Contest #137 shortlist ⭐️

14 comments

Black LGBTQ+ Fiction

Dear daughter, 

The day my mother died, I was relieved. I sat in her living room, watching the guavas fall from the tree, rotting in the grass, oozing that sweet juice. Flies swarming over the bruised green fruit, the pungent guava scent wafting through the house. I closed the window. 

My mother had a garden. Carefully crafted she would say, but to me, it looked like pure chaos. Madness. She always said to me, it is important to remember why you planted a seed. And when you plant that seed, offer it up to the gods. 

She had mango trees, cashew trees, sapodilla, starfruit, pommecythere, paw paw, and one big guava tree right by the living room window. The paw paw tree was my favorite, planted furthest from the house. When we fell ill with dengue fever, Mami would go out barefoot to the edge of the fence with her knife, collect some paw paw leaves, and brew it into a tea for us to drink. Mami was a healer. But I thought she was a wicked, wicked woman.

My sweet baby. I understand why you feel the need to run away from this place. The thick heat can be unbearable. The days are short and the work is long. This place is mad. My sweet child, let me tell you a story about mothers. Why I understand your need to run away from this place. And why I need you to come back. 

It is a funny thing to say I was relieved when she died, I know. But I was 19 and ready to leave this mad place. This convoluted garden that only she understood. They found Mami's body floating in the river. They said she looked peaceful. I keep thinking about how much guava that tree was producing. I remember Mami called me to tell me that she was selling guava at the market. How she made guava jam, guava cheese, and guava juice. How she was letting some fruit stay on the ground for the animals and spirits to feed on. She told me how she dropped off bags, filled to the top, to the houses that lined the main road. She begged me to come home, to come taste the guava. She said she knows she will see me soon. 

In the living room, I waited to meet with the police, who asked me standard questions. Was your mother depressed? Sick? Do you know why she would do this? 

Because she was a wicked, wicked woman, I responded.

I was going to sell the house. The garden. Everything. I did not want anything to do with this mad place. Offers came in like crazy. People, developers, everybody was bidding on this house. Ideas for guest homes and hotels, party venues, eco-tourism. I still could not sell the house. Not because I was attached, but every time I received an offer the person backed out. After three years of trying, I got stuck with the house. 

I moved to Brooklyn. I met your father. Our relationship went sour, as you know. I moved home. Back to the mad place. This time, with you. The guava tree did not bear fruit in the time we lived there.  But we had the mangoes, the cashews, the sapodilla, the pommecythere and the starfruit. We had the pawpaw -- which you loved. We traded with people on the main road. They gave us coconuts to make coconut milk and coconut oil and sugar cane to suck on when the days were hot. It was in this mad place where you learned to swim in the river down the road. You learned to plant seeds and offer it up to the gods. You learned that there was a right way to peel cassava to avoid the poison. You learned that we descended from people brought here forcibly on boats. And from people who were already here. I learned that I could love this mad place, with you. 

You don’t remember, but when you were eight you fell incredibly ill. The doctors could not heal you. They could not tell me what was wrong with my sweet baby. From my memory, I brewed up Mami’s paw paw leaf tea. I picked two leaves, washed and dried them. After I chopped them into smaller pieces, I placed them in boiling water. I let it simmer and cool. I strained it and gave you small sips throughout the day. I spent time with you in the yard. Singing, crying, dancing, laughing, praying, begging. I healed you. My Mami healed you. Our lineage healed you, my sweet baby. 

You say now, that I am a wicked, wicked woman. I understand that. But my sweet child, I am just like you. I was in love with a woman. I thought leaving the mad place would allow me to be myself. I still ended up with your father. For what I thought was safety. Preservation. And when I finally unearthed the courage to stand in my truth, profess my unabashed love for another woman, he hit me. 

I told you my mother is a wicked, wicked woman. The next week your father died. I took you and left. Back to the mad place. 

Maybe, we come from a lineage of wicked, wicked women. I see so much of Mami in you. She was unapologetic and headstrong. I know you think this mad place is not for you. That this country will chew you up and spit you out. Bulldoze and excavate. Force you to repress who you are. Brutalize and starve you. It is a struggle, baby, I know. But we have always struggled. Struggled through the thick heat. Struggled through the abuse -- to our bodies and the land. 

My sweet child, I want you to know, this land, which we originally called Kaïri, is yours. This mad place is for you. For us. This place is for us to dream and create new possibilities. It will heal you and teach you how to heal. We cannot keep running away from this mad place. We cannot let ourselves die. This place needs wicked, wicked women. 

My sweet baby, the guava tree is overproducing again. I need you to come home. 

Love, 

Your mami

March 15, 2022 21:50

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14 comments

Henry Houston
01:44 Jun 16, 2022

This was interesting… actually discussed a topic the next day at work because of this. Keep up the good work

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16:56 Apr 29, 2022

This is such a beautiful story! I enjoyed it so much! The letter format was a brilliant choice for this piece, the personality of the story was expressed very well in it. The symbolism of the guava was amazing, I loved it. The complexity of your characters was portrayed beautifully in this piece! Overall, great story! I can’t wait to see more of your work.

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Graham Kinross
08:03 Apr 01, 2022

This was really good. It’s sad and yet all the talk of fruit trees made me hungry. Your description was excellent.

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Kevin Broccoli
16:18 Mar 29, 2022

I thought you did such an amazing job of evoking setting. The shorter run of sentences is a style I really respond to, and I felt truly in this character's perspective throughout the piece. Congratulations.

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Amanda Lieser
05:09 Mar 28, 2022

Hello! Welcome to Reedsey! Congratulations on getting shortlisted on your very first piece. I, too, loved the letter format. And I love the theme you played with because I’m constantly wondering about the lives my parents led before having me. This piece does such a great job of capturing and creating the world of female lineage. I love how you wove nature so intimately into this piece. I could picture a young woman, walking along the trees, wondering about her mother as she reads this letter. It absolutely transported me with incredible ima...

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J.C. Lovero
23:05 Mar 27, 2022

Hi Kaiomi! Congrats on the shortlisted story! I really like how you formatted this as a letter and brought the cultural references with the different fruits, ending with the guava tree. My mom loved guava so it reminded me of her. Well done! Welcome to the Reedsy community :)

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Kaiomi Inniss
23:40 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you so much!

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Philip Ebuluofor
15:36 Mar 27, 2022

One story, one wonder. Why's some people's first story wonder one while some needs to write for months before hitting it. Fine work for sure. Welcome.

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Felice Noelle
16:31 Mar 25, 2022

Kaiomi: Wonderfully, deftly written story. Loved the repetition of the guava, both real and symbolic. I especially like the phrase :wicked, wicked woman. Mothers and daughters, such complex relationships. You did a wonderful job of portraying these. Thanks for the touching read. Maureen

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Kaiomi Inniss
23:40 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you Maureen! I appreciate this,

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Zack Powell
23:46 Mar 20, 2022

Great story, Kaiomi. Love the letter format you chose for this, love the specificity of the imagery you used throughout (with regards to the trees especially), and I love the relationship and parallels between the mother and the daughter. You used your word count effectively - every sentence was leading to the conclusion, nothing was filler or just for show. Kudos on that. Thanks for sharing and welcome to Reedsy! Looking forward to your next story. P.S. My favorite line was: "Our lineage healed you, my sweet baby."

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Kaiomi Inniss
13:38 Mar 21, 2022

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed! Thanks for the feedback.

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14:50 Mar 20, 2022

Hi Kaiomi! Welcome to reedsy! This is a beautiful story! Very well written, the imagery was amazing as was the character voice. I loved it! I hope to see more writing or yours on here in the future.

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Kaiomi Inniss
13:37 Mar 21, 2022

Thank you so much! That means a lot.

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