This story is by Lori Berggren and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Have you ever really looked at a firefly? I have many times and in the daylight they are boring, dull to the eye and completely uninspiring. But at night each firefly illuminates and dances over the darkened sky so brilliantly, that you believe everything has a chance to bioom and anything is possible. I just know sure as I’m standing here, they were sending me messages. Lovely, life changing, magical messages about my future. I will wait impatiently and continue with my humdrum life, certain it will be an agonizing wait.
“Mama, he’s coming! He’s coming! I can feel it!”
Everytime she would say the same thing, “ Child, I think it’s something you must have eaten buzzing in that belly of yours. Stop all your going on about nothing. He will never be.” My Mama never really had time to imagine life differently. She will see.
Over the next few years I stayed poised and ready, straining to detect any hum, flick or chirp in the cold morning air. As the months passed, I drifted just for moments at a time, swaying in and out of restlessness. Life catapulted me forward with all it’s might to the place I could finally be a part of change. On this day a strong pungent aroma began speaking to my senses jogging me awake. There was something out there on the horizon stirring wildly. Sound flowed in waves through the gully of our town like bullhorns. At that moment, a high pitched screech cut through the air. Shivers wiggled through me like a worm digging through an apple and I felt very strange and uneasy. Was it him?
It’s been nearly 20 years since his first visit to our homestead and In that one moment long ago, he made an impression on my heart that has never once faded.
Suddenly the noise became stronger and louder, I thought the earth was imploding underneath me. As the dust settled there was a calmness and I could see the tracks his tires had made in the dirt, like bear prints in the snow. Deep and deliberate.
The first time I saw him I had never seen a human so beautiful, strong and rugged. He made every part of me feel so weak. Truly magical, just as the fireflies had written in the night so long ago. They knew what I was discovering now.
Madden walked passed me a dozen times that day and each time he never once looked in my direction. He has not come alone.
There she was. A snooty sun drenched little flit of a girl on his arm along with a group of friends packed in the back of his truck like wild turkey’s. I heard someone shout “Madden” which seemed to grab his attention. His name just rolled over me like a huge rock in an avalanche. He and his girl backed up into me, resting there most of the day. I was forced to watch him lean into her, and look at her with such love and intense passion. I wanted to ring her skinny little neck!
As I watched them, I felt pieces of me just chip away like the old paint on his beat up chevy. It was the worst day of my existence!! Mama said I was being overly dramatic. “You have no place with him to begin with. Stop that daydreaming nonsense!” I hated that she might be right. It’s just not FAIR! If I couldn’t be with him, I would just rather die!
Dreaming was never my thing until I met him. I am actually inherently shy. Being the center of attention was not my thing, I was just fine staying in the shadows. But maybe for a moment, I would be ok with a “Mable Grace Sapp” day. I think I could handle the spotlight of the sun for a moment. Crowds would place flowers on me like a crown, leave footprints danced on the ground and so many cheers that even the birds couldn’t sing loud enough. Mama would be proud.
It’s always just been the two of us. A few distant relatives live over the Rockies, but no one is close. We live near a beautiful little stream where the water trickles and spins around the rocks,tossing them like beach balls over the sand. I sit for hours at a time and watch nature in full force, always fascinated with her power. Wherever the stream and Mama are is home. She makes sure I know she is always exactly where I need her. She teaches me her ways of the world everyday and her lessons are like little bread crumbs that navigate me to where I need to be.
I have always been pretty shy, especially if Mama is too far away. I am a bit lanky, way too tall and have scars that look like pot holes. Hiding them is not an option. The relentless teasing was almost unbearable. If I remember correctly, the daily song used to be, “Mable Grace is a pitted poo poo face,” over and over, all day long. Why couldn’t I have a name like Emma Joe, or Katie Ann? What was my Mama thinking?
One day the chanting finally stopped, even though I can still hear it ringing in my soul. . Maybe that wretched bunch finally grew up. I just thanked the heavens the humiliation had ended.
Beginnings were as important as endings. Growing older was both a joyful experience and pain in the you know what, all at the same time. The births, deaths and celebrations every year like clockwork. Always hundreds of streamers hung haphazardly throughout the field, kickballs that always hit me between the eyes and straight to my guts. The campouts, cookouts, gooey s’mores over the flames and all lanterns that illuminated the sky. Those were always happy times I will admit and lasted way into the wee morning hours.
That being said, those times never felt like they were for me. Even on my 125th birthday. What a dud! I was pleased though that as I grew, I became more voluptuous and curvy in all the right places, with arms that could reach the horizon and a heart that could melt an icicle in 2 seconds flat. I had become quite the catch if I do say so myself. He will notice me now.
I was so distracted by my jaunt down memory lane that I was unaware groups of onlookers had begun to form on my spot in our homestead. Was it the Summer Festival already? How long had I drifted off for? Our pasture wasn’t ready to be cleared yet. At least I didn’t think so.
At that moment, the gathering parted and standing so tall and handsome was Madden. The closer he walked the more my excitement grew. Did I look ok, would he recognize me, would he finally lean on me and whisper sweet nothings? Clearly I have seen too many mushy romances unfold in front of me.
“Hello Old Girl, it’s been a long time.” Was he having a conversation with me?
OH MY GOODNESS! What do I do? I felt like a scared little sapling, tongue tied and helpless. I am so glad I didn’t die like I wished!
For several minutes I was so mesmerized by his presence, his stature and the way he just kept looking at me, I hadn’t even noticed his truck or the men standing around him. The side was scribbled with thick black writing that said “ Paul Madden, Lumberjack Sawyers”
Wait, what, NO!? I read it again, again and again.
I felt ice cold and boiling hot all at the same time. How could he have become one of them? How could I have been so blind?
Suddenly he was standing next to me, I could feel his breath on me, warm and sweet.
I was so confused. “Oh, how I love you Madden” I whispered.
“I just knew you would grow to be the most beautiful Maple on this homestead. I’ve been waiting a long time to get my saw into you.” he said, as his hands caressed my side. “Your logs will quadruple what I make in a year! WOO HOO! Come on boy’s, let’s cut her down!”
That was his only response to my confession of love? Maybe he didn’t hear me.
Suddenly I felt a deep razor sharp jagged edge penetrate my trunk, clawing at me like a bear with a fresh kill. “MAMA!” I yelled. “MAMA!”. I was terrified. This could not be happening. Not now. Not by him.
I would have died 1000 deaths for him to love me. Now nothing could stop this torturetourous ending. Deep black sticky puddles began to bleed below me in the dirt and the last sound I heard was,
“TIMBER” hailing like a roar of thunder through the sky as I plummeted to my death.