Work In Progress: Grave Stones – Part 1

Just what it says… this is the story that has been keeping me thinking about “what happens next and to who.” Yes a fragment, so far. [update: the story is finished, serialized and posted on this blog!]  But I have a pretty complete outline, with an ending. Not the ending I want, but then, we writers don’t always get to choose the ending we want.

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Part One: The Spring

He looked around. A lot of happy times here, he thought. The old chapel and the farm-house where they had church dinners in the winter. The Grove where Vacation Bible School was held and church picnics down by the Spring. Lots of good memories and lots of good friends.

Most of the kids, like him, had moved away after high school. The big cities offered more money and more of the opposite sex to choose from. The few that stayed seemed to … it wasn’t sure what the word was. Not rot or decay, but they seem somehow stunted. It reminded him of the bound feet of the old Chinese women or the clay jars around the necks of … was it an African tribe? Those who stayed just didn’t grow into what their lives seemed to promise. If they were music they would be a little flat, with the volume turned down to background level.

Adam Brown was still wandering around the grounds, reminiscing. Angela Williams, his Angela held his hand. For her, it was a window into his past, a lesson in his family history. She was, for him, someone to talk to, point things out to, to share past things with. As a clinical psychologist, the stories were both personally and professionally interesting. She loved this man and wanted to marry him as soon as possible. That ‘as soon as possible’ time was approaching with a promotion for him. As middle manager for an insurance company in Ashville, where they worked and lived, the promotion would cement his career and their security.

The Chapel, House, the Graveyard—each one held stories of his past that she was anxious to hear, to understand him better. He had held back for three years, not agreeing to a marriage she knew he wanted as much as she did. What was it that held him back? What secret was he keeping? This trip to “Homecoming,” as he called it. Apparently it was a kind of celebration of ‘the good old days’ that was supposed to draw in all those who had wandered away from home, from the area, from the church family. Angela knew Adam would never move back here, but he wanted to reconnect, just the same. And she wanted to find out his secret, why he hesitated to marry her.

They walked into the Grove so he could show her the outdoor altar, where Vacation Bible School was held twenty years ago (he even remembered the teacher’s name). She was getting hot and tired, she told him. The Spring! he crowed. The perfect place to rest!spring

The Spring was the prime reason the church had bought the property way back in the 1920’s. It never ran dry even in the driest of summers and its output in gallons was far more than they ever needed. Situated above the farm buildings and chapel, the cold, clean water was gravity piped into them for every use. The excess water flowed in a small stream that ran all the way to town and eventually into the Catawba River.

Years ago, Adam told her, the deacons and other church men by hand  dug a small pond just below the Spring, for baptisms and swimming. It wasn’t a very deep pond, mostly waist-deep on a grown man, except for the corner where the spring first flowed in. That was the over your head, a place boys could dive in from the bank above. Yes, he had done it, almost hit his head once.

The water was always very cold. It could make you shiver even on a hot Carolina day like today. In fact, most of the pond was kept shallow so the water would warm quickly up to a reasonable temperature. One corner was made especially shallow for the little kids to play in.

Even without a breeze, the dappled shade felt good. At the high-end of the pond, a round, rusty cast iron pipe stuck out of the hillside and sparkling clear water poured out from it. The occasional bird call seemed to sing along with the tune of the splashing water. It was total peace! Angela slipped off her sandals, and plopped her feet into the water. And immediately yanked them out.

“It’s freezing!”

Adam laughed. “Some things never change! It’s only the middle of June, so yeah, it’s freezing. It will stay like this until the middle of August. Vacation Bible School was a ways in August because of it. Spring water is always cold and this spring is colder than most.” He pointed to the left, closer to the Chapel. “Move over to that side. The water is shallower and it warms up quicker.”

They moved and she managed to keep her feet in the water long enough to cool them down without ice sickles forming on her painted toe nails. She put her sandals on again and they began strolling around the edge of the water. Adam was rambling about which tree he’d fallen out of and how he and his buddies had built a snow fort right next to the pond one winter. Angela was half listening, admiring the blue and yellow flowers that seemed to grow half way in water, the cattails that grew completely in the water, and a dragon-fly that was darting aimlessly among them.

Without warning , Angela grabbed Adam’s arm and pointed at the water about ten feet away, at the deep end.

“Oh my God! Adam! Someone’s down there! Look!”

Adam looked and saw nothing but the reflection of the clouds.

“I don’t see anything. And it’s not deep enough…”

Angela ran closer, looking straight down and pointing, screamed.

“There’s a girl down there!” she pointed. “She’s drowning!”

Adam ran over but still, he could see nothing there but the reflection of the clouds. Then he laughed.

“Oh no!” he said in mock horror. He picked Angela off the ground and in one sweeping motion, laid her on her back, almost on top of her.

“Does she need some mouth-to-mouth…”

Angela slapped his face and struggled to push him off. “I’m not joking!”

“Oh. Oh shit!”

He leaped up and without a pause Adam dove into the water, almost hitting his head on the bottom. After ten seconds, he came up, gasping from the cold water.

“I don’t see anything!” he says.

“She has to be there! I…”

He  dove under again, swimming in a widening circle. But he came up empty-handed. “There’s no one’s here!”

“She’s…she’s gone. I swear there was a young girl, long blonde hair. She was laying on the bottom of the pond, reaching up, trying to scream.”

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About Gordon DeLand

Author, speaker, ex-Navy and ex-preacher and ex-several other things. Grew up in the wilderness of Madison County, New York State. Officially retired, currently residing Chicago but have lived on all four coasts and Hawaii. Maybe someday I'll retire back to New York. But not yet.
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