the boys helped in the fields. Our family had just planted this apple orchard five years prior, and we were looking forward to our first really good harvest.”
“But what about what you did after school?” Interrupted May's brother, Billy, who had heard the story before and realized that Great Grandma Maddie had gone off track.
“Oh, yes, after school. Well, there we were, Sally Middleford and I, along with Rebekah Jenkins, all minding our own business, walking, talking, and laughing. All of a sudden, we noticed some boys behind us, laughing and being very noisy. It wasn’t a nice laugh; they were up to something, for sure.”
“What happened? What did they do?” Prompted Billy.
“Well sir, those naughty boys had found a wasp nest, and pulled it down from a tree with some sticks. The next thing we knew, they threw the thing at our heels! Oh, my, the awful sound of those buzzing, angry wasps, I shall never forget! We heard those boys laughing uproariously as we screamed and ran down the road as fast as our ten-year-old legs could carry us! Those wasps, though, could fly pretty fast, and a number of them caught up with us, and we all got stung.”
“I bet that hurt pretty bad, huh?” said May.
“Yes, a wasp sting is pretty painful, and the bad thing about wasps, is they can each sting you several times. We ran as fast as we could, and threw ourselves into Little Longhorn Creek to get away, and cool the stings.”
“Oh, no! Your pretty dresses all wet and dirty,” wailed Abby Brooks, who had thus far sat entranced with the story.
“Oh, yes, we were a sorry sight when we got home, and my mother was very cross with me for getting so dirty and all wet. But when I told her what happened, she seemed a little less angry, but it was not a very pleasant day.”
“So did your dresses get clean again?” Abby wanted to know.
“Yes, mother scrubbed extra hard, and managed to get most of the mud out, but it was never quite like a nice new dress again.”
Maddie stood up, and the children knew not to pester her for another story just yet; after all, she was really old, and needed to rest often. At least that’s what they thought, because when you’re only six or seven or fifteen, any age beyond twenty-five seems positively ancient.
She walked across the grass, missing no one, stopping to chat, and finally the party was over, and as the guests left, she sat on her swing, feeling at once happy and melancholy.
Maddie opened her eyes, coming out of her daydream, and smiled a satisfied smile. Sipping the last of her lemonade, she set the glass on the table and remarked, to no one in particular, for indeed, she was alone, “It will be nice to see everyone again.” She sat back and started to gently swing.
“Yes, it’s a good day to die,” she murmured, and closed her eyes for the last time.
© 2017 Liz Elias