S H O R T S T O R Y
THE STORM JAR
b y j o d i b i n g a m a n ~ c a v e c r e e k , a r i z o n a
THE BLUE bird, decorated with confetti of yellow pollen, weaved amongst the pear blossoms on a spring morning in Limestone, an East Tennessee town. The horses, Tennessee Walkers, Arabians and Appaloosas, took shelter long before the thunder warned humans of a pending storm. They were resting in the barn when the storm's gritty pulsing and chopping changed the texture of the day. A raw howl rolled off of its curling and uncurling tongue and a shrill wind whistle blew like the bloody call of the peacock that emanates from within the hollow. A callous gust stole my breath, holding it like a collector.
I accepted the hand of the storm and began dancing beneath the lace of the black walnut tree. I sang into the storm's greedy ear to coax its passing, hoping it would carry with it the clawing burden of my longing for something unknown.
I retrieved a rusty lidded jar, once used for pickling cucumbers and green tomatoes, from the potting shed. Each year on Mother's Day, Aunt Celia planted a vegetable garden and used the jars to protect the seeds from insistent morning and evening frosts. I had come to live with Aunt Celia upon my mother's death years earlier and the planting mark was the only note on an otherwise unobserved holiday.
Celia, a devoted sister of nature with a habit of long silver hair, had spent her life amidst the limestone embedded hills. Her planting and tending melodies were gentle lessons.
Once finished dancing, I sat within the storm until the jar was filled. I sealed it and hid it in the potting shed, intending to save it for a day when the summer grass threatened to burst into flame. A nomadic tumbleweed continued onward.
I woke on a morning two summers later with a breath so sharp with dryness that each inhalation and exhalation cut my throat. This was to be the day to retrieve the storm jar.
A ravaged willow stood in exquisite solitude beside the dry riverbed hoping an indiscriminate interloper might accept its shade without bothering to look upward.
A sweet bergamot bush, dried brown, offered her seeds. I contemplated the delight the willow might take in watching red petals open beneath its long green arms. While intenerating the soil with my toes and fingers, I prayed the seeds held life. I planted them inside the belly of their mother, imagining their hidden waking and waiting mouths open beneath the soil. Cloud, wind and rain trickled from the jar, soaking the earth.
I sat beside the willow and the bed of promise until even the fireflies had extinguished their flames in the dark night and then returned to Aunt Celia's. I crawled onto her bed, rested for a few moments with my head upon her shoulder and pressed by tear-moistened lips against her rice paper cheek, breathing in the scent of the days I had spent with her. When I knew they had become hidden treasure, I slipped into the night.
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