The Locket

author: Brad Spear

posted 29 December 2009 in Fiction

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It was a tiny thing. A gold-plated romantic heart no more than half an inch wide, with a faceted red garnet mounted in the center. It hung from a necklace chain, also gold-plated. Most of the plating was worn off after years of hanging around her neck, eroded by her habit of reaching up to hold it. She had done that more often over the last seven years since her husband’s death.

The locket was certainly not an expensive piece of jewelry, they had never been wealthy. But her fiance had given it to her as a bridal present the day before their wedding, and she had worn it every day since. It meant more to her than the big house or the diamond ring he was never able to give her.

James seemed to be the only one to remember her attachment to it, so when she died, the locket had become his.

After the funeral, James decided to head over to the homestead where she had lived. As he sat on an old stump in the yard and tightly grasped the locket, he remembered those days, thirty-five years ago, when he had visited “Grampa” and “Gramma.” It was a special trip; his parents and siblings had not been with him, and he felt incredibly grown up to be taking such a long cross-country flight, all by himself. In his reverie, he closed his eyes and could actually feel and see and taste and smell those memories.

He could remember the warm, late summer afternoon, when Gramma had driven them both a few miles from her home. An earthy aroma rose from the hay field next to the road, helped by the rain that had fallen in the morning. Now that the sun had come out and started warming the land, he could feel the water in the air, and see the vapor rising off the field as it evaporated. And for hundreds of feet along the road next to the field, grew an abundance of chokecherry bushes. No one else ever picked them, and Gramma treated them as her own private berry patch.

James and Gramma spent an hour picking the bounty. Growing among these were a few blackberries, but not enough to use for anything else, so they were eaten as soon as they were picked. James was raised in the city and the newly picked blackberries tasted especially sweet. The chokecherries however, were too sour to eat raw, so they all made it to the buckets.

When they got back home, Gramma would start making her chokecherry jam, jars and jars to be (mostly) stored in the pantry. It would be a welcome taste of summer when the snow and cold arrived.

James helped her with this too. His job was to sterilize the jars and lids by boiling them in water. Gramma filled the jars with the cooked jam, sealed them, and put them into the final hot water bath. When the jars were done and had cooled, both James and Gramma carried them to the pantry for storage. Of course, they kept one jar out so they could taste the day’s labors right away.

Cooking the jam led James to the memory of a very early morning (well before sunrise) sitting at the inexpensive chrome table on one end of their kitchen. It had four legs, each made from two chrome tubes and holding up a chrome band, wide and flat, that framed the patterned red Formica tabletop. Each of the four chairs matched with a chrome frame, and sported a red plastic cushion for the seat and another for the backrest. The cushions echoed the same pattern as the table top.

Grampa read a newspaper in the family room, wearing the same dark gray-green workman’s clothes that James always remembered him wearing, and his cane leaned against the reclining chair in which he sat. A thick, polished wooden dowel with a curved handle on one end and a rubber tip on the other, it was as much a part of Grampa as the clothes he wore.

Gramma wore her standard uniform, a simple dress covered by an apron, as she puttered in the kitchen. Some bacon was sizzling in the pan, rolls were in the oven, and the eggs would be scrambled in a minute or two. She always put a lot of onion and bell pepper in the eggs, and scrambled them with a little of the grease from the bacon. Topped with a few dashes of hot sauce at the table, it was pure bliss. And of course, they had some chokecherry jam on the hot rolls.

After breakfast, Grampa had loaded some equipment (and James) into an ancient and decrepit Studebaker pickup, and off they went into the back country. There were a couple of dirty lines in all that green, and they seemed to be spaced about right for the truck’s tires, but there’s no way they could be called a road.

The trip through the woods was both exciting and dangerous, and twice James almost hit his head on the roof of the pickup’s cab as they barreled along, far too fast for the bumpy, rut-filled, mountain path. The bushes they passed scoured the dirt from the truck’s sides, and scratched off yet more paint as well.

They finally came out near the lake where they spent most of the morning fishing. He couldn’t remember how many fish they caught, but he did remember fried trout for dinner.

Finally however, the memories began to fade out and leave him as the evening grew close and a chill descended into the air. It was late autumn and winter was coming on. Time to head back home and make some memories for his own grand-children. Maybe he would even give his new grand-daughter the locket when she was old enough to understand, and tell her stories of Gramma and Grampa.


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