by Pamela Duncan
Stories came so easily to her. I want more and more and more and she is not here to tell them and I am lost without her. Where are the stories now she is gone? There are some in my head, some in Mama or Pawpaw or uncles and aunts, but I can't account for them all. She must’ve taken them with her. No fair. Come back. Come back and tell me, tell me “I want my toebone” or killing the panther with a skillet, or sing me Three Babes in the Woods. Tell about the one-room schoolhouse, walking up the mountain in a path of moonlight singing with your brothers and sisters and neighbors. Remember for me what it was like then. See for me the cabins, your Papa's store, the railroad, the French Broad River, the wild strawberries you picked from tangled places with Orphie and Opal, the log bridge across the creek where your mama saw the ghost of death coming for your papa when he took so sick after stepping on that big rusty nail, and how it did not come for Hezekiah after all since he lived to 93. And then tell Stella and Annie Mae and oh, they died of the diphtheria, Stella first, and two weeks later little darling Annie Mae says I am going to dig up my sister and play with her forever. And your mama carried on so then when Annie Mae went too, and could not sleep nights, walking the floor, wailing, wanting her babies. And the night Annie Mae came into the yard dressed all in white, sweet and silent, and then your mama could go to sleep again. Tell me again. I think I hear your old voice in my heart and you tell me the stories over and over like a testament, like it's a calling you have, as a preacher man might be called to spread the gospel. You scatter your stories over me, the seeds take root, but they are not all grown yet. Some sit beneath my soil and wait for a certain light, or a full moon, or the special season when I will remember the most important parts that escape me now. Then I will make my own stories, but they will be you, and you will be me forever and ever and some day I’ll have my own seeds to sow, and now all I need is my garden.
(Novelist Pamela Duncan is the author of Moon Women, a Southeast Booksellers Association Award Finalist, and Plant Life, which won the 2003 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction. She is the recipient of the 2007 James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South, awarded by the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Her third novel, The Big Beautiful, was published in March 2007. She teaches creative writing at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Visit her website at http://www.pameladuncan.com/.)