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The Shriveled Dandelion
by Jeanne E Webster
7/24/2010 / Short Stories
copyright 07/14/10 Jeanne E. Webster
"Mommy, look at what I got for you!" the energetic little girl exclaims as she holds out a mangled dandelion.
Listlessly folding clothes, her weary mother turns her head towards the animated voice. "Oh, that's nice, Nancy; what a pretty flower! Now go back outside and play with your brother."
"Don't forget to put it in water, Mommy!" Nancy replies as she scampers back out the door. Only five years old, she already baby-sits Johnny, her two-year-old brother.
"Ok, Nan," Mommy half-heartedly promises, her attention drifting back to the household chores awaiting her. The "prized" dandelion silently drops to the floor and shrivels up into a skinny speck. Vaguely she hears laughter coming from the back yard, and a hint of a smile appears on her face. "At least the kids are happy and well," she ponders. With a hundred things to do, she pours another cup of coffee and continues her routine.
Cries from Johnny thirty minutes later break into Mrs. Armstrong's labors and thoughts. Pushing her head out of the upstairs bedroom window, she calls out, "Nan, what's wrong with Johnny?"
No answer. His cries become more desperatesomething is wrong, terribly wrong.
Throwing the freshly washed linens onto the bed, she hurries to the stairs, hollering again, "Nancy! What's the matter with Johnny?!"
Again, no answer. Reaching a panic state, Mrs. Armstrong takes the stairs two at a time, quickly reaching the doorway to the backyard, her eyes searching frantically for her children.
Johnny's voice is at its highest pitch as she bends down and removes him from his swing seat. Comforting him with hugs, she quickly pivots around in a frenzied pursuit for her daughter, but Nancy is nowhere in sight. The gate to the fenced yard is closed; there is no sign of her on the premises.
Looking back, she scans the back yard for Nancy as she rushes into the house. Within a few seconds she is dialing 911 to report her missing daughter. As she awaits the arrival of the police, her last conversation with Nancy plays over and over in her head. Her heart breaks as she realizes she hadn't really listened to her daughter; the treasured dandelion lies shriveled up on the kitchen floor. She had never put it into water.
Bracing herself for the ordeal that's facing her, she makes a vow to tell Nancy when the police find her that she is sorry for breaking her promise. "Next time I'll listen, Nan. Promise."
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Copyright Jeanne E. Webster
A published freelance writer, editor/publisher of monthly newsletter for years. [email protected]
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