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Carol D. O'Dell

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Member Since: Jul, 2006

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Ashes, Ashes
By Carol D. O'Dell
Thursday, July 13, 2006

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You might not want to get carried away spreading your loved ones ashes--things might go awry...enjoy this magical tale. Originally published in Words of Wisdom Review


Grace never imagined her life without Jerry. So she picked up his brass urn, opened the lid and took a pinch of her husband’s ashes and sprinkled them into the cranberry glass candy dish Jerry had given her the day he proposed. The ring was buried in soft-pink rose petals. She stood back, turning her wedding ring around her finger, remembering their beginning and smiled, then waltzed around the room, placing his ashes in every bottle, vase and plant container throughout their home. She skipped through the yard, humming and sprinkling a bit of Jerry here and there--under the roses, in the double impatiens bed, in the birdbath and over the jasmine that climbed her porch rail, not knowing what trouble she was stirring.
The house had grown too quiet since his departure earlier that spring. Grace thought she’d have been galloping all around town after his passing, but it wasn’t as fun as she had imagined. It was Jerry that had always preferred to be home. He dreaded packing the station wagon with folding chairs, towels, groceries and suitcases for the annual family vacations to Panama City when the kids were little. Grace insisted it was good to get away and see a bit of the world. He said he had all the world he needed and gave her a pinch on the tush. She answered with the roll of her eyes. He hadn’t ventured further than to Daley’s Hardware and Nursery in the twenty-odd years since his retirement. She found it a bit annoying at first—having him around all the time--but then she grew to enjoy the company. He had always been the talker of the two.
Perhaps that had been why she hadn’t minded when he called her name from the cobalt blue vase on the kitchen windowsill.
But that was before he interrupted her dreams with his incessant chatter and late night whisperings.
Grace knew not to tell their son, James, a telephone linesman, now thirty-five and balding. Or Trixie, their daughter, now forty and divorced, wanting a baby so bad Grace feared she’d settle. They’d worry, she told herself, “I’d worry,” she chuckled out loud to Jerry in his decorative urn with its inlaid bird wings carved on the sides that sat on the mantle like some idiotic bowling trophy.
Grace found herself elbow deep in dish suds debating with Jerry as to whether or not to sell their GE stocks. He bantered from the lavender flower vase that she should never sell, that one day they’d be worth millions. She tried to explain to him that the stock market wasn’t as dependable as it once was, but he wouldn’t listen. She picked up a jelly jar glass and contemplated why she couldn’t seem to let things go, then plunged it into the soapy bubbles for a good scrubbing, placed it back on the counter and looked around. Whatnots lined every surface, tabletop and shelf, and she wondered how she had accumulated so much. Suddenly her lungs felt heavy and her exhale came out in ragged starts and stops. Jerry was still rambling on and on, his voice reverberating around the room.
“You’re crazy,” she said, feeling a nervous laughter build, then spatter and spill as if it were a mess she’d have to clean up later.
So she gathered every vase, every bottle, and every potted plant and loaded up Jerry’s little Nissan truck and decided to bury them at the edge of their property. She started up the truck; her hand grabbed the gearshift and slid into reverse, then put it back in park.
Who am I kidding? He’ll still be in the roses and the double impatiens and twittering with those damn robins at the birdbath. She took all the containers back in the house and said to hell with it. She knew he’d eventually get tracked back in the house, stuck to the underside of a shoe, or plastered to a muddy knee.

She got to where she wasn’t sleeping well.
“Gr--ace…” Jerry called in a singsong voice from the jewelry box.
She rolled over.
“Psss!” He whispered from the vase given to them by his dearly departed mother that sat on top of their dresser.
She stuffed the pillow over her head.
“Hey!” He told her she had better check the back latch again.
After she lapsed into a good deep sleep, he woke her again, nagging her to go and give that dripping faucet one more twist. She told him he was the drippy faucet and to go to sleep. He told her he didn’t have to.
A late frost hit and Jerry insisted that she get up and wrap the pipes or they’d burst. She threw the covers off, grabbed his winter coat, pulled up his old wading boots and stomped down to the basement.
“You happy now?” She yelled to Jerry in the clay pot that held the living room’s Ficus tree with its braided trunk and its glossy green leaves. He didn’t answer. She figured he was busy pouting in the green Merlot bottle they had shared their last anniversary. He’d always been a pouter.
Jerry began to multiply, calling to Grace in a chorus, each vocalization growing louder, more pushy, more needling, creating a symphony in G minor. She’d awake each morning to a clatter, as if the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir with their cascade of voices were warming up.
By the fall, it had gotten so bad that she often had to step outside in order to get a break from his unrelenting jabber. Bright red October maple leaves swirled across the front porch, thick and crunchy beneath her feet. The flower garden looked tired and overgrown, vines now bare strangled the railing. Jerry was mumbling from underneath the rosebushes. She picked up the snippers, walked over and cut them back to the root.
“Shut up, Jerry… just shut-up!” She stood up, wiped her brow and huffed, “It’s over, Jerry. Over.” She turned and went inside to make a phone call.
Within twenty-four hours, a For Sale sign sat near her mailbox. To her surprise, she got an offer the first week. Their bungalow, it turned out—was in hot demand and near enough to the city to make an easy commute for some nice young couple just starting out—some young couple who still enjoyed the sound of each other’s voices. The polite real estate man brought the contract to the house. They sat in silence at the dining room table as Grace signed the papers, bearing her name down hard in the black ink, amidst concerns emanating from the crystal goblets given as a wedding gift from some long dead relative, Jerry’s voices stifled by the glass hutch doors. The real estate man stood up, shook her hand and asked if she’d like him to get her any boxes.
“Goodness no….” She put a finger to her lips as if shushing him from waking a fussy toddler. She didn’t want Jerry to know.
On the day of closing, Grace got up, pulled her clothes out of the dryer, put them on right there in front of the open dryer door, then ran the lint roller over her pants, her shirt, her shoes and even her hair. She cleaned out under her nails and removed all her jewelry, placing her ring back in its dish. Then, she went to sink and washed her driver’s license and Visa card with soap and water, all while ignoring the questions that threatened to burst her eardrums. She stuck the cards in her pocket and walked to the front door and left, placing the keys under the mat. She could barely stand under the roars and sobs that surrounded her from the house and yard.
Grace plucked the last of the Carolina jasmine from the porch rail. She twirled it between her thumb and forefinger and walked to the end of the driveway. A yellow City-Country Cab pulled up and an overweight cab driver in his strained-buttoned white shirt got out and opened the door for her.
“I need to go to 400 Commerce Parkway—for the closing on my house, and would you wait for me there—then take me to the airport?”
“Yes ma’am.” He answered, holding the door, waiting for her to get in.
She hesitated, and stared down at the delicate flower.
“Oh, no, you don’t!” She whispered.
“You talking to me ma’am?” The cabbie asked, walking back toward the trunk, looking around for any luggage. She had nothing in her hands except for the small, golden trumpet. They both watched as it slipped from her fingers and drifted to the ground.
“No, I’m not talking to anyone.” She smiled and slipped her shoes off, then got into the cab.
Published in Words of Wisdom, June 2003

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Reviewed by Sheri Hart 7/19/2009
I love it when someone comes up with a story idea that's 'different'.. and this one is definitely different (and well written). Thanks for sharing it. It's the type of thing I'd expect to see on the old Alfred Hitchcock series.
Reviewed by Michael Ferris 5/15/2009
Great story!
Reviewed by Glen Manese 3/22/2009
Carol - the story had me from the start and clearly to the end... A well worded piece of work and thanks for sharing...
Reviewed by 000 000 11/19/2008
HA HA HA HA!! What imagination and truly an entertaining writing.
Reviewed by Lois Christensen 7/20/2008
Great memories here. A wonderful story. Can relate to it.
Reviewed by L Hippler 8/24/2007
Wow. This is a really well done story! You took an unlikely subject and made it not only believable but a very fun read.

Larry H
Reviewed by Errr oooo 6/19/2007
Reviewed by Cheryl Kaye Tardif 11/17/2006
I found this story to be quite hilarious...and very well written. Yes, there is a creepy undertone, but then again, I've talked to dead people too....hehehe

All the best with your new book! Can't wait to read Mothering Mother!!

Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 7/14/2006
Creepy, but good! Well done! :)
Reviewed by April Smith 7/14/2006
I agree with Bess...a little creepy...but also kinda nice at the same time! Thanks for sharing, April
Reviewed by Elaine Carey 7/14/2006
This is charming if a little eerie! I love it.

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