Hi folks. I posted a story here a few days ago called "The most Spiritual" about the one person in my life that had the most influence on me
spiritually. She was my Aunt Minnie. Heres the second chapter and i'll probably put up several others that i've written before long.
OF LOVE FOR MINNIE
I hate the bittersweet moments. The times when your happy and
Safe and yet something is not right with the world. We all have them,
Yet this one was just a bit worse than the others I’ve had. I sat just to
The right of the fireplace, my back against the stones that made up it’s
Hearth. Before me in her favorite chair was my Grandmother. The fire
Would pop and crack and occasionally send tendrils of smoke climbing
Into the air. The heat was wonderful, the talk was low, the mood somber.
Yet I remembered many days like this when I was younger and those
Memories brought me back to a time when things were simpler. When
Grandma and Grandpa would be laughing and making popcorn in this
Very fireplace and I was the most special person in the world because
I was with them. Then in the distance I’d hear a thud or banging and
Come back to the present. Sweet memories, bitter realities.
Aunt Minnie had been dead for less than two years and Grandma
Had sold her house and land to my cousin, Donnie. He was several years
Older than me and I’d never really gotten to know him. On this day I was
Glad of that. He and several of his friends were tearing Minnie’s house
Down to make a way for the Fancy new house he was building for his
New wife. She wanted to start a family and he thought destroying the past
Was a great way to step into the future? My only consolation at that
Point was that a sudden cold snap had moved in and they were freezing
They’re Asses off while I sat by this warm fire.
It felt good to be sitting with my grandmother again. My life
Had been hectic since leaving home. I now had a wife, two kids, and a career
To chase and grand ideas of my own. To touch again the soil I’d been
Born on and the people I had come from was more wonderful than
Any words could express. They say you can never go home again, but
They were wrong. To breathe the air and touch the grass with you’re bare
Feet and relive memories that were buried so deep, only one place in all
The world can reawaken them is nothing less than coming home.
Returning to the world that brought you forth.
“I remember when Minnie shot the floor out of that old place
When they were first putting in plumbing.” My Grandmother said, "Jeb
Watson and his son were the town’s plumbers at the time and they told
Her they’d be cutting the holes for the pipes the next day, and then they
Went home. Minnie figured, why wait, and walked through the house with
A shotgun blasting holes in every little chalk circle they had drawn.
Before the sun set that next afternoon Jeb had her plumbing done."
Grandma was chuckling with the memory but her forehead was in her
Hand and I knew she was in pain. I just didn’t know what to say.
The fire cracked and popped, the smoke intoxicated me and I
Sat alone with a woman I loved more than life itself. I could have sat
Life wouldn’t let that happen though. The thud of boots
Came up the steps and a knock woke us both from our dreams and
Memories. Without waiting for a reply, the door opened and Donnie
Walked in. The fire poker was just within reach and hot, but one look
From my grandmother and all the thoughts of homicide left me. She just
Didn’t tolerate that sort of thing. I leaned back against the hearth again
And sat silent.
Donnie started the conversation. "It’s too cold to keep working
Today Grandma, so we are going to call it a day. I hope the noise
Wasn’t too bad."
"It was fine, she replied. How long before you get it done?"
"With a warm day or two we can clear it and do a bit of
Landscaping. Then it’s getting an inspector out here and preparing the
Foundation for the new house. After that the construction should go pretty
Quick. Maybe three or four months to get it livable."
"Well, that won’t be too bad. I think I’ll be able to suffer
Through all the commotion." She told him as I sat there casting baldness
And double chin spells upon him. He had no right to do what he was
Doing. Sacred was sacred and must be honored. He was erasing a
Member of our family and that hot poker was calling my name. He had
"While we were taking out a rafter beam we found this,” he
Said. From inside his jacket he pulled an old tin box. "It has some
Letters in it addressed to Aunt Minnie. I figured you might like to have
Them. I guess she must have been hiding them."
He handed the box to her and then we all went silent as my
Grandmother slowly opened the tin box and looked inside. With one finger
She touched the letters from long ago and for just a moment a smile
Crossed her face. Then she looked at me and over to Donnie, and said,
"I’ll bet you have no idea where these came from.
I could have taken that bet, and I would have won. I closed
My eyes and was gone from the cold and the fireplace, from grandma
And Donnie and the day when Aunt Minnie’s house was torn down. I fell
Helplessly into a memory.
We sat facing each other with a huge pile of wild grapes
Between us. Both inspecting them for bugs and then squishing them in
Our mouths. It was a rare moment when all the worlds’ troubles go away
And a person can find himself smitten with the idea of being happy. It
Was a four-hour hike into the forest to get to the bluff we sat on, but worth it.
A Sheer drop of over 150 feet was just to my left and before me the Ozark
National Forest stretched out for as far as I could see. Across from me
Aunt Minnie would lift bunch after bunch of grapes and then select the
Perfect one and pop it into her mouth like it was the last morsel of food
On Earth, then spit the seed off the cliff like a cowboy aiming for a
Spittoon. Grinning like a fool I knew then that sometimes, just sometimes,
The entire world was right. I’d never eaten a grape that had a seed big
Enough to spit either and was wondering just what kind they were.
"I didn’t know grapes grew wild in Arkansas,” I told her. All
The while I was trying to find the perfect grape before she did. Aunt
Minnie was a good grape hog. I’d even bet she could put out an eye
By spitting a seed. Her talents were awesome.
"Lots of things you don’t know, she shot back. Like how to
Send a grape seed where it might take root."
I looked down at the pile of seeds beside me on the rocks
And wished I’d never been taught that spitting in front of a lady or anyone
For that matter, wasn’t proper. Civilization is just another word for don’t
Spit. It takes the fun out of life.
"How did you know there were grapes growing there?" I asked
She had the fattest, plumpest grapes Just about to go into her
Mouth when she stopped in mid stride. Her eyes opened and she looked
At me across that grape and across the years of wisdom and insight she
Had gained, and replied, "I put them there."
I felt like the kid who should be sitting in the corner wearing
The dunce cap, and she didn’t miss that either. Aunt Minnie fell over
Backwards laughing, the grape rolled off the edge and I blushed. They
Say there is no stupid question. They were wrong about that too.
After a moment her hysterical horse laugh died down and she
Rolled up on an elbow and looked at me with a gleam in her eye and
Mischief in her smiles and asked, "Anything else you’d like to know."
This time I decided I’d be the one to catch her off guard. The
Blush had faded and I felt as the questioner I’d be the one in control.
Without so much as batting an eyelid I asked, "How do I know the life
I’m living is the right way to live?"
The smile was gone, just like that, and she looked up into the
Sky, then back to the earth. Then after a moment she looked into me. I
Can’t explain how someone can look into you. I can only say that if you
Ever experience it, you will know. They know your secrets and yet you
Feel no shame. They know your hopes and dreams and yet you know they
Will keep them safe. With them you know you will be protected even when
You are most vulnerable.
In a softer voice than I thought she could whisper Aunt Minnie
Said, "Close your eyes." I had no idea what she was up to but I closed
My eyes and waited. Her hands grabbed my knees and she turned me out
To where I was facing the cliff. I could only feel her around me, yet all
Was silent. The wind that had gently blown her hair only moments before
Made not a whisper, the leaves had gone quiet and the earth stood still.
I began to wish I had asked her how to make really good cocoa.
"With your eyes closed I want you to see two mountains
Before you. One is huge, a molten volcano with poison gas and molten
Lava just waiting to destroy you. The other tiny, but a paradise with
Waterfalls and beautiful women. Oranges and apples, love and peace.
Which one would you like to go to?" She asked.
"The oranges and naked women,” I replied.
"The oranges and beautiful women, ok?" She said.
"O.K." I replied, wondering to myself why that soft voice had
Growled. I had no problem with beautiful naked women, so what was she
"Then she was upon me. In my right ear she didn’t whisper but
Stated, "I can lead you to paradise and waterfalls if you will only do as
I tell you to. I can walk you around the volcano. Just follow the path I
Lay before you."
Then in my left ear she talked again. "That one is a liar and
Deceiver. Follow that path and surely the mountain of sorrow you shall
Reap.” Then again she was at my right, "All I ask is that you die in my
Name, with the blood of non believers on your sword, and the paradise
Shall be yours." Again on my left, "If it’s nothingness you seek then
Follow this path and I shall lead you there. Live as I tell you and I promise
You whatever it is your heart desires."
"STOP!!!! I yelled. My eyes remained closed but somehow a part
Of me knew what she was saying. My arms were outstretched in front of
Me as if to keep away the truth she was speaking.
There is no end to the people who will whisper in your ear, and
No mortal can make a promise that reaches beyond death.
On the edge of a cliff in the middle of the wilderness, my soul
Aching from doubt and pain, my Aunt Minnie came to me, and in a voice
Softer than before she asked me to open my eyes.
Before me lay the forest and the mountains. Lush and green from
the rain and sun. There were not two mountains but many. Some looked
Tough to climb while others looked easy, and I knew that could be deceiving.
"How many mountains are there?" She asked me. "I don’t know,
I replied. “How many mountains are there behind the ones I see?"
Again she looked to the sky, then back to the Earth. After that
She just shook her head sadly and seemed to say a prayer. Something
About giving somebody some glasses or bifocals so they could see. Aunt
Minnie prayed a lot for those less fortunate than our family.
"Most of the people in this life walk around with their eyes
Closed. They believe there are only two mountains before them and they
Let others guide them around the one they hope to avoid. In order to do
That, they have to give up their own free will to the guide." I was looking
At her and she was looking off into the horizon as she spoke. "Ever now
And then you meet someone who’s eyes have opened and they see the
Truth. That its not the voice in their ear but the voice in there heart that
Will guide their path, and the mountain down the road isn’t near as
Important as the one they are climbing now. How many mountains are
"As many as I want,” I told her.
"Dear God I believe the puppy is trying to open his eyes.” That smile
Was back and more mischievous than ever. “Just think about it awhile and
Maybe you’ll even learn to focus those baby blues."
She sat back down and began once again on the quest for the
Best and juiciest grape. In a flash, I saw her as a young woman. How she
Must have looked fifty years before. Smooth skin and tight muscles. Even
Then she must have had that wild spirit within her. "How come no guy
Ever snatched you up?" I asked.
Minnie kept studying the grapes and after a moment replied, "I've
Never been the type of person that anyone can snatch up. It would be easier
To snatch up a mountain lion."
"You’ve never been in love?" I didn’t know why I needed to ask
This, only that I was curious.
She was rolling a grape around in her mouth, as if delaying the
Moment when she would have to finish it and then answer my question.
Somehow I felt she was stalling for time.
"You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to." I felt letting
Her off the hook was the decent thing to do. We all have parts of ourselves
That is best kept safely inside.
"No, no. You asked, least I can do is give an answer.,” she told me.
The grape had been eaten and either it didn’t have a seed or she had
Swallowed it. After another brief pause she went on. "I was in love once. He
Ran away with a French whore. After that I just wasn’t much in a loving
"There’s French whores in the Ozarks?????" Now she really had
My interest up. I thought for a second of my cousin Chipper, he was just
Enough of a low life that I’d even bet he knew their address. I made a mental
Note to be sure and ask him.
"Get your mind out of the gutter, boy.” Aunt Minnie was reading
My thoughts again. “She wasn’t here. He was in Europe. He met her during
The war. I guess she could offer him more than I could. Anyway, that was
Long ago and I’ve long since wished happiness for the both of them."
"He couldn’t have been all that bright anyway,” I told her. “It would
Have taken a real idiot to pass up on a woman like you. You’re probably
Better off without him."
"He wasn’t an idiot,” she replied. Her voice was soft again and
She was staring out across forever. Memories are the closest thing we have
To time travel and Minnie was traveling back over the years, visiting a man
She once loved.
"His name was Seth Daniels, and I doubt any finer man has ever
Walked the face of this earth.” I didn’t know what to say to that so I just
Sat back and listened. “His family moved here when they were putting in the
New bank building. His father was in charge of it and would be running the
Bank when it was finished. The old bank had been bought by some New
York outfit and they had big plans for this area."
"I met Seth for the first time in the tenth grade. When he walked
Into that classroom for the first time every girl in there went knock-knee’d.
He was already a good six foot tall and had shoulders as wide as Montana.
Perfect teeth that was set in the face of an angel. Blond hair and a butt to
Die for." She seemed to shiver for a moment and I looked around for a
Jacket to hand her, then remembered it was summer and damned near a
Hundred degrees. Her eyes were closed now and she kept talking.
"I was never the prettiest girl in the county. Not even close. Why
He chose to take up with me is still a mystery I sometimes ponder. But
It was me he asked out to the next church social. Your grandma was none
Too happy about that. She had her eye on him too. The social was on a
Saturday night and he showed up in a carriage with the prettiest chestnut
Mare I’d ever seen. If he was trying to impress Dad then it worked. Before
He had arrived Dad had a whole list of questions and laws he was going to
Read to Seth, but after he got there all Dad talked about was that horse.
Kept looking at its teeth and stuff. I think he totally forgot about me."
"He was wearing a pin striped suit. They wouldn’t become popular
Until the twenties, but he was always a bit ahead of the crowd. I wore a
Summer dress Mom had made for special occasions. I was sweet sixteen
And had never been kissed. I’ve lived through a lot of magical moments in
This old life but none were as wonderful as that one."
Minnie had pulled her legs up tight, her arms around them, her
Head on her knee’s. With her eyes still closed she sat gently rocking back
And forth, lost somewhere in a time and memory long gone to everyone but
Her. I somehow felt I’d been let into a private part of her world that few,
If any, had been allowed into. I made a vow to myself not to push the
Subject. She could speak and I would listen.
"So did he kiss ya?" I asked. So much for that vow. Besides I
Wanted to know what happened.
Minnie opened her eyes and looked across at me. "Your a nosey
Little bastard, aren’t you?" The smile was still there and I knew she
Wasn’t upset. She raised her head up and sat her chin on her knees,
Looking once again out across the mountains.
"Yes, He kissed me. After the social, on the ride home I asked
Him to stop by an old tree so I could pick some flowers I had seen by the
Road earlier, but he seemed to want to stop just as much as I did. Still,
Like the gentleman he was he started out of the carriage to come around
And help me down. I placed my hand on his sleeve to stop him and the
Next thing I knew I was in his arms and we were kissing up a storm. None
Of that innocent peck on the cheek for us either. That boy laid a lip lock
On me that went plumb to my toes. I’d never felt anything so wonderful
In all my life. To be honest, He probably could have had his way with me
At that moment. Lord knows I wouldn’t have minded. But he wasn’t that
Type of person. After the kisses came the giggles and then the ride the
Rest of the way home. Papa came out to inspect the horse again, nodding
To us both as we walked up to the porch. He asked if I’d see him again.
I said, yes, and then he was gone."
She went silent again and I began to wonder if this was all she
Was going to tell me, after all, she might not want to get into the French
Whore part of the story. All I could do was wait and see.
"For two years we dated,” she started again. “And it was the only
Time in my life I can remember being truly happy. We attended the school
Functions and church socials where the adults watched us like hawks, making
Sure no sinning’ was going on. We also had our own private place in the
Forest. About halfway between our house and his was a stretch of woods,
Called, The Old Bat Forest. They called it that cause the lady who owned
It wouldn’t allow any hunting there. In those days not letting someone hunt
Was nothing less than depriving your neighbor of food. She was not a well
Liked person. Anyway, it was perfect for us. No hunters meant privacy and
We’d meet there every chance we could. I’m sure momma and papa
Suspected something. Everyday when my chores were done I’d disappear for
Awhile. Not once did they ask where I had gone, and they wouldn’t let
Your grandma tag along either." Again that smile, as though the memories
Made her happy once again.
"There were times, like when the crops had to come in, that we
Didn’t see each other for days. That was worse than hell itself. Other times
We got to spend whole afternoons together. He taught me how to sharpen
Knives and throw one true to the target. How to know what was edible in
The forest and what would make you sick or kill you. He had been raised
A city boy and how he knew these things was beyond me, but he did.
Other times when the lessons were over we’d make love for hours by an
Old Oak tree we had adopted as our own.”
My eyes were as wide as saucers. Of all things I expected to
Hear her say, that was not one of them. She was looking at me again and
Shaking her head sadly.
"It seems every generation thinks it invented sex before
Marriage. Trust me on this one, as long as there have been teenagers, there
Has been premarital sex. Always has been, Always will be. It’s just that
Back then we didn’t parade it around on TV like your generation does.
We had a little more respect."
She crossed her legs and began to pick through the grapes
Again. She didn’t seem interested in them, just keeping her hands busy
While her mind worked on what she would say next. Finally she just
Dropped the bunch she was holding and placed them in her lap.
"I wanted to get pregnant. It wasn’t just an excuse to get him
To marry me or to get away from home. I honestly wanted to have his
Child. Seth Daniels was the most wonderful thing in my life and his child
Would be just as magical. I was praying for a boy. It didn’t happen. I
Don’t know why, it just didn’t happen." Her voice had tapered off to almost
A whisper and the smile of memories was now a pain that she must have
Carried inside for her entire life. I wanted to hold her but couldn’t move
From my spot. Something inside told me this was not the time for that.
"When we finally graduated from High School he was drafted and
Went off to fight the good fight in Europe. World War 1 was raging over
Their and many of the young men in the county were being called up for
Service. I wrote to him twice a week and he did the same for me. The
Letters were pure poetry to me. I’d read each one over and over and prayed
Constantly for his safety. When those church doors opened I was inside
To. I was about as devout a Christian as one could be in those days. I just
Knew God would bring him back to me." She sat expressionless at the
Moment. I tried to read her features, to find what was going on inside her,
But there was nothing.
"Then one day there was no mail. I wasn’t alarmed a first. It
Was war after all, the mail ship might have sunk or the truck hijacked.
Any number of reasons could have stopped it. But there was no mail the
Next week either, or the week after that. By then the war was coming to
An end. The Germans had been defeated and our men would be coming
Home soon. His father came to our door one afternoon and spoke to mama
And papa. Then they called me in the room. They said Seth was missing.
They had no idea if he was dead or alive, only that the Army could not
"I knew he was alive. He and I had a special bond and I would
Have felt it if had died. My own soul would have died with him. There was
No way I would stay in this world if he wasn’t in it, besides, I could feel
Him. I knew he was alive."
"I’ve always felt I had the power to see distant things. I don’t
Know how I got it. But I do. I knew he’d stay behind with this young
French girl. He changed his name and left the Army. The war was over
Anyway so he wasn’t needed anymore. I waited for him. Hoping he would
Change his mind. If he would just come back I knew I would forgive him.
Hell, I would have forgiven him for anything."
The sun was starting to get low in the sky. We’d sat there
For most of the afternoon and it was a long hike back. It would be pitch
Dark long before we cleared the woods, but Aunt Minnie didn’t mind. She'd
Make a torch and keep on walking. She knew these woods that well.
"I think we best start back,” I told her.
She just nodded and rose to her feet. Without a sound we
Entered the forest.
"These are the from the only man your Aunt Minnie ever had
A crush on,” grandma stated. Once again I was by the fire and looking up
At her. I had relived that whole afternoon with my aunt in a matter of
Minutes. Now I had traveled back to the present she no longer lived in. I
Had to shake myself just to make sure the spell was gone.
"I know, I told her. His name was Seth."
Grandma looked at me and then backs to the box of letters, then
Back to me. "She never talked about him to anyone. How did you know?"
"She told me the story once while we were out walking. She
Loved him more than anything else on Earth,” I replied.
"Yes, that she did. When he died in the war she really lost
It for a while. We were afraid she’d never come back to us. She was
Spending more and more time in the woods by herself. She didn’t attend
His funeral and I don’t think she visited his grave site once."
"GRAVE?" I asked. "What grave? I thought when they died
They just buried them all over there. You mean he was shipped back?"
"Oh yes,” replied my grandmother. “Seth had a very nice funeral
Service at the church. Then he was buried in the National Cemetery in
Fayetteville. I used to visit his grave every time I went to visit my own
Fathers. A lot of our young men were buried over there but Seth died near
The end of the war. The ships that had been carrying supplies over were
Now bringing bodies back. He was returned to his family
And his own father positively identified his body. That poor man looked
Older than sin after that. Not long after they moved back to New York.”
My mind was spinning. This was not a part of the story
Minnie had told me. How could she have left something like this out? It's
Really hard to deny someone’s dead when they had a funeral and buried
"Minnie told me she believed he was alive and living with
Another woman somewhere in France.” I told her. “She waited for him
To come back."
"I told you she went a bit strange after the news came. She
Probably believed that. She spent the day of his funeral in the woods. She
Became very withdrawn and even momma had a hard time getting through
To her. She never set foot in that church again either. It was only after it
Burned down and they built a new one about a mile away that she went
Back. And that was only for special occasions.
"She spent her life waiting for a dead man?" Was all I could
Get out. What more could I say to something like that.
"Well, she did eventually get on with things. She just never
Went out with another man. A few years later some land came up for
Sale and with the help of papa, she bought it. Then she sold ten acres
To me and I put up a house also. Eventually, more of the family moved
Close by and that’s pretty much how you came to live in this part of the
"The land she bought? This is it? Did she tell you why she
Wanted this land?" I had to ask. Somehow I had to know.
"The lady who owned it was mauled to death by a rutting buck.
That’s pretty ironic since she didn’t allow hunting on her land. Back then
They called this place the "Old Bat Forest." When Minnie got it she
Marked off a section and opened up the rest to the hunters. Said
She spent her quiet time in that one area and didn’t want to get shot. The
Hunters were happy cause a whole new area became available to them."
I sat stunned. The woman who had taught me more about
Being alive than anyone else, had spent her life trapped in a world that
Existed only in her mind. She had held the past long after it should have
Been let go. "What are you going to do with the letters?" I asked.
"I’m sending them back to where they belong,” replied
Grandma. Then she leaned over and tossed them in the fire. "With Seth
Somehow from beyond the grave my most important teacher
Was still giving me lessons. I knew now that the past was something you
Didn’t hang on to like a pile of gold, for if you did you lost the present.
I looked into the face of my cousin Donnie and asked, "You
Think you could use an extra hand over there?"
"Sure,’ he replied. ‘The more the merrier. The sooner we get
That old shack down the sooner I can get my wife into a new home and
Start a family."
In his face I saw the hope of the future. I liked what I saw.
"I hope your first born is a boy." I told him. Aunt Minnie would have
Love and light to each of you,