Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Prompt: Family history

She turned off the rural highway and drove down the dusty track as far as her car could go, almost to the edge of the lake with the ground so dry after months of drought. Turning off the ignition, she fiddled with the keys and stared out over the lake. A kingfisher chattered loudly as he sortied across the water, avoiding the Canada Geese and mallard ducks bobbing in a ragtag flotilla as he searched for fish.

There was no sign of the large white house that once stood on the other side of the lake, no indication of what was once planted in the fields that looked like unkempt meadows. She had no memories of her own, only her mother’s stories and a watercolor her grandfather painted before the arthritis crippled his hands too much to hold the brushes he loved. The home where he grew up, that his father’s father’s father built.

Tears filled her eyes as she missed her mother and grandfather all over again. She sniffled and shook her head in annoyance. Oh, don’t be ridiculous! All this over selling some stock? An emotional investor—the worst! But she couldn’t shake the feeling that she hadn’t just sold stock today. She had said goodbye to the last little bit of a piece of her family history.

She felt like she had let something go, something nostalgic. Something more valuable than the parchment paper she traded in for a carbon receipt and 10 business days before the stock would actually be available to sell.

Her great-grandfather was president of his local community bank. He was also a farmer, and lived in the big white house, where her grandfather grew up. Her mother told many stories of visiting all through her growing up. But it was sold and torn down sometime in between, and she had no memories of this place. And now everyone who ever saw it, ever lived there, ever loved it, was dead and gone.

The bank job probably didn’t pay all that much in salary, even for the time, but they did pay him in company stock. Over the years, he saved those stocks, which added up, split and added up again as the little bank was sold to a bigger city bank, a state bank, a regional bank, and finally the national bank her certificates bore. When he died, the stocks were split between his two children. Her grandfather passed his shares on to her mother, his only child. Not a fortune, but a comfortable inheritance to be carefully held and thoughtfully used. Along with the stock came a family legacy of thrift and fiscal conservatism.

Over the years, family members received and sold their shares of the bank stock at various milestones: college, marriage, first home, baby.  And today, she sold the very last shares. The family legacy, gone.

She watched the kingfisher dive under the surface and fly up triumphant with a fish in his beak. He zoomed over the water, tipping his wings, perhaps toward his nest, his mate, his fledgling offspring. She wiped the tears from her cheeks and took a deep breath. Another. Her fingers only trembled a little as she started the engine and shifted into reverse. She sped backwards down the lane as fast as she could. Just like her grandfather taught her.

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle

“Christmas Time Is Here”, Vince Guaraldi (at Daughter’s piano practice)

January word count:


  1. Wow, that's sad. I like that you got through a whole scene today. Also love the phrase "ragtag flotilla." I kind of want to know why she sold the stock!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Kate.

      Good question about why - is it important to the story? There' always more to tell, of course. I'm trying to learn the balance between how much is enough and how much is too much? I think it's good to leave some things unknown, or a mystery, to leave readers thinking about it.

      What do *you* think?