03 June 2010

"Ruth" #Fridayflash


Photo credit: taliesin from morguefile.com


I remember my very first best friend. Her name was Ruth Smudrick. She was a lady ensconced behind her son's house in a pale burgundy trailer home. I discovered her one day at the same time I discovered her roses. We hit it off and after my parents approved of my visits, I would go see her almost every day. These were quiet times, when kids were pushed outdoors in the morning and didn't come home til it was very nearly dark. In time, I felt a love for this woman like my own grandmother, and learned how many different kinds of roses there really were in the world.

I remember the inside of her house like it was yesterday: dark, cool‑the gentle hum of the window unit as it ran non-stop. She played old-time radio and made fig preserves from our tree that grew on the property line between our yard and theirs.

Her son was flashy and drove a big black Lincoln. Shiny, with leather interior. I got to sit in it once. It was brand new, just like everything else behind their grand white two-story home. But Ruth's house was a modest place, everything in its place: a small table with two metal chairs predating the atomic age, a recliner that she said belonged to her husband. He was in Heaven, she said.

"There isn't a heaven like that," I said. "People wait, like the elders at church teach us." I was raised Jehovah's Witness, and they didn't believe in going to heaven, except for 144,000 people. Mom says those were the old ones, like Ruth maybe. She didn't know.

I loved to hear her talk. She was like a magnet for me. She wore flowered dresses and black orthopedic shoes. She said the white ones got dirty too easy. She kept sales brochures around, and wore an id bracelet that said she had diabetes. She made sugary treats, because I liked them, and I came nearly every day.

Then one day, dad brought home a big, big truck with the ominous "U-HAUL" emblazoned on the sides. Mom told me to tell Ruth goodbye, and that we would come visit. I hugged Ruth and cried. She always smelled good and her hair was always curled. She went into her bedroom, the room I never saw before. I followed her and saw pictures of her husband. I saw pictures of her flashy son when he was still just a kid. She opened an ancient oak trunk and pulled out a carefully-wrapped package. It was a quilt. She said she'd made it from scraps collected over a few years. It was warm, and she wanted me to have it.

I got in the big truck with dad and we drove away, the monster burdened with our house-full of things. Mom and I visited her at her house once, but it wasn't the same. It wasn't just me and Ruth and mom kept telling me not to touch Ruth's things, when before Ruth let me touch her knickknacks as long as I didn't break them.

I wanted to visit again, but mom got a phone call. Ruth was in the hospital. Mom stopped at the store and I picked out some nice orange flowers. They weren't marigolds, but it was the closest thing I could find.

The lady in the bed didn't look quite as plump as Ruth had been. I gave her the flowers and recognized her by her smile. We hugged again, careful not to pull the tubes from her arms. It was the last time I ever saw her.

I hope she made it to heaven.

40 comments:

litrock said...

Kinder than your usual, and I like it. There's nothing wrong with writing something that offers good feels, and I think it's often harder to portray positive emotions. Great story this week. =D

Tony Noland said...

Why in the world would you be nervous about this? It's beautiful.

Erin Cole said...

This is such a profound story to me. I had a Ruth; her name was Dee Dee - at one time, she was my only friend. I moved away (again), but never had to see her in a way that I didn't know her.
Fuck, Carrie...I hope she made it to heaven too, both her and Dee Dee.

Scath said...

Lovely.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I'm just glad she got to see Ruth one last time. I'm sure she did make it to heaven.

Aislinn O'Connor said...

Very, very beautiful. I had an aunt like Ruth - she died when I was still at school, and I still miss her.

I love the way the difference in faith is sympathetically portrayed - I have no doubt whatsoever that everyone who knows what love and kindness mean will be welcomed into heaven, no matter which church or other religious institution they go to, or even if they never go at all.

Thank you for a really touching story. :-)

elizabethditty.com said...

I liked this, too, Carrie. Bittersweet and tender. Sometimes it's nice to change things up, expand your repertoire a bit. You've done so with flying colors. :-)

Marisa Birns said...

This was tender, Carrie. And that's a very good thing for this story! :)

Crybbe666 said...

A tender touch to this. Agree with the others - nothing to be nervous about when the writing is this good.

Linda said...

Poignant story, Carrie. I like this soft side of your writing; you hit nerves with this one. peace...

afullnessinbrevity said...

There is a beautiful poignancy in this story that extols the strength and fragility in people's relationships.
Adam B

Chris Chartrand said...

Is there any genre you can't write? I really like this piece. It has such a beautiful flow and feeling.

Xina Uhl said...

Beautiful story. <3

Gracie said...

Just perfectly beautiful, Carrie. Nothing for you to be nervous about.

Sweet and tender. I love this story.

Cathy Olliffe said...

Oh, way to go, Carrie, ya made me bawl.
In a good way, of course.
LOVED IT.

Al Bruno III said...

That was wonderful and heartfelt. I really enjoyed it.

Now if you'll excuse me I think I have something in my eye...

tialbrink said...

Very sweet. Kinda made me remember my Grandmother. Well done.

antisocialbutterflie said...

This was incredibly touching. The emotion was so earnest. I can't say it often enough, your work is beautiful.

pegjet said...

It was tender and full of soul. I admire you for trying every genre--and you are rocking the spectrum.

antisocialbutterflie said...

This piece had an earnestness that was incredibly touching. I can't say it often enough, you are amazing.

PJ said...

Very sweet story, Carrie. I had two Ruth's when I was a child. Very touching and a nice change of pace for you :-)

John Wiswell said...

As a Wiswell, I endorse "Smudrick" as an excellent last name.

No cardiac removal. You were right - it's just heart-warming and sweet. Being careful not to pull the tubes from her arms when they hugged, and mentioning the tubes there but nowhere before it, is one of your most devastating uses of detail yet. Screw being nervous about sharing things like this - write more of them!

http://bit.ly/cwigQZ

Benjamin Solah said...

Far out. Such a simple story and really packs a punch. Well done.

Bukowski's Basement said...

I truly love this side of you, Carrie. Tender and touching at the same time. Kudos...

Eric J. Krause said...

Very nice, very sweet story. I enjoyed it a TON.

Sam said...

Beautiful story, Carrie. It rather put me in mind of my Mother-in-Law, whom we lost last September and who I still greatly miss. This is a wonderfully sensitive piece, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

This reminded me of my grandmother even though she was nothing like Ruth. It's the situation, I think - the escape into a home other than your parents', but different to visiting the homes of your schoolfriends, somehow.

Nowt wrong with a touching, tender piece every once in a while, madam ;-)

http://mazzz-in-leeds.com/2010/06/dead-hot/

Laura Eno said...

You've reminded me of my own childhood, my own 'Ruth'. This was beautiful, Carrie!

ABSOLUTELY*KATE said...

... "recognized her by her smile" < Oh Carrie, I wrapped up in this one like a precious quilt made from scraps.

WHAT DO I KEEP TELLING YOU ABOUT YOUR DEPTH OF PERCEPTION SIDE -- You *feel* Carrie ... and you convey any genre you touch with brushstrokes that find their way to the painting they leave on the mind.

A rose for you ... instead of a zinnia or marigold. ~ Absolutely*Kate

Pamila Payne said...

Oh my. You caught me off guard and I got all teary eyed over this one. Beautiful doesn't begin to describe this story. If it's true, I swear we were the same kid done over in different bodies. Really liked this.

Jen Brubacher said...

This is a lovely picture of how much someone can affect a child. A beautiful picture of her life, too. Very well done.

G.P. Ching said...

This is a perfectly written slice-of-life. Nostalgia woven in with the experience of death and a foreshadowing of a future internal religious conflict. Complex and nicely written.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

Nice one, Carrie. I think many of us have a similar story! I could totally identify!

Christian Bell said...

The voice and the details in this are just spot on. A beautiful story. Well done!

Jim said...

Wow... I can't begin to tell you how awesome this story is. The "other side" of Carrie is amazing... to be able to write one week in horror, one week in thriller, one week in heart-string-pulling like this... a true testament to your abilities.

:)

Jim

jdanetyler said...

This is a beautiful and touching piece, with genuine innocence and heartfelt emotion captured.

Fantastic work!

Cecilia Dominic said...

Wow, I really identify with this. I was one of those kids who more easily made friends with adults than with other children, but it was the adults who moved away. I bet she did make it to heaven. :)

Btw, Austin is a great town!

CD

admin said...

I'm a nurse who takes a lot of pride in the end of life care I give. For me this piece nails the missing element of hospitalized health care. Namely, all our dead and dying have a story which enmeshes so utterly and wonderfully with the stories of those who come to be with them in their last hours.

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Wow! This was a wonderful slice of life!

I can relate to this so deeply. I visited the little old ladies in my neighborhood & I lived in a small town where the kids went out all day.

That was beautifully written!!

Laurita said...

Beautiful story, Carrie. It's not sappy or sugery, it just is. That's refreshing.