Every time we went for lilies, a letter would disappear.
“Ptr tlls m that us that w can’t lav lttrs bhnd whn w go to the flowr shop,” we would say to each other, “H says h knows it’s an honest mistak, but nvrthlss.”
Peter is our uncle. Our GREAT-uncle, although not really, because a Great-Uncle is a real thing and not just an uncle you think is great. Peter seems like more than an uncle to us. He’s actually more like a father when you get right down to it. Our Father is lovely, but he’s not around very often and he doesn’t take us on outings. Peter would pick us up every Friday and we’d go to buy lilies at his friend Cameron’s shop. One for each of us. Cameron would call us “ladies” and we would giggle, but then we curtsy like Uncle Peter had taught us.
“In two years,” he says, “When you’re both ten, you’ll appreciate the kind of useful information I impart to you.”
We weren’t always close with Uncle Peter. He’s our mother’s brother, and she didn’t speak to him for years on account of letters falling down around him.
“One day,” she told us while we were sitting in bed with her, “I needed an ‘A’ and it was nowhere to be found. It had dropped while Peter was at some concert mooning over a pop star. That sort of thing used to happen all the time.”
Then when she got sick--
“Then when I got sick,” she continued, “It became more than irritating. It became dangerous. You can’t have letters dropping off of pill bottles. I could have died.”
Uncle Peter told us that mother always had a flair for the dramatic.
“You mothe loves to give me a had time,” he said, after losing the letter “R” for several hours, “But the lettes always tun up eventually, don’t they?”
“R” did turn up eventually, but by then, Mother had forbid us from going to get flowers with him. We cried and pleaded, and when we saw a migraine taking hold, we knew we had her. She relented, but made us promise that if we noticed any other letters dropping, we were to call our father and have him come pick us up. She couldn’t, because Mother didn’t drive after she got sick. That was why she had to break down and ask Peter for help in the first place. With Father working so much at Frye’s Steakhouse, and Mother under the weather, drastic measures had to be taken.
Luckily for us, that meant Uncle Peter was summoned.
“He firs hing we’re going o do is buy lilies,” he said, helping us on with our galoshes, “Lilies are the perfec flower for a Friday. There’s never been a beer day for daisies.”
We heard our mother banging on the wall of her bedroom to get our attention. She was on the second floor, and that meant there was no changing her mind. She’d never be able to grab her cane and descend the stairs in time to stop us from being transported away by Uncle Peter. That didn’t stop her from yelling out to us.
“Peer, you’ve only been here for five minues and we’ve already los he ___. He ___. AHHHH!”
Our uncle scurried us out of the house before Mother growled the house down into ash.
We didn’t mind the missing letters. In fact, we made a game around it. Whenever a letter would drop around us, we’d simply try to avoid using it.
“Lucy,” I would say after the “S” dropped, “Would you…tell me that…you find it…glowing out today?”
“Truly, Vicky,” Lucy would respond, “I can’t think of a better word for it. That…orb up in the…up there…definitely…a good deal of…glow.”
Lucy was not as good at the game as myself and Uncle Peter, but we all have our strong suits, and she was particularly good when we would call home and assure mother that everything was fine even if Uncle Peter was, at that present moment, being written up by a constable for losing the letter “P.”
“I’m trying to tell you how it’s selled,” said Uncle, “But I can’t, because I can’t sell my first name without the letter I’m missing.”
On days when the letter “L” would go missing, Uncle Peter would still take us for our lilies. Cameron knew what we wanted as soon as we walked in whether we told him so or not, although he would gently tease Uncle Peter--
“Ooks ike I won’t be advertising my new tuips just yet,” he’d say, spraying down his counter after handing us each a flower, “I suppose today will have to be a rose kind of day for everyone else and a iies day for you two very specia adies.”
There were always adventures with Uncle Peter. Going to the z after losing the letter “O” or the par after losing the letter “K.” He would take us to the rain ration and we’d watch the rains come in and guess whereabous they could be going.
“One day,” he said, “We’ll hop on a rain and go all the way to io de Janeio. People will tell us that you can’t get to io de Janeio on a train, but we’ll say ‘Why not?’ It’s all connected by land, isn’t that rue? People will lean geogaphy fom us, ladies.”
Unlike the storybooks where the mother always dies, our Mother managed to recover her health after several months. By then, we had grown accustomed to outings with Uncle Peter, but she was insistent on taking up our care once more. No matter how much we cried, she explained that twin girls belonged spending as much time with their mother as possible.
“You’ll see,” she said, “It’ll be nice to walk around using all twenty-six letters in the alphabet. You won’t miss your Uncle Peter one bit.”
Oh, but we did miss him. In fact, we took to dropping out letters on our own just to spite Mother, although we were glad that she was feeling better. It wasn’t that we wanted to be cruel to her. We just didn’t know how to handle the adness within u.
“Lucy and Vicky,” Mother aid, colding u right there in the upermarket, “You put that ___ back right now. I know you’re the reaon it’ gone and I want it put back thi intant!”
Nothing would alter our grief. No therapist could assist. No school counselor. Even when Mother could manage our behavior, there was no spark to us anymore. No generosity or enthusiasm. One day we lost the letter ‘Q’ and nobody even noticed, but we weren’t interested in asking uestions anyway, even about uails, which are usually our favorite birds.
“All riht,” said Mother on a Friday mornin when our depression was particularly harsh, and the letter “G” seemed to have vanished, “I’ve had enouh. Et dressed. We’re oin out.”
We didn’t know what specialist or uru she was taking us to this time. We also didn’t care. Nothin would fix the way our two hears were broken.
Or we thought.
“Oodness racious,” yelled a familiar voice as we turned down a street that should have iven us a clue, “Look who decided to buy some lilies.”
We ran up to Uncle Peter so quickly, we knocked the “U” right out of him.
“It trns ot,” he said, “Yor mother isn’t so bad after all. She decided that or weekly visits shall recommence.”
By now, Mother was at our side--but smiling. An expression we hadn’t seen in quite some time.
“I may even join you,” she said, “Provided I can keep all my letters and the weather stays this nice. I can’t remember the last time there was a beer day for daisies.”
When she noticed the missing “T”s, she gave Uncle Peter a look--a stern grimace that quickly turned into a laugh.
We left them laughing while we ran into the flower shop to tell Cameron that we had come back for our lilies--and whatever else we may have left behind.
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What a fascinating idea... And you executed it really well! At first I thought the missing letters were just a quirky way of noting Peter's slurred speech, and I wasnt sure it was a good idea since it made the reading flow a little clunky. Further along though, when you see that the missing letters are a theme throughout the entire story, it comes across very charming and witty. I think you knocked this out of the park! A very delightful read; I could totally see it in a collection of short stories~
Thank you so much, E.B. I really enjoyed this one as well.
Hi Kevin! This story was utterly charming! I loved the way that these characters embraced their uncle, and were able to find joy and happiness with them when adults around them had judgment about it. I also really loved the setting that you chose because I thought it was a bit of a unique take on the prompt. The story was one where we start with people who have had a long history, the mother and uncle Peter, and then unite over caring for kids, which I think is a really awesome premise. Nice work!
Thank you, Amanda. I've this idea buzzing around in my head for a bit, but I couldn't figure out what the setting would be for it, so when I saw twins pop into focus, it was like--Bingo.
Oh great story-Someone important in the their lives is missing, and it is felt in a significant way. This was a great way to describe loss, in a literal way. I m Uncle Peter came back, I like having all the letters. I agree entirely, beer and lilies go well together :)
Thank you, Marty.
Umm, I thought maybe Uncle Peter may have a drinking problem therefore slurred speech somewhat and sister didn't want the twins around him when he was inebriated? Much better outcome your way.
Thank you, Mary.
I thought this was very cute.
Thank you very much, Sasha!
Ths story s brllant! T was really nterestng to read. _ loved t!
Thank you so much, Delia.
What an entertaining romp. Losing letters indeed. This story had all the sparkle of a children’s story. I would love to read it out loud to a class of eight year olds. I can just imagine their laughter. It would be a riot.
It was so much fun getting to put this one together. It's a concept I've been wanting to try out for awhile and the twins seemed like a nice fit for it.
Kevin, this story was entertaining and a lot of fun! I enjoyed this one. LF6.
Thank you so much!
Hey Kevin, you know me = anytime. :) LF6.
Very fun :) Good opening sentence, and very enigmatic. I immediately, naturally, wondered what letters. And then we find out, literal ones :) A charming story too, though while it's about binding with family, it's also about problems within a family. Maybe I'm reaching, but losing letters is perhaps indicative of communication problems which drove a wedge between the mother and uncle. "rain ration" - was this meant to be "rain saion" (train station)? But that section also has "whee", so it looks like some t and some r are missing, but no...
Thank you, Michal! For me, it was this idea of what makes someone in a family different from the other people in the family, and how we respond to it. Peter makes letters drop, but his nieces (who may have inherited this trait) not only find a way around it, but learn to enjoy it in their own way.