Writing prompt contest: short story


            Second chance mushroom


Danny Lee Bonvera dug into the soil, weeded out the stubborn roots. The sun beat down on her head relentlessly, but she wouldn’t – couldn’t go back into the silent house to pick up her gardening hat. She’d been out here for the better part of the day, weeding, snipping, fluffing the soil for the roses and azaleas and wild lilies she’d been planting for over two decades. She’d already tended to her butterfly garden, checked her inbox, and sent Brad, her friend and ex-husband an e-mail. He’d replied right away, which told her he’d either had been waiting for it or had been about to send her one.

They had been doing this back and forth every year on the fourth of July for exactly two decades, to remind each other what they had lost . . . and that they couldn’t forget.

Julie, her baby…

Danny Lee yanked off a stubborn weed, spotted another one, this one strange looking. Like a mushroom, but yet … she yanked it too, her beautiful baby in mind, her need to hold her, even after 20 years just as strong. It had never faded, her love, her grief. There were moments she’d get distracted, think about something else, and even smile.

The sun flashed once, white hot in front of her eyes, and Danny lee leaned back on her haunches, frowning. The sun, that relentless ball of fire, beat down like a hot wave in an inferno, incessant. Danny lee stood abruptly, convinced now to go back inside for her hat, because she didn’t want a heat stroke any more than she wanted company in a hospital room, today of all days.

There was a dizzying sensation, another flash of white hot light . . . and suddenly there were shouts, laughter and a commotion that made her stomach plummet to the pit of her stomach with fear. Had she blacked out? The garden was gone, the sun no longer beating down at her like a hot hammer. She turned slowly, her heart galloping. She was inside a simple living room; scarred wood flooring, brown leather sofas she recognized were sticky in the summer, cold in the winter. A gauzy white drape hung over the medium sized window. Toys littered the floor, a doll she hadn’t seen for 20 years but remembered so well lay by the box-sized TV, where a young Larry Matt followed the progress of the July 4th celebrations with enthusiasm.

Danny Lee looked down at her hands, her young, manicured hands and whirled around when there was a creak by the front door. The doggy flap closed, and with her heart lodged in her throat, Danny Lee ran for the door, yanked it open in time to see her little daughter crawling toward the street. The busy, main street where she knew a drunk teenager would be coming …

With a cry Danny Lee ran, picked her daughter up as she continued going to the other side of the busy city street.

Her daughter, Julie, cried in fear when horns started blasting and people started shouting, but Danny lee just held her daughter tight, eyes closed, hoping to god she wouldn’t wake up in a hospital, struck by heat. This wasn’t a dream, this wasn’t a dream.

The smell of exhaust was too real, the shouts of children too loud, the fireworks too realistic.

She crossed back to her home, walked into her living room in a daze.

When Brad arrived an hour later with the groceries, Danny Lee’s eyes were puffy from crying, and Julie was still in her arms, now asleep.

Danny Lee claimed a headache, begged out of the celebrations, and mother, father and daughter stayed home, ate pasta and watched the celebration on the old TV.

When Danny Lee’s eyes finally closed that night, her daughter tucked safely between her and her husband, she dreamt of a strange mushroom shaped weed and knew to yank it again would return her to the future. She moved to it, stared down at it. Then she picked up the watering can she knew would be there and watered the weed.

Tomorrow she’d tell brad she wanted a new home in the suburbs, away from the city traffic, to watch her daughter grow and play with the neighboring kids. She already knew the house she wanted, the neighbor she had yet to meet, the kids her daughter would grow up with.

With a sigh of contentment, Danny lee turned in her sleep, grasped her daughter to her breasts and dreamt about the happiness and fulfillment of the next two decades.


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