The Woods Welcomed Me, A Short Short Story - LetterPile - Writing and Literature
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The Woods Welcomed Me, A Short Short Story

Chris has written more than 200 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

the-woods-welcomed-me-a-short-short-story

I don’t remember much about my childhood. All but brief glimpses escape me. I do remember the old farmhouse we lived in before the landlord built a new, brick house. The main room had a tall stove. Now I know it must have burned oil. That single source of heat sent warmth all around the ground floor, up the stairs and into three bedrooms. I have no memories of being cold.

A black couch extended away from a window until it curved at a corner and kept running along the adjoining wall. I remember my mother rising up from behind that couch, at the corner where there was room for her to hide, dressed in some spooky costume one Halloween.

Roseburg School, Roseburg, Indiana

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I used to stand at the window in the big room and watch the yellow bus drive away with my brother and sister. When they tried to explain school to me, it sounded like a terrible way to spend a day. But all was well. I was too young to go to school and spent the days doing things that made me happy.

Those days were different than the world today. There were no sick bastards hiding behind trees or outbuildings waiting for me to pass by. That simply was not a possibility on the Mills farm in 1962.

We lived two miles from a little town called Roseburg. I find myself hesitating to call it even a burg. Three houses lined the single street. A Methodist church and the school where I would later attend first and second grades stood on the opposite side of the street from the houses. Later, when I was about twelve, I would drive the tractor, pulling loads of corn, soy beans, and wheat to the grain elevator next to the school and church.

I mention Roseburg, the school, the church, and the elevator at this time only to emphasize the remoteness of our home from anyplace that could possibly be called dangerous. Even that lonely burg was separated from us by countless fields and woods.

Roseburg, Indiana Grain Elevator

Beyond that little village was the city of Marion. To me, that was a scary place. We used to go to the YMCA where I took swimming lessons. My mother would often take us to an outdoor public pool called Matter Park until one day, I remember my parents talking about it even now, the city began allowing negroes to swim with white people.

That’s when we started going to a place called Clearwater Park to swim. It was an abandoned gravel pit that someone turned into a commercial swimming pool. There were no black people there. This was about 1962. Was there something wrong with black people? That thought really did go through my five-year-old mind. Did they make the water dirty? It took many years for me to find a satisfactory answer. But from an early age, the questions seemed strange.

Honey Locust Tree

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I'm sorry. I've wandered pretty far from the story I wanted to tell you. One day, I ventured outside through the farmhouse front door and kept walking. Don’t be alarmed. My mother wasn't, and she loved me. The woods across the gravel driveway welcomed me, and I accepted the invitation.

From an early age, I learned to avoid chiggers. As an adult, I know the name was wrong, but that’s what we called them. The weeds bit and stung. They weren’t like poison ivy. I never had a problem with that weed, but chiggers would leave welts the size of a dime on my arms and itch for the rest of the day.

After I descended the chigger-guarded hill, I entered the woods. To my memory, honey locusts sporting thorns twice the length of spike nails with a cluster of shorter thorns around the base were the dominant arbor species. Don't let the name fool you. There was nothing sweet about honey locust trees.

But still I ventured there and learned to exist in an environment of opposition. I gave the trees space, and the trees, of course, extended the same courtesy to me. We maintained a comfortable truce. I had no desire to climb a honey locust tree, and the trees showed no interest in me.

I made my way through an expanse of this forest toward a stream known as Pipe Creek. Halfway to the water, something on the ground caught my attention. It barely moved, but my keen five-year-old eyes could not miss it. I spotted the rounded body, the tufted tail, the elongated ears.

A dog would have pounced. I waited. The tiny bundle shook with fear. A fox would have licked its lips. But I crept forward with no evil intent. The bundle drew itself inward even more. It was nothing but a tight ball of fur.

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The bunny shook in my hands. I held it close to my face. Where was its mother? Why was it here all alone? What should I do? I ran for home. She would know what to do. When I got to the house, I could not find my mother right away, so I put the bunny in the laundry room.

Mother had gone out to the barn to take my father his lunch. When she came back, I wanted to show her the bunny. But he wasn’t where I left him in the laundry room. We searched and searched until we found him behind the dryer.

Mother was a wise woman, but it was difficult for me to accept her wisdom. I fought her. I cried. Finally, I took the bunny in my hands and walked back toward the woods, past the chiggars. I passed through the honey locusts and found the place on the ground where I first saw him. I built a little hutch of twigs. It was all I could do. Would his mother find him? As a naive boy who felt entirely safe in this place, I hoped she would.

© 2020 Chris Mills

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 10, 2020:

Thanks, Ann. It was a magical childhood in many ways.

Ann Carr from SW England on March 10, 2020:

What a charming story, full of innocence and trust, just like my own childhood. Your mother had wisdom too.

Lovely!

Ann

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 09, 2020:

Dora, yes, I've had my mother all the while. I still have her at age 88+ and in excellent health. She has been a source of wisdom and strength through the years. I think I have been able to help her as well. The bunny has become a simple metaphor about choices we have to make and how to make them.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 09, 2020:

Shauna, every detail of that story was true according to my current recollection. I sat down to write about my childhood and just let it flow. That's why the story seems a bit disjointed, but I don't really care. I think I was able to communicate some of the atmosphere in which I lived. Now, I have no question what happened to the bunny. I just didn't want that five-year-old-boy to figure it out.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 09, 2020:

Chris, I appreciate your sensitivity toward the motherless bunny. You've had your mother all the while. Good read about a pleasant childhood in the safety of friendly woods.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 09, 2020:

What a sweet story, Chris. Your descriptions are so clear, I read this as if the memories the narrator describes are yours.

I'd like to think the bunny's mama found him.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 08, 2020:

Marie, I never found an answer because a legitimate one does not exist. Those who create false answers and teach them to their children and others are doing a disservice to our world. We are all one. Thanks for visiting and sharing.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on March 08, 2020:

I love memoirs. As sketchy as this one may seem, it is delightful, especially the encounter with the bunny. Except human biases, did you ever really find a satisfactory answer to the black-white separation? I suspect you didn't. I remember reading a children's story about a little black boy who couldn't understand why one drinking fountain was for whites only, and that he was only supposed to drink from the other one. He had the opportunity when no one was around to see if the "white" water tasted differently--it didn't! So, from that day on, he was satisfied that there really was no difference. (Amen)

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 07, 2020:

Ruby, I'm your muse. hahaha, just don't start expecting miracles. I'm glad you liked this simple story.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 07, 2020:

This was such a sweet story. I kept thinking something horrible would happen to you. When it was a bunny I felt so relieved. This look-back brought a story to life for me. I was 13 and walking home from a late-night movie. Now, where did I put my pen and paper? BTW I loved your story.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 07, 2020:

Linda, thank you for adding to the wonderful memories.

Linda Courtney from Bloomsburg, PA on March 07, 2020:

Ah the days of childhood back in the day when we didn't have to worry about human predators. Miss those times. Thanks for the memories...I grew up in a small town surrounded by farms (not as small as you). Wouldn't trade it for anything.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 07, 2020:

Eiddwen, it is a delight to have you visit again. I am so glad you found parts of ths story you could connect with.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 07, 2020:

Bill, Thanks for going with me on this meandering walk through my childhood. I didn't slay any dragons. No one died for once...well, the bunny may have nourished a fox that night, but I can't linger on that thought for long. I just wanted to write something, and this is what I produced.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 07, 2020:

No apologies needed here. I just write what I feel at the moment. Somtimes that produces an exciting, unpredictable story. Other times, it is calm, sweet, even predictable. I focus on the art of writing that should be present in any piece I produce.

Eiddwen from Wales on March 07, 2020:

Oh yes Chris our childhood memories are very similar. I was a solitary being as a young child feeling most at home in the countryside with my dog and surrounded by nature's magical wonders. I am today a little more sociable but the wonders of the countryside still holds it's magical powers for me. Looking forward to catching up with you on here.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2020:

Great story...great description of life in the Midwest as a child of five. I was with you every stop of the way, my friend, and recognized much of what you described.

manatita44 from london on March 07, 2020:

Sure. This has its merits. Kudos to you, Bro. My apologies.

Did you ever see my book? I speak of my childhood in the first chapter. It is called, My Guru, Sri Chinmoy and may still be available on the net. Peace.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 07, 2020:

eiddwen, I believe it has been a while since our paths crossed. Thank you for stopping and taking time to read and comment. My chilldhood was hobbit-like in that I did a lot of wandering and going on adventures that were largely in my mind. I lived every minute of it.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 07, 2020:

I was free-writing when this story was born. I just left it as it was. I know the earlier parts wander and aren't connected intimately to the part about the Bunny, but it all gives background to who I was at the time.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 07, 2020:

Pamela, I still wrestle with my mother's decision. The Bunny would have died one way or the other. I suppose being eaten by a fox is better than slow starvation in a laundry room. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 07, 2020:

Eric, Life for a child should have adventure as well as responsibilities. Exploring is the great educator.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 07, 2020:

John, My childhood was like this every day. I did my chores on the farm and then went my way, doing what I wanted. Mostly I spent time with my ponies. It was a magical time for me.

Eiddwen from Wales on March 07, 2020:

This story Chris did definitely remind me of my childhood wandering the surrounding countryside with my dog and picking up anything injured and needing tlc. A great story and now looking forward to many more by you.

manatita44 from london on March 07, 2020:

Well-written and very nice story, but again, this one seems to be like it's preparing for a longer story. You seem to sense this and improved lower down.

Is it a picture prompt story? if so, then think of the story, not the prompt. Let the prompt fall naturally into place. Did you like my simple piece to Bill's train prompt? Did you sense the vividness, vibrancy? How it flowed?

I love you, my brother. Please forgive me for being different sometimes.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 07, 2020:

This is a nice, short story. Your mother was wise as difficult as that was for you at five years old. This story reminded me of my childhood also. Thank you for such a sweet story, Chris.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 07, 2020:

This just gave me some of those peaceful easy feelings. This reminds me of much of my youth. Thank you for a great start to my day.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 07, 2020:

A very enjoyable story, Chris. It brings back memories of my own childhood in not quite as secluded and area but still a rather small town. We always had the freedom to explore the forest alone or with friends. I remember picking up baby birds that had fallen from nests a few times and taking home but no rabbits. Anyway thanks for sharing.