Story Starters


“Story Starters” is my creative exercise: 500 words max, 1-2 drafts, inspired by a found image 

The night we found Mama floating in our pool, Papa begged her to come out. Warned her that with thunder in the distance the lightening was sure to follow. Reminded her that baby Emogene would be wanting to nurse, and asked her if this was any kind of display for me and Izzy. We were huddled there beside him under the protection of his umbrella.

But mama just spread her arms, like she hadn’t even heard, and let the rain fall down all around her.

“She looks like a water angel,” Izzy whispered to me.

Which, of course that’s what Izzy thought. He was four and still believed in fairies and magic. Me? I was eight now and starting to understand that Mama’s “antics,” as Grammy called them, weren’t the kinds of things mothers were supposed do. Lydia’s mom didn’t suggest they eat dinner under the kitchen table, Grammy reminded me. And she certainly didn’t dye her hair blue. And did Tammy’s mother insist on catching water snakes or running through fields barefoot? No, Grammy answered for me, she most certainly did not.

“Geraldine Mathers,” Papa mad-whispered at Mama, like the stern father he was. His knuckles were turning white as he clutched the umbrella handle even tighter. “You get out of that pool. Right. Now.”

“Oh, come on in, darlings,” Mama cooed at us. “The water feels divine.”

And the next thing I knew, there went Izzy, just plopping right in.

“Isaac,” Papa hissed at him.

“You gotta come in here, Josie!” Izzy called to me. “The water’s so warm, and the rain’s so cold, and it feels all mixed up and amazing!”

Mama smiled over at Izzy, still floating on her back, her nightgown billowing out around her hips, and then her eyes moved to mine. “Josie, baby. Come join us, sweetheart.”

And I had to admit it did look like fun.

“Josephine,” my father warned me. “You are old enough to know better.”

And he was right. I was old enough.

But I was also old enough to realize that I had a choice. In one ear I heard Grammy whispering, and in the mother I heard Mama.

You have your good jeans on, Grammy insisted. And you just washed your hair. And you are wearing your new slippers. And what time is it anyway?

But Josie, Mama reasoned. The water. It feels divine.

And here was the truth: I liked Mama’s antics. In fact, I loved Mama best when her hair was blue.

And so I ignored Grammy’s whispers, and stepped out from under the protection of Papa’s umbrella, and I dove straight into that pool.

Top image source: The Black Hat Society