Contest #135 winner 🏆

Home of the Brave

Submitted into Contest #135 in response to: Write about a casual act of bravery.... view prompt

189 comments

American Bedtime Western

A mom’s job is never truly finished—Elise knew this instinctively when her son was born. For at least the hundredth time, she sat next to his bed in that chair mending his quilt. There was no way of knowing, the day she bought it at a flea market, that it would become her son’s most valued possession. 


To call it a quilt stretched the definition as it was nothing more than a thousand pieces of oddly shaped swatches stitched together, layer after layer, until the whole of it was thick enough to hold in the warmth of a small boy's body as he drifted off to sleep. The person who pieced together this labor of love must have spent countless hours shaping the useless remnants into a usable blanket. Elise felt it was her duty to repair the inevitable rips as an homage to the unknown creator and as a manifestation of her adoration for the little boy who cherished it.


“I love how cool it feels when I first get into bed,” her little man observed the first night he wrapped himself in the old quilt. “But before long, it warms up, and I’m snug as a bug in a rug. Where did you get it?” 


The question was one whose answer was too mundane to inflict on a wide eyed little boy, so Elise stretched the truth just a little. “It was brought over on the Mayflower by the Pilgrims,” she answered to her son's delight. “It’s made from pieces of fabric from all over Europe and is the first blanket used by the first Americans.”


It was just a little white lie, but it was also the beginning of a cherished tradition. As stitches unraveled and as tears ripped the quilt and the little boy's heart, Elise sat by his bed and mended the heirloom. Then she would continue the "true" story of how the quilt had found its way to her son. 


“During the Revolutionary War, your quilt was captured by General Cornwallis and used to keep his legs warm on the cold winter nights.” Elise said, weaving a story as intricate as the blanket itself. “It wasn’t until the surrender at Yorktown that it was returned.”


“Yorktown?”


“Yes, Yorktown,'' she said smiling, “George Washington took it from Cornwallis and used it during his eight years as president.”


“You mean my blanket has been to the White House?” 


“Of course it has,” Elise answered with a wink. “But not because of George Washington, silly. John Adams was the first president to live in the White House.”


“Who then, Mom? ``The little boy asked., “Who took my blanket to the White House?”


“That’s a story for later,” Elise replied, kissing her son on his forehead. “Now you get some sleep, and I’ll continue the story next time.”


Elise, unfortunately, had far too many opportunities to continue the blanket’s tale as her son was given to debilitating headaches. At first, the doctors thought he was prone to systemic migraines, but the truth was much worse. Many nights, too many, the little boy would curl up in pain, his teeth clenched in a faux smile. The headaches were excruciating, only soothed by a cold wash cloth, his mother’s gentle voice, and the telling of the quilt’s tale as he drifted off to sleep. 


There were also many a night where Elise would sit with her son as he slept, meticulously piecing back together the tears that threatened the blanket entirely, wishing there was a way she could also mend her son. The room would be completely quiet save for the sound of Elise’s song. It was something she had done since she was his age. Inadvertently yet intentionally she would let the air slip through her lips, creating a tune just for him that would live for that moment, replaced the next time by one equally beautiful and equally unique.


“As it turns out, the first time the quilt made it to the White House was just after Abraham Lincoln was elected president,” Elise said the next night, continuing the story from where they’d left off. The pain had become more frequent and more intense, requiring more chapters more often. The story's continuation, however, had the desired results, a distraction and a smile.


“Abraham Lincoln, he used my quilt, too?” her son asked, too young to doubt his mother. 


“Of course he did,” Elise responded, tickling her son just to hear him laugh. “It’s a little known fact, but Mount Rushmore was actually created to show all of the presidents who used your blanket.”  


Elise always had a basin of cold water by her side whenever she sat with her son. Very early on she learned that the coolness of the cloth would help quiet the pain in his head. It was her greatest joy to moisten the cloth keeping it cold throughout her story. The little boy’s head still throbbed, but while his mom was telling the story she would gently wipe his forehead with the cold cloth, and it was almost as if he forgot the pain for a time. If all went well, he would fall asleep listening to the tale of his blanket, as sleep was becoming his only relief from the pain.


“Did you know your blanket went to the moon?” Elise asked one day when her son seemed particularly down. “Neil Armstrong may have been the first man to set foot on the moon, but he laid out your quilt so he and Buzz Aldrin could have a picnic.” 


The idea of two astronauts having a picnic on the moon resulted in spontaneous laughter for both mother and son. 


“Is Buzz Lightyear named after Buzz Aldrin?” he asked his mom, as both continued to laugh.


“As a matter of fact he was,” Elise replied with a smile. “If you must know, Buzz Aldrin presented your quilt to Buzz Lightyear as a gift which means your blanket has been…”


“To infinity and beyond!” 


“Exactly,” Elise confirmed as she refreshed his cloth and placed it back on his head.


Day after day she would take her boy to doctors and then specialists and eventually to the hospital. Then, night after night, she would sit by his bed and tell the story of the quilt. Elise did everything she could to stretch out the story, and as each new adventure was passed from mother to son so too was hope, in the only way she knew how.  


The night that she finished the story was, in so many ways, just like most of the other nights. Elise was home in her favorite chair next to her son’s bed. Her breathing was labored and her voice unsteady. “And then I stopped by a flea market on my way home from the store and there it was, your beautiful, wonderful blanket. I knew you must have it, so I scooped it up, paid the nice woman, and brought it home to you.”


Tears filled Elise’s eyes as she sewed the last stitch on the old quilt. Holding it up, she remembered the first time her son covered himself with the blanket. I love how cool it feels when I first get into bed.


“It’s finally fixed. It’s perfect.” Elise said out loud, tears continuing to flow. “I love how cool it feels, too.” 


Summoning every bit of her strength, she lay the beloved blanket on the empty bed in front of her. 


Being a mom is a job that is never truly finished, at least she had hoped so. With nothing else left to do for her son, she sat back in the chair and silently sobbed. 

March 03, 2022 19:56

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189 comments

17:55 Mar 11, 2022

Congratulations! The story was beautifully made and touched my emotions.❤️

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Thom Brodkin
17:57 Mar 11, 2022

Thank you!!! I am glad.

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Marissa Graham
05:34 May 03, 2022

I agree. it made me cry!

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Rhondalise Mitza
12:10 Mar 14, 2022

Hey, look at that, you have no shortlisted stories but read them anyway and then... winning! Proud moments. Very solid writing, the dialogue is lovely and lilting, captured nicely between moments of contemplation. Excellent work, sir, and may your quilts always be cool.

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Thom Brodkin
12:33 Mar 14, 2022

This might be my favorite response. Thanks for taking the time to make my day. I'm a Rhondalise fan.

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Rhondalise Mitza
13:03 Mar 15, 2022

And I'm a Lee fan! You have definite style, looking forward to future stories.

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18:13 Mar 11, 2022

Congratulations on a wonderful story of love and loss.

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Thom Brodkin
18:17 Mar 11, 2022

Thank you. With love comes loss yet love is still worth it.

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Maggie Gibbs
16:55 Mar 11, 2022

Well done, Lee!!!!! 🤩🥳 Congrats on the win!

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Thom Brodkin
17:04 Mar 11, 2022

Thank you so much. I am speechless, which for me doesn't happen often.

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Charlie Murphy
02:23 Mar 07, 2022

Beautiful story! The last sentence is depressing. Great job! I love Buzz Lightyear.

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Thom Brodkin
18:20 Mar 08, 2022

There is no void so dark as the one created by the loss of a child. I want to write it in fiction to make all the parents who read it pick up their kids and give them a hug. Thanks for reading and giving me feedback.

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Charlie Murphy
19:02 Mar 08, 2022

You're welcome. I read A Taste for Blackberries in fifth grade. All I remember was a kid moping about his dead friend who got stung by a bee. i didn't care for it one way or the other, but my mom hated that book.

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Nyla Herd!
00:09 Mar 23, 2022

Oh I feel very sorry for you.

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Charlie Murphy
19:36 Apr 26, 2022

It's OK. Can you read my new story, Lumberjack Camp?

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17:07 Mar 11, 2022

Congratulations! A wonderful tribute to your mother -- and all mothers everywhere.

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Thom Brodkin
17:12 Mar 11, 2022

This is a tribute to my mom. She was the quilt mender, the cold cloth wetter, and the story teller. I am her living legacy.

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Ezmari Trevano
22:33 Jun 21, 2022

Congratulations! So well written. So bittersweet. My heart melted at the end.

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Thom Brodkin
22:41 Jun 21, 2022

Thanks so much. You made this man smile. 😀

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Claire Lindsey
00:44 Jun 19, 2022

Almost speechless over here. This is beautiful, Thom! You have such a gift for emotion in your writing, which shines through brilliantly in this story. This one especially has a subtlety to it that I love. The motif of stitching the blanket together over and over again seems to capture that feeling of needing to fix something, even a little thing, when everything is falling apart. Brilliant writing, and a well-earned win. I'm looking forward to catching up on some of your other pieces!

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Thom Brodkin
00:50 Jun 19, 2022

Claire!!!!! I’m so excited to see your name on my feed. I’ve been checking your page periodically to see if you snuck in another story because I miss reading you. I hope you’ve been writing somewhere else because at your core you are a writer, and writers need to write. Thank you so much for your kind feedback. I’m not going to lie, it was nice to win once. I know I should write for the love of it but validation is motivating. I hope you are back to stay but if you’re not please drop by from time to time. Reedsy is better with you here.

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Claire Lindsey
01:19 Jun 19, 2022

I’m glad to be back! Haven’t been writing much unfortunately but I just posted a new story. Dusting off the cobwebs over here haha! And I missed reading you as well! Hoping for many more wins for you :)

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Willow Bird
02:43 Jun 02, 2022

Hi Thom! I'm sure you don't remember me, it has been a long time. My profile was once under the name of Helen Jett. I just logged back into this account after being inactive for quite a long time, but now I come back to see that you've won a contest, and made it to the leaderboard as well. That's amazing and so well-deserved, congratulations! This story really is quite wonderful. I especially love your use of dialogue in this beautifully sad and poignant story. What a wonderful tribute to mothers everywhere. ❤️ Truly I loved this so much, an...

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Thom Brodkin
16:30 Jun 02, 2022

Willow Bird. Of course I remember you. I miss your stories and encouragement. Thanks so much for, once again, being my writing friend and supporter. Please tell me you are coming back. I miss your kindness and friendship.

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Julia Mondale
03:39 May 02, 2022

It’s 11:38pm 5/1/22 & I just made my way into my 11year old boys room just to smell his stinky shoes & hear his breathing in the dark. Tears on my cheeks, I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be his mom. Thank you for the reminder. Life goes by too fast. Beautiful story.

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Thom Brodkin
03:50 May 02, 2022

This comment makes me feel like I wrote the story for you. Thank you for taking the time and for being so kind. It means the world to me.

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03:46 Apr 10, 2022

Wow, beautifully tragic. I was surprised as I read the story how similarly it coincides with a real life situation I have. Is it inspired by true events? Without crying too much, what condition could this son have had to cause a loss like this, but endless nights end with cold compresses, pain killers, or cranial massages, and where doctors, specialists, and hospitals alike have found no clear cause? Thank you. ❤️

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Thom Brodkin
03:50 Apr 10, 2022

Brandon what a wonderful comment. Thank you so much. The story is actually completely true except for the end. My mom is the quilt sewer and I am the little boy. I still get migraines to this day but as you can tell I am still here. Fortunately.

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Neil Brown
17:44 Mar 27, 2022

I really enjoyed reading your story and thought that it is very eloquently written.

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Thom Brodkin
17:59 Mar 27, 2022

Thanks so much, Neil.

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05:52 Mar 24, 2022

Just listened to your interview on the podcast. I'm going to work my way through all your stories. This one is deserved winner and its nice being able to think about your style and what you were thinking writing this. I look forward to more.

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Thom Brodkin
13:32 Mar 24, 2022

I’m glad you enjoyed it. I look forward to reading more of yours as well.

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Karen Kinley
17:21 Mar 19, 2022

SUPERB story! Oh, the metaphors! Oh, the symbolism! And this line: "To call it a quilt stretched the definition as it was nothing more than a thousand pieces of oddly shaped swatches stitched together, layer after layer, until the whole of it was thick enough to hold in the warmth of a small boy's body as he drifted off to sleep." Exquisite line. Heartbreakingly beautiful story. A well-deserved win! (It's about time, too!) Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us. It has touched many of us, especially those of us with children. ❤

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Thom Brodkin
17:33 Mar 19, 2022

You are one of the people who inspires me to write and to try to write better. No one wins without help and I wouldn’t have won without you. Thanks for being my writing friend.

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Karen Kinley
21:24 Mar 19, 2022

Right back atcha!

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Alize Henry
17:37 Mar 18, 2022

Weeping here... this emotional story... so touching, Congrats!

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Thom Brodkin
18:24 Mar 18, 2022

Thanks so much, you are so kind. I really appreciate the read and feedback.

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Shea West
22:30 Mar 17, 2022

Lee, I've been meaning to get to your winning story for days now-- But in true "being a mom is truly never finished" fashion I was interrupted quite often by my own children. You know what I loved about this story? A few things: -This was your 35th story here on Reedsy! That's such an accomplishment, and I'm so glad to see that you got some much warranted recognition. -That we kinda knew where this story might go, but you weren't afraid to take us there anyway. -It reminded me a bit of the sisterhood of the traveling pants. Like, this bl...

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Thom Brodkin
16:50 Mar 18, 2022

I crave the feedback of the entire Reedsy community but there are a select few that I look for with even greater anticipation. You are one of those. I am such a fan of your writing and your style. You are someone whose praise carries extra weight so I am so honored you read and enjoyed my story. Thank you for taking the time to put a smile on this man's face. You are a super hero.

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Shea West
17:56 Mar 18, 2022

Oh you're too kind! It was a well deserved win Lee.

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19:30 Mar 16, 2022

Absolutely fabulous! Every word you wrote really meant a lot in the story. Maybe you could continue on this story and turn it into a book? 🙂

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Thom Brodkin
20:16 Mar 16, 2022

You are so kind. Thank you. I may just do that one day.

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Mariah Brownell
04:07 Mar 14, 2022

Off-topic but on topic. My ex and I used to say to each other "I love you to infinity and beyond." He started saying that after I sent him a picture of me standing next to a buzz light year statue in Disney world. Random I know. I can't help but miss those little things. If you know you know. Also, great job on this story it almost brought me to tears. Keep up the good work!

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Thom Brodkin
19:15 Mar 14, 2022

This is so incredibly sweet. Thanks for sharing a part of you in your comment and thank you for reading and commenting.

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Zilla Babbitt
18:44 Mar 13, 2022

Finally read it! And I swear I'm not lying, but while reading I snickered aloud at the tall tales and also choked up at the end. I'm so thrilled you got the recognition you deserve and thank you for touching my heart the way you did ❤ Many, many congratulations. Deserved win!

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Thom Brodkin
20:01 Mar 13, 2022

From the very first moment I joined Reedsy you were my most admired person. You were prolific and immensely talented. I wanted your respect. To me if you thought I was a good writer, I was. Thanks for all your encouragement and even more so your friendship. This means more to me because of you. Thank you for everything.

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Zilla Babbitt
16:51 Mar 19, 2022

I'm so glad I was able to encourage you. Now you are recognized by the Reedsy gods and are assured of your own merit :). I hope you knew it all along, because I did. XOXO.

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Thom Brodkin
17:08 Mar 19, 2022

You’re a Reedsy god. God-Zilla. 😀 Thanks for being my friend.

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Thom Brodkin
16:09 Mar 21, 2022

BTW, reach out to Russell and offer to go on the Read Lots/Write Lots podcast. I'd pay to listen to that.

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