39 comments

Oct 27, 2020

Sad Bedtime American

Meisie can recall all the names of the dead in the Levell Graveyard. She could list them off on her chubby fingers, starting with the ones placed near the entrance gate. The names were carved and darkened by time and shadows to the point of blurriness. Perhaps that’s why she memorized them. One, two, three, four. Five, six, seven, eight. 

You knew she was an odd child, but when she told Pa there were 109 in all, he threw his head back and laughed. It was an uncommon noise in a graveyard, almost to the point of extinction. 

Pa led her through the blackberry bushes surrounding the property. He settled into the frail grass and cracked a joke about health insurance. One only Meisie understood and it made her wonder why he was in such a good mood. 

“So who lies here?” He gestured loosely to a headstone near them. 

It was square and held itself proudly. Chunks of stone had been chipped off the corners. 

Meisie exhaled and you didn’t know what she was going to say. “Hawthorne Grundle. Died August 5th, 2000 from a heart attack.” Her eyes screamed that she knew this man, but her mouth stayed in a straight little line. 

Pa fell silent. He twisted his wrists and looked at the soles of his shoes. “Are there any funny stories about how they died?” 

Meisie dug her hands into the ground before standing up. She helped Pa up and smoothed out the creases in her dress. 

Pa followed her wordlessly, weaving around the tall Juniper trees that hugged them away from the moon. Meisie took his leather hands that you had sewed from love and lemon seeds and sat him down under a Juniper tree. Here, they could see most of the graveyard without needing to turn their heads or strain Pa’s back to the point of disability. 

Meisie pointed with her thumb at a group of headstones nearby. “Those are all from the Hendersons. They all die in unintelligent ways.” Pa’s eyes sparkled. Meisie pointed to the grave on the far left, “That’s Mrs. Henderson. She died from cooking fish for her family. Apparently, the fish was still alive and she ignorantly chased it off a cliff.” 

Pa chuckled. You knew Meisie’s stories weren’t true, but it was just a silly tale in an attempt to make Pa forget his pain. 

“And there”—Meisie moved down the line with her thumb nail—“is Henry Henderson, Jr. Apparently the Hendersons had a very high toilet and so when he was only three years old, he fell from it and died.” 

Pa raised his eyebrows. They were hairy and black but took the attention away from his smirk. “Toilets are very dangerous, Meisie, remember that.” 

She smiled but it didn’t reach her eyes. 

“This one is not a Henderson.” She pointed her chin in the direction of a headstone that stood apart from the other Hendersons. “That was Willa Jacksmith. She was going to marry into the Henderson family but the night before her wedding, she was trying on her too-tight wedding dress. It was beautiful with white lilies and lace. She couldn’t get it off and it suffocated her.”

Pa choked on his own laughter and thought about how he wished he could laugh about the deaths of his own family. Just thinking about it made skin crawl. 

Meisie frowned. You knew what she was thinking, right then. 

“Where is Oupa buried?” When she asked this, she hid behind her hair a little and pressed her back to the tree. 

Pa frowned with the tips of his mustache and realized he couldn’t lie anymore. Meisie had a sharper mind than him. “Oupa died in the war with Iraq. They could not find his body. He is forgotten.” 

Meisie tugged at some bark on the tree. Dirt was stuck underneath her fingernails and was woven under her skin like veins of brown but she didn’t care. “He will not be forgotten,” is what she said. 

You knew she was a smart child, but still an innocent one. Her arms were a beautiful brown and scarless and her mind had yet to be clouded with judgement. 

Pa nodded absentmindedly. 

“Pa, tell me a story.” Meisie’s voice was small. 

He looked at her, concerned. “You don’t like when I tell stories. They are all false with unrealistic characters.” Her lips moved but she didn’t say anything. Pa took this as a sign that she would only listen if he told a story. “Once upon a time, there was a girl who was pretty and clever. She had a grandfather who traveled far to fight for her country. He did not return. She was sad and it forced her to see life through a new lense. The children at her school were mean and bullied her because of the color of her skin. She was confused because they were so unpleasant to her even though her grandfather had just sacrificed his life for their country. The end.” 

Meisie had let her head rest on Pa’s arm. It was growing bitter and the wind was biting. She could hear the rats mumbling and the coyotes howling in the distance. Pa’s story brought up black and white images of truths she didn’t want to face. 

“That was not a good story,” she stated plainly. Lies were unnecessary and would waste time. Pa smiled and understood but it was dark and she couldn’t see it. Meisie shuffled away from him and stood, stumbling. “Pa, I can hear the animals of the night. We have to go home.” 

Pa exhaled loudly. “No, we cannot. I will not make it back because I am weary. Let us sleep against this tree.” His words were flattening out and you knew that was the last thing Meisie wanted. 

“Pa, no. The coyotes are coming and they are fierce.” Meisie blinked in frustration and her eyes trailed up the Juniper tree. It was big and strong with thick branches blanketed in leaves. You worried that they would be cold, but that wasn’t an issue at the moment. “Let us climb this tree. There are plenty of places for you to rest up in it. Please.” 

Pa reached out and caught her hand. It was icy and shaking. “Okay, lift me and I shall try to climb on my own.” 

Meisie pulled at Pa’s arm and he used the tree as support. Once he was up on his faulty legs, he took hold of a lower branch. There were indents in the tree as if someone had already slept there, years ago. Meisie’s feet fit right into them. She pushed at his back, even when he started to moan, and helped him find the grips. 

“Here, on this branch, Pa.” She recognized it from a life before. 

Pa got on his knees and crawled into the tiny tent of leaves surrounding them. It was a sturdy limb, this one. It also had slightly softer bark. He laid down, resting his hands behind his head. Meisie curled into him like the child she was. The leaves kissed her cheeks.

“Meisie?” Pa called after a minute. 

He could feel her breaths dissolve into a straightforward rhythm against his chest. He smiled and let his eyelids droop. “Good night.” 

* * *

When Pa awoke, he threw his wrinkled hand onto the space in front of him. Meisie wasn’t there. His eyes jerked open and he sat up with a jolt of pain streaking through his lower back. The tree shook and the leaves whistled. Although his eyes were watering, he could see her. 

Meisie was lying below the tree, her mouth still open with shock. Pa waited for a second to see if she’d get up. It was foolish because then he leaned over and saw her body. Her limbs were twisted at odd angles and blood was seeping from her shirt. 

There was a single tear before Pa realized something. 

Meisie wouldn’t be remembered. 

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39 comments

08:02 Oct 28, 2020

Does YOU in the story mean the readers or an invisible person? Like someone Pa knows but is simply forgetting. I think it is wonderful how you created these characters simply from their awkward knowledge of dead people. Their bond is arranged, sacred, as they move through the graveyard. Is there a reason they are at a graveyard in the night knowing that coyotes were real? Was there something they were searching for, knowing they wouldn't see it? Was there a good reason they stayed behind instead of leaving? The plot is okay. Thought-provo...

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Scout Tahoe
13:39 Oct 28, 2020

Thank you so much for this lengthy comment. I'll answer your questions to the best of my ability. Firstly, I was thinking that the YOU was Pa's wife. I don't know if she was Meisie's mother or not. Secondly, I have come to the conclusion that Meisie had been in the same graveyard before with Pa. It was a sacred place for them because she could cheer him up by telling false stories about the way people died. Time kept repeating itself and Meisie always came back, the same little girl. Pa was getting old and he was forgetting so he didn't ...

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Scout Tahoe
04:22 Oct 28, 2020

For Rhondalise, an amazing writer, and her birthday. For plot twists. Thanks for reading.

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Yolanda Wu
10:33 Oct 30, 2020

Wow, this was such a subtle, yet deep story with many meaningful layers to be explored and unraveled. I love the relationship between Meisie and Pa, how she just tells him stories of how those people died, and their relationship overtime was developed so well. The liveliness of Meisie contrasts with the melancholy undertone, making it extremely intriguing. And of course, the ending. It was just so jarring and heartbreaking and sad - perhaps I should have been warned by the category label, but I still wasn't mentally prepared for that. I thor...

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Scout Tahoe
13:05 Oct 30, 2020

Thank you so much! Your comment made my day.

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Yolanda Wu
21:37 Oct 30, 2020

You're welcome!

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Lina Ozz
04:19 Oct 28, 2020

Oof, that ending was jarring. In a very good way. I always appreciate stories that have some type of twist or final, unexpected meaning, and your story accomplishes this preference exceptionally well. While I'm heartbroken that Meisie dies, I think this aspect of the story is powerful and necessary. I do have to ask––is Pa's remembrance of her not enough? I understand that she won't be remembered by many, but it seems that her father would remember her, and perhaps that's enough. I may have missed something there. Love reading your wor...

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Scout Tahoe
04:24 Oct 28, 2020

Thank you so much for reading, Lina. What I was trying to get at was that her Oupa wasn't remembered in the graveyard because he died over seas, and Meisie wouldn't be remembered because not that many people knew how smart and powerful she was.

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Lina Ozz
04:32 Oct 28, 2020

Ah, okay, yes, I can get behind that for sure. Though that breaks my heart...again in a very good way. I think part of me was hopeful that she would be remembered even by one person, but reality doesn't work that way most of the time. Powerful stuff here.

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Scout Tahoe
13:41 Oct 28, 2020

Thank you. Basically what I just settled on was that Meisie is a little girl coming to her Pa again and again. Every time, they go to the graveyard, and Meisie dies again. Then she comes back. It's a cycle. ;)

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Zilla Babbitt
01:33 Oct 28, 2020

Oh my gosh. This really shocked me. I wasn't expecting Meisie to die! Though I think this isn't perfect or as good as some of your others, I see the potential in this, all the themes that you're hinting at but not exploring, and I think it has the potential to win. First let's talk about why she remembers all the dead. My guess is she does it for her dad. Rereading, I think it's possible that her dad makes her do it, gave it to her as a job, because of her grandfather or some trauma the dad experienced. Don't explore the why at the very ...

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Scout Tahoe
02:07 Oct 28, 2020

Wow, okay. Thank you for this. 1. Meisie remembers the dead because--well, I don't know. The spirit idea is interesting, and I actually was thinking about exploring that, but then I wasn't so sure. Remembering the dead was like learning the alphabet for her. Maybe she knew it all along, maybe she didn't. 2. I can try to have her tell more stories. I stopped at 3 because Meisie was growing tired and I thought it'd be more realistic but apparently it wasn't. I'll try and add one more. 3. As I said, I like the spirit idea. However, I ...

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Scout Tahoe
03:28 Oct 28, 2020

I edited it, by the way. ;)

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Zilla Babbitt
16:55 Oct 30, 2020

Even better! Good luck :)

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Scout Tahoe
17:07 Oct 30, 2020

Thank you. Do you like the new title?

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Zilla Babbitt
15:27 Oct 31, 2020

I do, much better :)

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Scout Tahoe
15:50 Oct 31, 2020

Okay, thanks!

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David Brown
16:08 Oct 31, 2020

Good story. I’m posting this for another reason too. You seem to be experienced with Reedsy. Why is my latest story not appearing with the other submissions? If I’m not logged in it doesn’t appear with the other 30 submissions but it says it is submitted when I’m logged in. Also there is no link to the admins to get help with something like this. Here’s a direct link to my story. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/65/submissions/40196/

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Scout Tahoe
16:23 Oct 31, 2020

Thank you. What do you mean? Do you mean on your profile or under the stories label?

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David Brown
16:41 Oct 31, 2020

It shows up under my author page but not the submitted stories for the contest. Maybe I’m just being impatient but I submitted last Monday.

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Scout Tahoe
17:47 Oct 31, 2020

Well, if it's for the contest that just ended yesterday, mine aren't approved either. It takes time. Don't worry. :) If they end up not being approved by Tuesday, you can email Jenn and see what she says.

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Amaya Macaulay
22:11 Oct 30, 2020

Hey Scout :) I posted a new story if you would like to read....tell me your favorite witch if you do. ugh i feel so terrible self-promo-ing, but I promise I'm just doing it for the feedback, not the karma points :)

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Scout Tahoe
22:18 Oct 30, 2020

Okay. I’ve been really busy so I’ll get there when I can.

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Amaya Macaulay
22:19 Oct 30, 2020

:)

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Amaya Macaulay
03:26 Oct 30, 2020

Hey! We haven't talked much before but I would like to drop by to say hello :) I really hope that we can become friends. I also wanted to say that I love your bio for some reason :)

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Scout Tahoe
04:14 Oct 30, 2020

Thank you! Yes, we don’t really know each other but I think you and your actions are pretty cool. Respect, my friend. ;)

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Amaya Macaulay
17:16 Oct 30, 2020

aww thank you!

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Scout Tahoe
18:44 Oct 30, 2020

Sure!

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Kelsey Mathias
00:58 Oct 29, 2020

Surprise ending...One would think it was Pa who'd fall out of the tree, not Meisie. I love the line "weaving around the tall Juniper trees that hugged them away from the moon". Why do I think Meisie will indeed be remembered...but by who? Certainly by Pa, for a time. But I think forever by all the other residents in the graveyard. Long ago I visited a beautiful cemetery where there were all varieties of burials...outside, inside, in vaults in the walls, cremation ashes in a wall that looked like an old-fashioned library card catalog. Looking...

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Scout Tahoe
03:22 Oct 29, 2020

Thank you so much, Kelsey! You're fabulous and kind within your comments. :) I really hope you'll post a new story soon. ;)

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Mia S
00:08 Oct 28, 2020

I love this so much. The title's perfect too—I knew this was gonna be good just by looking at the title. The descriptions and characters were amazing too. I loved the line "Pa followed her wordlessly, weaving around the tall Juniper trees that hugged them away from the moon". The whole vibe is just so peaceful and serene, but with some darker undertones—and then BAM, the girl's dead. You did it well, though :D This might be my favorite story by you so far. Honestly don't know how you do it.

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Scout Tahoe
00:10 Oct 28, 2020

Thank you so much! Might I ask, what's your second favorite or just some other ones you like from me? Just trying to get a feel for what people enjoy. :)

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Mia S
00:17 Oct 28, 2020

I love All the Things that Cannot Fly, Yellow(probably my second favorite), and Lemons on Ice. Honestly, though, all of yours that I've read are amazing ;)

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Scout Tahoe
00:19 Oct 28, 2020

Okay, thanks! Love those too.

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R. K.
23:44 Oct 27, 2020

I'm here soulmate :) You know I love all your writing but this is flawless from the title to every letter. Utterly stunning and heart-wrenchingly tragic. I'll be honest, I was waiting on your page for you to post this. Poor Meisie, your language and word choice made me feel every emotion. Keep shining, my star!

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Scout Tahoe
23:44 Oct 27, 2020

Thank you so much, my dear soulmate. ;)

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10:44 Nov 14, 2020

Hi Scout. This was scary, yet subtle. I'm sorry you lost your grandfather. He's probably up in heaven, watching his favourite TV shows. :). This story 8s my favourite. Very, meaningful. I loved this. Stay Strong ❤

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Scout Tahoe
14:26 Nov 14, 2020

Thank you, Sia. :)

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15:16 Nov 14, 2020

Happy to help :)

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