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Sad Suspense Creative Nonfiction

For-Get-Me-Not

'Memories,

Like the corners of my mind

Misty water-colored memories

Of the way we were...'

No radio but the song kept recycling in her mind. 'Of the way we were...' She clenched back the tears. Couldn't cry now. Would never be able to see the road.

The glare of the setting sun was already blinding her as it fried every June bug, cicada and firefly splatting itself on the muddy windshield of her pint-sized pick-up. If she turned on the wipers what chance enough washer-fluid was in the tank to make a difference? No, with her luck it would only solidify the view into guts and wings stained-glass. With miles to go she needed to be home before dark. All the more so now.

One police warning about a missing taillight was one too many. Maybe if she picked up the parts her son could do the installation saving her some money. He used to spend enough time tinkering with his dad. Lately, he'd been grumbling about having to watch his sisters. She could taste his bitter resentment being asked to help more.

All three kids would be starving by the time she reached home. So another run through Micky D's would take her last twenty.

'Before it's earned our money's all been spent...'

Oh, great! Another tear jerker rattling her brain. Tall, beautiful, Bette, with her long, straight, dark hair always sang the Cher part...

The plan seemed simple enough. Using a couple of hours everyday after work she could knock out these assignments in a month and make enough money to replace this falling apart chariot with something her whole family could fit in at the same time. But the simple plan failed to account for all the unnamed roads and unmarked addresses tucked in the most remote areas where one could get hopelessly lost. High hopes of the misguided plan were dashed long ago as now she found herself driving through monsoons or early summer humid heat instead of the flowering spring fields she once envisioned.

Home would sure look good after this miserable trip. AC was MIA so her clothes stuck to her in places they shouldn't and sweat pooled in places it shouldn't. Her generous belly rubbed against the sticky steering wheel leaving a black mark where there shouldn't be one.

And as luck would have it, she happened across the one man she hoped never to see again. The man who changed everything in her world...

<=<=<=

She recognized him immediately when he shuffled from his recliner, dragging his right foot through the matted shag, to reluctantly pull open the squeaky screen door. She was not aware she landed in this forsaken corner of the county. Coming from a different direction nothing was familiar. Several more houses were planted in the corn fields plus the other lane of the spur was finally blacktopped. Years upon years had passed. Yet it felt like yesterday. Amazing how memories spate out over your brain in a matter of nanoseconds! She would never expect him to still be living here, anyway.

He took a moment or two longer to retrieve the long-ago image – a full-page color photo of a dazzling smile highlighting her luxurious hair piled in an up-do beneath a shining homecoming queen crown gracing his high-school yearbook. The kind of dream girl a guy could crush on even knowing she was so far out of his league ladders weren't built tall enough to ever reach that high. After all, she changed quite a bit. Long, soft brown locks were now spiky gray. Probably about five pounds a year were added to her once hot cheerleader bod. So how many years was it, anyhow? At least twenty-five? Thirty? No smile now, mouth agape. She knew who he was.

“Thelma?... It is Thelma, right? Why..? What are you doing here?” mouth also agape.

More anguish washed over her. Only people from far back in her past ever used her given name. She never liked it. Always wondered why her dear mother gave her such a harsh sounding name. As her first-born that was the first-pick? Why couldn't her mom have picked something pretty or cute? No one ever even gave her a nick-name.

When the opportunity arose moving into a new town and starting a new life after her husband left her for a skinny woman she renamed herself 'Tiffany' on a whim. It was trending and she thought maybe it would make her feel young and vivacious again. For all the good it did, she didn't have friends to call her the new-image name. Her colleagues and special-ed students all knew her as 'Mrs. Z'. Her married name was as confusing as her maiden name for people to pronounce. But she would never forget his name.

What seemed like an eternity to relive was in reality only a few seconds. “Uh, Mr. Allen, I need to...”

“What you need to do is catch your truck.” He pointed behind her. “It's taking off without you!”

Mortified, she turned to see her rust-dappled Ranger hip-hopping back down the rutted inclined driveway they minutes ago bumped up. #*%+&! parking brake! No wonder she wanted to replace the Fred Flintstone mobile. A foot could easily stomp through the rotted out floorboards. Please, Lord, let this only be temporary.

Even with his gimpy leg he won the race to where it lodged. The single working taillight smashed into a lopsided fence post. She wasn't going to be able to complete this sparsely inhabited neighborhood before dark. She would have to make another trip out here to finish her census taking.

“I'll get the tractor and haul you out.”

While she waited she took more notice of the place. In her duties she visited some nice homesteads. This wasn't one of them. Antiquated farm equipment served as yard art among thick growing weeds. A dismantled vehicle perched on blocks in the side yard. The roof sagged, house and barn in need of paint make-overs. She wasn't judging. Her house begged for attention, too. Perhaps his injury kept him from accomplishing all he needed to do.

She still didn't know if he lived alone. So far the only other obvious occupants were an old droopy-eared hound dog puddled on the porch and a bleating goat somewhere out back, hungry or thirsty or both. A scraggly garden grew along the collapsing fence line so she supposed his government disability check was basically all he lived on. His breath smelled like his diet was liquid.

Not a grandiose life but at least he had one. It happened the night after her high-school graduation, about this same time of year. The darn FFA kid celebrated with a couple of beers then weaponized his new driver's license by plowing his dad's farm truck head-on into the sixties' model Cutlass her seventeen-year-old sister was riding in with her boyfriend. Bette 'n Thelma, Thelma 'n Bette, eleven months apart in age and always inseparable, died on that old spur road. One of a broken neck, the other of a broken heart.

Said as he helped her back into her truck, “I want you to know I've never forgotten her.”

“Neither have I.”

May 26, 2023 01:22

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43 comments

Michelle Oliver
11:53 Jun 01, 2023

Your writing captivates me. You develop such beautifully crafted pictures that come together to tell a whole tragic story with such few words. Nothing is superfluous, every word pulls its weight. I must add that I am sorry for your family’s loss. I can’t imagine your pain.

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Mary Bendickson
13:20 Jun 01, 2023

Thank you. Yes.the pain stays. Still find myself wondering what her life would've been like.

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Katy B
16:30 May 26, 2023

This is a stunning story, Mary. The mystery of who the man is and what exactly happened in high school reads very well, and the descriptions are great! I really liked these lines in particular: "her clothes stuck to her in places they shouldn't and sweat pooled in places it shouldn't. Her generous belly rubbed against the sticky steering wheel leaving a black mark where there shouldn't be one." Thank you for sharing!

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Mary Bendickson
16:44 May 26, 2023

Thanks for reading and liking. This is a true story about my oldest sister when she took an extra part time job taking the census and ran into the man who had caused the accident that took the life of our other sister, Bette. The only embellishment is Thelma never really changed her name to Tiffany. They were so close I believe a part of Thelma died, too. She put on excessive weight and was never again quite the same. But she still is a marvelous person.

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Martin Ross
14:13 Jun 10, 2023

What a powerful, honest story! You made me truly feel Thelma’s pain and anxiety, and the use of musical cues brought home her pain and worry and melancholy, and a world seemingly against her. When I was working but broke in a big city, one car repair upset my budget for a year, and a cop threw it off further by cheerfully forcing me to replace my windshield for a hairline crack. With a grin on his face. The family dynamics were heartbreaking — dysfunction spreads and festers. And you made us even feel for Allen, whose reckless youthful acti...

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Mary Bendickson
15:53 Jun 10, 2023

Thank you, Martin. I really appreciate your kindness.

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Wally Schmidt
06:30 May 31, 2023

This story is a heart-breaker and I'll begin by offering condolences to you and your family. There are no words that can smooth over such a gut wrenching loss of a young life, but my heart is with you Mary. As for the story, the descriptions are so clear they could be a photograph. The depiction of the woman in her truck and her life with her kids is vivid, and the ones in the second half of the story are just as arresting. '..even knowing she was so far out of his league ladders weren't built tall enough to ever reach that high.' 'Antiquat...

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Mary Bendickson
11:41 May 31, 2023

Thanks for the condolences. And for all the encouraging feedback. Yeah, the guy was only a kid himself when this happened. True a stupid kid that was careless but he never recovered fully from his mistake,either.

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Amanda Lieser
17:36 Jun 19, 2023

Hi Mary, This was an interesting take on the prompt, and I was instantly intrigued by the story when you began bringing up memories of a long forgotten past I really enjoyed that paragraph that you included about the power of names I think that names are some thing that writers think about frequently because they can really empower an entire character or the readers perception of a character Indeed, Thelma feels like a very harsh name. And in the modern world I think that you have a lot more control over your name. I, myself, have done a ful...

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Mary Bendickson
21:07 Jun 19, 2023

Interesting you should suggest they talk it over. I originally wrote this true story for another project and at that time was considering making it more fictional by having the two adversaries become close to one another.

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Zatoichi Mifune
13:38 Jun 07, 2023

Wow. Love it!

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John Werner
01:57 Jun 05, 2023

Powerful story, Mary. I felt that ending deeply. I'm very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing.

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Mary Bendickson
03:10 Jun 05, 2023

Thank you for caring.

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Glenda Toews
02:03 Jun 03, 2023

and... well, not to question the judges as I'm sure judging is hard, but this didn't even get shortlisted? I kind of have a bit of a problem with that. The writing and the story were both excellent.... pffft, sometimes I don't know what moves them to pick one story over another.

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Mary Bendickson
03:33 Jun 03, 2023

I never got into this expecting to win especially reading what others write. But this one was trending toward the top of the list all week so I thought just maybe....Then they only shortlisted 2!. One was on top And the other I never saw. Oh,well.

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Glenda Toews
04:16 Jun 03, 2023

I think it's better than the one they selected as winner..🤗

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Mary Bendickson
04:28 Jun 03, 2023

Too kind! 😊 But there have been quite a few with beginners luck winning with first entry lately. There are just so many with talent on here I don't envy the judges' job.

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Glenda Toews
13:31 Jun 03, 2023

Agreed!

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Tommy Goround
16:59 Jun 10, 2023

(sounds like she made recommend list for Monday/wed cuts. )

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Glenda Toews
01:13 Jun 03, 2023

Ohhhh goodness Mary, who's the one spinning words here... was this your sister? Oh your storytelling is beautiful and captivating. And with the type of description I LOVE. Well Done!

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Mary Bendickson
03:28 Jun 03, 2023

Yes. My oldest sister was working a second job doing the census and came across the guy that ran into our other sister's vehicle when they were teens. Another friend also died. The words he spoke and her answer was the same. Her truck really did roll back down the drive and really had a hole in the floor board. It was a little white lie about her changing her name.

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Michał Przywara
20:45 May 30, 2023

A good setup for a powerful twist. Thelma does project a mood of ragged worry, like she's stuck always playing catch-up and with things failing around her. Her descriptions, the setting, it has a sense of harried to it. There's trouble at home - first with the husband, then the son growing impatient - there's money trouble, there's truck trouble, etc. This sells the idea that part of her died long ago, and she's just struggling through the motions. Obviously what happened in the past was a tragedy. It looks like it claimed part of Mr. Alle...

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Mary Bendickson
22:12 May 30, 2023

You captured the feel of it exactly. Thanks for the condolences. No matter how long ago it's been there remains a gapping hole. What I did not include in this account is that another young girl, Bette's good friend, was also in the car and died a few days later. So Mr. Allen had two deaths on his conscience.

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08:16 May 30, 2023

An engrossing story. I read the story after reading some of the comments so knew something awful had happened. But what? A mystery until I read it and so sad. So needless. More awful because it is true. Love your descriptions.

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Mary Bendickson
13:11 May 30, 2023

Thank you.

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Joe Smallwood
19:48 May 29, 2023

Well OK then! How did you pack all that into such a small read? Careful planning? They say to write about what you know. Well, that sure holds up here! Thanks!

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Mary Bendickson
20:19 May 29, 2023

Thanks, Joe. That actually was originally only 750 words for another project. I had to add about 500 words.

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Jarrel Jefferson
13:31 May 29, 2023

It still amazes me how you can start reading a story, fumble through the details of a world uniquely conveyed by a stranger, and it’s not until you get to the very end that everything makes sense and you’re left with a lasting feeling. Nicely done, Mary.

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Jarrel Jefferson
13:33 May 29, 2023

Also, it’s that this is creative non-fiction instead of fiction. I’d be broken if I lost my sibling in some needless tragedy.

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Mary Bendickson
14:24 May 29, 2023

Thanks for the kind comments. Yes, losing a sibling does change one's outlook. She was two years older than me and I lost her a week before I turned fifteen. Makes you realize you're not invincible. Thank goodness our family had faith in our Savior.

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10:14 May 29, 2023

This is brilliant Mary. Love this description: Antiquated farm equipment served as yard art among thick growing weeds. A dismantled vehicle perched on blocks in the side yard. The roof sagged, house and barn in need of paint make-overs. That paints a really vivid picture in my mind and brings the scene to life. Tragic tale beautifully told.

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Mary Bendickson
12:33 May 29, 2023

Thanks, Derrick.

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C. Charles
03:04 May 28, 2023

Well written and very sad. I’m sorry to hear that it’s true.

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Mary Bendickson
03:10 May 28, 2023

Thank you for reading and liking. And the condolences.

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Chris Miller
19:01 May 27, 2023

Thanks for sharing, Mary. You always create a really strong sense of place.

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Mary Bendickson
19:13 May 27, 2023

Thanks, Chris. Yours on my list to read this afternoon.

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Jack Kimball
12:05 May 27, 2023

I thought you really nailed the mood here Mary. The voice put me well into the prose, which is not easy to do. Great descriptions also. “droopy-eared hound dog puddled on the porch “ There seems to be a “break through” among Reedsy stories where the piece either is (Katy B as example), or isn’t. Most aren’t, but there’s many great writers on Reedsy and I sense you in that “group”. Keep pushing. You have talent.

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Mary Bendickson
15:47 May 27, 2023

Thanks for the encouraging words, Jack.

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Michele Duess
01:26 May 27, 2023

Great story. Sad to find out it's true. "one of a broken neck, the other of a broken heart." And the man that can't ever forget or most likely forgive himself, or at least by the sound of it. Thank you for sharing it!

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Mary Bendickson
01:43 May 27, 2023

Yes,both were effected by it in different degrees that neither had a very satisfying life.

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J. D. Lair
17:20 May 26, 2023

Though this was a sad story, you paint the picture of small town tragedy well. I would have given Thelma a nickname! Sweet Elm, or Elmo and gifted the puppet to cherish.

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Mary Bendickson
17:28 May 26, 2023

Oh, how sweet. I have never even noticed 'elm' in Thelma!

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