This is my favorite of the stories I have written. My nickname "Jo" comes from my middle name, "Joemma," which in turn comes from the names of some late friends of my family, John and Emma. That is where I got the name for the story.
It was originally written for a school assignment (thanks, Mrs. Stephens!), one of several that I enjoyed my 10th grade year. I submitted it to my school's award-winning literary magazine, Montage, and it was published the next year. Of this, I am very proud!
So, sit back, relax, and enjoy! (and let me know what you think!)
Feet, like weights in scuffed and worn boots, plod up the hill. The patched jeans, faded from sun, rain, and wear, whisper as they brush together. The big hands, with the knotted, cracked joints and the square, hornthick nails, hang loose off the wrist bone like clumsy hamemade tools hung on the wall of a shed after work. His arms swing slightly, pendulums going back and forth, back and forth, the brush of cotton against cotton joining the sound of the denim. His shoulders are stooped, as if carrying a great wieght. His head is bent foward against the wind, which tries to push him back down the hill. His face is like tough, wrinkled old leather, weathered by the elements and lined by worry. But some of the wrinkles are laugh lines from days gone by, when happy laughter filled the house from which he is now fleeing. His eyes are sunk into his face, dull and sorrowfull. His cracked lips are parted slightly, and his breath comes quickly from the assent. Finally he reaches the top, out of breath and tired. He opens the workshop door, and its familiar creak sounds, its hinges complaining of too many long winters without oil. The workshop has a musty smell, and the benches are covered with dust. The tools hung lovingly on the wall seem to remind him reproachfully that he has neglected them.
He picks up a small piece of sanded cedar, holding it in the light of the setting sun which streams in like liquid gold, spilling across the whethered hands and the small, carved piece of wood. His hands caress the smooth surface, searching out each small bump and hollow. He left it here almost fifty years ago -- or was it yesterday when he laid it down to hurry out and look for his daughter? There was the ribbon to wrap around it before placing it under the tree for tiny, eager hands to find in the morning.
Drifting into sleep, he loses his balance, tipping backwards into memory. The small room dims, and he sees a small sillouette in the door.
"Emma...Emma? There you are. Where have you been? I've been looking for you to come in from the fields with the sheep. Your mother seemed to think that you wouldn't come back, but I knew you would. Why do you look so pale? See the little lamb I've made for you? Where did it go? Where - where - here it is. See? Smile for me -- I like to see you smile. Let me hold you again. I've missed your smiles and laughter. Where are we going? Won't you tell me? It doesn't matter. Just don't leave again. Oh Emma...Emma...Em...."
She finds her husband just after dark, lying on the floor with a little wooden lamb in his hand, a ribbon half tied around it. His thin grey hair is spread out like a halo around his head, and a smile is on his face. He has left her for a better, happier place.