What Remains

A chorus of spring peepers serenaded Iona as she unfurled her dew-stiff body, bathing in the white-washed glow of a pale summer moon.  The jagged silhouette of the half-burned house loomed on the fringes of her mind as she cooked a breakfast of powdered eggs over a kerosene stove.  Although fire had consumed the house only days before, the skeletal remains already resembled an archaeological ruin, and she laughed wryly as she imagined scientists of the future trying to make sense of a half-melted Slinky.

Without warning, a quiet sob strangled her laugh, and Iona found herself struggling to stand under an invisible weight.  Breathing raggedly, she pressed her thumbs into the sockets of her damp eyes and waited for composure to return.  Hal, and more importantly the boys, would not see her grief.

The morning after the fire, Hal told the family, “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.  If the nine of us band together, imagine what we can do!”

So while he worked at the Carbide plant, the boys helped her clear away the rubble, salvaging memories here and there, sorting and stacking and piling the charred remains of their former life into garbage cans.  When Hal returned, he joined them, working by lantern-light to the point of exhaustion long after the boys had gone to bed.

And although her arms ached to hold baby Stanna and little Scotty, who were spending the summer with cousins, she focused her attention on the older children, a tangle of twenty gangly legs and arms crammed into a tent that smelled of their sleep.  Together they would form a band as thick and prosperous as a coal seam, as solid as the ring around her finger, as eternal as the night sky that only an act of God could burn away.

As the night grayed into dawn and the wind whispered ephemerally in the corn field, Iona carefully bound her fear in strips of love and tucked it out of sight.


This is a response to this week’s Trifecta challenge to use the word band (verb – 3: to gather together : unite) in a written piece of 333 words or less.

This is actually based upon a true story that I heard from my father many, many times growing up.  Basically any time I complained about not having something, he would remind me of the summer his house burned down and he and his brothers, mother and father slept in tents while they rebuilt it.  They got one room done in time for winter.  I suppose this was his version of walking three miles to school in ten feet of snow.  It is, however, true.



6 responses »

  1. Beautiful! Beautiful and bittersweet! That this story means so much to you is easy to tell by how protectively and gently yountell your tale. Families banding together in the face of adversity, with love as their strength…….that’s what life is really all about. As this challenge closes, I thank you for linking up and ending us off with so touching a tale.

  2. The story itself, true as it is, is sad and in many ways hopeful at the same time.

    But it’s the descriptions, the way you wove the tale for us that caught and kept me. Thank you for not only sharing it with us but picking it to link with our community this week.

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