This is a short story I wrote over 30 years ago for my high school literary magazine. It won the prize for the best entry. I am thinking of revising it for submission to a literary magazine, so I would love some constructive suggestions from my writer/editor friends.
The Story That Was Finally Told
By Tammy Reynolds (aka Tammy L. Hensel)
The children crowded around the old man like birds waiting to be fed.
"Tell us a story, Papa, please!"
Papa, can tell you a story later, it's time for your nap," said their mother as she herded the children out of the room.
Nathan McHannon lay back in the comfortable armchair which was as ancient as the old man himself. Born in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, he had inherited from his Scotch-Irish ancestors his bullheadedness, his authoritative manner, his compassion, and his love and loyalty to his country and family. All these qualities, plus a deep faith in God had sustained him through the storms of a changing world. His five brothers had died, making him the head of a family of three generations of nieces and nephews. Each had listened and loved his tales of his boyhood antics and struggles of a lifetime.
The old man's wrinkled, weary face was comfortably resting on the pillows; but his mind was not succumbing to the power of sleep. Instead, it had transferred to a different place and time. From the comfortable chair in his grand-niece's Texas farm to a bright mountainside - to a snowy day when he was a young man -- to Clarissa. . . .
The snow was up to Nat's knees as he made his way to Clara's house. He was filled with the foolish, unexplainable joy of a young man in love. She stood waiting for him, a pink glow on her cheeks, chestnut hair circling her face and crowning her shoulders, and her warm beautiful eyes sparkling at him from beneath coy eyelashes. That was the day he had proposed. They had a wondrous time in the snow, full of secret moments and childish games. Snowball fights, snowmen, angels in the snow, skating on the pond --
The ancient mind returned to the farmhouse. The children were there, lively from their nap and clamoring for a story. Nathan looked at them, he knew this would be the last story he ever told. Opening the wrinkled old lips, he spoke in a trembling, cracked voice. When I was a young man, I knew a very beautiful girl. She was full of kindness and love for everyone. In springtime, we collected flowers and took baskets to all the sick and poor."
The old man's voice broke off here. The children were silent. They sensed something was wrong and all they could do was keep quiet.
"One day we were walking in the mountain snow. It was my idea to go skating. I thought the ice was thick enough."
The old man's eyes closed and his voice rose with great intensity.
"Don't go too far until I check the ice. Clara, come back. The ice may be too thin. Clara! Clarissa!
Ninety-eight year-old Nathan McHannon opened his eyes for the last time. He looked at his family. Then he closed his eyes again. A bright light surrounded him and he could see a figure motioning to him. He walked slowly toward it. The figure became clearer now, a flowing white gown, chestnut hair, sparkling eyes, white arms outstretched. With a leap of joy, the man went to meet his bride.
Copyright 1976 Tammy L. Reynolds All Rights Reserved