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#FridayFlash: Watermelon Secrets

November 20, 2009

This week I’m doing #fridayflash. Follow the #fridayflash hashtag on Twitter to read some great flash fiction!

Watermelon. She’d always hated watermelon. But here she was, a smile plastered across her face, diving nose-first into a wedge she was sure had to be at least one-third her body weight. She’d thought this would be easier–even if she was sitting cross-legged on a blanket in the grass like days of old.

“You always loved watermelon, Debra.” Aunt Cissy said as she passed, giving her too wide a smile.

“Not really. I–”

“Hey! Sally, Jim—Welcome! Drinks are out back!” Her aunt’s skirt blew a wake of hot, heavy air.

“I hate this side of the family,” Debra said to Tiffany.

Tiffany laughed. “Wasn’t watermelon one of mom’s favorites?” Debra rolled her eyes. “Hey, we only have–” Tiffany looked at her watch, “five more hours to go.”

Debra groaned. Why did their dad always insist on staying the whole time?

“Girls! Out back!” Uncle Ted motioned them toward the lake.

“God, now we have to talk to people.”

“How beautiful you two have turned out.” Tiffany mimicked in a high-pitched voice.

“Yes, how beooooootiful!” Debra widened her eyes and gasped–then whispered, “Why—they seem almost normal!”

“Well, here we go.” Tiffany said, standing up and folding the blanket. She grabbed Debra’s arm and they followed their uncle. On the porch, beer and soft drinks chilled in two huge coolers flanked by a long table filled with casseroles, cole slaw, jello salad, and fried chicken.

“Why don’t you two get some food?” Uncle Ted asked.

“That’s okay, we’re not hungry.” Debra said.

Ten years ago, today: the family’s summer party moved from Grandmom’s to Aunt Cissy’s house.

One month, two days and eleven years ago, the day dawned beautifully in Little River, SC. Reds, oranges, and purples filled the sky, chased by a cloudless blue. Debra was nine, Tiffany seven. Grandmom declared that brunch would be held outside on the picnic tables in the backyard. Their mom had been on the pier since sunup—or longer. People whispered about their mom’s “problem.”
 

 
The kids ran in the yard, playing tag and hide-and-seek while the women set the table. When it was time to eat, Aunt Betsy went to the pier for their mom. “Not going to force her!” she told grandmom after she’d huffed back to the house. They’d all sat down when granddad slammed his fist on the table. “I will not have a member of the family not participate! Ellen, you go out there and bring her in.” Grandmom looked at him for a second, then got up. She came back within 5 minutes. “She wants you, honey.” Granddad’s face turned red. He got up, threw down his napkin, and stormed out to the pier.

Debra ran behind, barely chewing her last mouthful of scrambled eggs. He got to the pier and yelled, “Emma! You get your goddamned ass up there now! I’m sick of this shit!” Mom turned around and tried to balance as she got to her feet. “You bastard! You’re one to talk!” Granddad came closer and grabbed her arm. Mom drew back her other hand and slapped him. It must have been a shock because granddad dropped his grip. “That’s what you get, you piece of shit!” Mom spat in his face. This was too much. Granddad raised his arm and slapped her so hard they said you could hear the “pop!” up at the tables. Everyone watched, frozen.

Mom looked at granddad, then towards the picnic tables. She screamed, “This is what you—all of you—get!” She dove beautifully into the water. Granddad stood looking down, his hands hanging by his sides. When she didn’t come right up, Aunt Cissy started screaming, running towards the pier, “Dad! Get her!” As if awakened from a trance, granddad dove in.
Their bodies were found, entangled, a week later by a local fisherman. Some said mom had planned to commit suicide and granddad drowned accidentally trying to save her. Others said she’d planned to pull him down with her. No one said why she would want to do that, although some seemed to know.
Now, at twenty and eighteen, Debra and Tiffany walked down to their aunt’s pier. People were exiting the boat, still wearing their orange life jackets. A couple of jet skis were parked on the other side of the pier. Tiffany and Debra stripped down to their bathing suits. “Hey guys—I’ll take you out if you want,” their cousin Steve said, behind the wheel of the boat.
“No thanks!” We’re swimming.” Debra said.
“Okey dokey.” Steve began tying up the boat.
“Hey guys—" Tiffany yelled to everyone on the pier, “You have to see this!” She lined herself up at the center. “Move, move—I need a straight path.” People scrambled to the sides. She began turning back handspring after back handspring until she landed feet first into the water.
“Cool!” a couple of younger cousins said.
But she didn’t come up. The crowd became uneasy.
Debra said, “I’m going in!” She dove and swam to the bottom. “One one hundred, two one hundred, three one hundred…” She’d not been practicing as long as Tiffany and was nervous. When she got to thirty one hundred, she swam towards the pier until she found Tiffany. They grabbed hands, raised them towards the sky, and pushed off the bottom. The water broke, their entwined hands appearing first.
The faces on the pier were frozen. Aunt Cissy leaned over, scowling. “What the—Girls, what were you doing? You know—" She was quiet.
 
 
“Yep, we know,” Tiffany said and began climbing the metal ladder out of the water. Debra followed.

They stood wet before everyone. “See us.” Debra said. “Oh, and–fuck you all.”

They turned, walking hand-in-hand towards the house. Once there,
they raised their arms into the air and took a long, deep bow. “That’s the last damn time we’re performing.” Debra said on the way back to the car, stomping a stray watermelon into the pavement.
 
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28 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    November 20, 2009 2:09 pm

    Amazing
    Wonderful story! Just loved it. Two sisters, growing up burdened by tragedy and family expectations.
    Very powerful section on the anger, violence, and death of their mother and granddad.
    Well done.
    @marisabirns

    • November 20, 2009 5:17 pm

      Re: Amazing
      Thank you! I think all families have some of these issues, although perhaps not so violent. Glad you liked the section with the death of the mom and granddad. πŸ™‚

  2. Anonymous permalink
    November 20, 2009 2:31 pm

    That last line!
    Goosebumps on the last line.
    Compelling story.
    Well done!
    Karen :0)
    http://miscellaneousyammering.blogspot.com/2009/11/just-another-night-in-tight-jeans.html

    • November 20, 2009 5:18 pm

      Re: That last line!
      Thanks!! What’s so funny is that I’d thought about leaving that line out, wondering if it was too contrived. Glad I didn’t. πŸ™‚

  3. Anonymous permalink
    November 20, 2009 3:28 pm

    love that last line
    Family secrets and dysfunction exposed. Compelling story. Title leads you to expect something else entirely. Brava! Peace, Linda

    • November 20, 2009 5:23 pm

      Re: love that last line
      The original (provisional) title was “Watermelon”-before I knew exactly where it would go. I finished and wondered–hmmm…not exactly it. Honestly, I wanted to go ahead and post and chose the title quickly-and decided it really did suit it. Thank you!

  4. Anonymous permalink
    November 20, 2009 5:28 pm

    nice visuals and good dialogue. well done.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    November 20, 2009 8:39 pm

    Excellent!
    I loved this piece. Very well-told; a couple of young women tired of the expectations and forced familial BS. Well played, well portrayed. Great job!

    • November 21, 2009 1:44 am

      Re: Excellent!
      Thank you! Families can be sooooo fun! Maybe this was a little therapy for me… πŸ˜‰

  6. Anonymous permalink
    November 21, 2009 2:19 am

    Wow!
    This is fantastic! I had an Aunt Cissy growing up. So wild to see that name. What a twist with the father and daughter and then the two daughters at the end. I stay away from the family for precisely these reasons. This so reminds me of the yearly family reunions from when I was growing up! Oh, and the watermelon picture looks SO yummy!
    Sarah Joyce Bryant
    http://thenightwriter.wordpress.com

    • November 21, 2009 3:40 pm

      Re: Wow!
      Haha. Reminds me of my family reunions as well, although not quite so violent and intense…(and I’ve stayed away as well, although things are a bit better now…) That’s cool about your Aunt Cissy!

  7. November 21, 2009 2:35 am

    Wow
    You really created a powerful scene with great tension and lots of emotion. Not to mention you ending is fantastic.

    • November 21, 2009 3:41 pm

      Re: Wow
      Thank you so much! I was hoping it would work-at least a little. πŸ™‚

  8. Anonymous permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:47 am

    So, you’re saying she does NOT like watermelon?
    Nice job of portraying the family dynamics.

    • November 21, 2009 3:51 pm

      Re: So, you’re saying she does NOT like watermelon?
      Unconsciously for years she was drawn to watermelon with an unyielding desire she couldn’t explain. After years of therapy she realized…nothing. Then that fateful day at Aunt Cissy’s dawned. Enlightenment ensued.
      Rumor has it that now she eats it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
      Thanks for the comment about the family dynamics. πŸ™‚

  9. Anonymous permalink
    November 21, 2009 12:10 pm

    I found this creepy, though not in the horror story way, of course – it hits a nerve, shall we say πŸ™‚
    I really felt the girls’ anger, and I am very curious about the grandfather. Nicely done!

    • November 21, 2009 3:54 pm

      Thanks! I guess it is creepy to a certain extent. I think I like that. πŸ™‚ As for the grandfather…I’ve left it up to the reader decide why anyone would even begin to think that his daugher might murder him…

  10. November 21, 2009 4:16 pm

    It’s a family affair.
    Strong voice. Top tale.

  11. Anonymous permalink
    November 22, 2009 5:38 am

    Watermelon Secrets
    The not so contained anger really comes through. An emotive piece. We all carry around burdens of family – some much bigger than others. Alex Carrick (http://www.alexcarrick.com).

    • November 23, 2009 1:00 am

      Re: Watermelon Secrets
      I agree about all of us carrying around the burdens of our families. And sometimes the “small” things can be very violent-if hidden. Thanks so much!

  12. Anonymous permalink
    November 23, 2009 12:28 am

    Familys that Play Together
    I loved the currents and undercurrents. This family has been working on togetherness for years and failing. Great work!
    Barb Relyea

  13. November 25, 2009 11:21 pm

    Wow, this was really good. Very intense.
    I hope you keep up with the #fridayflash πŸ™‚

  14. Anonymous permalink
    December 1, 2009 8:14 am

    Love how you framed the story with the watermelon. You drew me in and I had to keep reading. Thank you for this post! I can’t seem to sign in so I’ll try it with anonymous. http://Www.shesmoke.blogspot here. Thanks for introducing me to #fridayflash as well. I’ll have to join in soon.

    • December 1, 2009 3:54 pm

      Thank you! The story came to me with the first line–setting up the watermelon from the beginning! You should join #fridayflash. Such a wonderful group of people.

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