The Iron Writer Challenge #47
2013 Iron Writer Winter Solstice Challenge #11
Grudge Match #3
A buried, silver Julep Cup
There must be two main characters and one must be responsible for the death of the other.
Dani J Caile
“You gonna be long, Wasichu?”
“Just hold onto that rope, injun.”
Diwali stood on the clifftop overlooking his forefathers’ territory, the ‘land of the blue mist’, and held the Wasichu’s weight. His ol’ grandpappy would’ve loved the view.
“If you’re bored why dontcha sing one of them fine injun songs of yours?”
He looked down and watched the Wasichu hammering into the rockface. It was amazing the man could still see in this fading light.
“I don’t like them, never did. I prefer musicals. Anything Julie Andrews. ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, that’s my favourite.”
“Well, don’t start singing that one. Almost done. I’m getting to it.”
“What are you getting to, Wasichu? Why did you bring me all the way out here and make me miss my re-run of ‘Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show’?”
“My name’s Dirk. Shut your mouth and I’ll pay you well.”
“‘Well’. My grandpappy used to say ‘do a good thing, do it well’.”
“Is that an old Cherokee saying?”
“No. He smoked the pipe too much, he always opened his mouth and said something. He lived up to his name of ‘Chattering Little Woodpecker’.”
Diwali lost his footing for a second and a shower of rocks fell.
“Hey! Watch it! I almost lost my book!”
“Sorry, Wasichu. What book? Why do you have a book when you are hanging from a clifftop on a rope held by an ‘injun’?”
As though Diwali could see it in the dark.
“…this book was my great-grandpappy’s diary. In it he describes how he stole the silver Julep cup of John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the United States of America, and hid it in this specific cliff-face at this certain height in a sealed leather pouch.”
Diwali didn’t know how to respond to that. His family did weird things: rituals, dances, dressing up in old costumes, but these Wasichus…
“Because Adams was a damn Yankee! How dare he drink a Southern cocktail of our fine bourbon whiskey!”
“Mmm, I see.”
“And, and it’s worth a goddam fortune!”
“How much you paying me for this?”
“Enough. Now hold on, I’ve almost…yes! I can feel something! Hey, injun, you gotta light?”
“I don’t smoke.”
“No, a light, a torch!”
“If you wait a little, there’ll be some fireflies coming along soon. It’s the season for them. They like this spot.”
“Fireflies? Photinus carolinus?”
“Those flying insects with flames in their butts.”
“Yes, synchronous fireflies. Really?”
“No, I like to open my mouth as did my grandpappy. Yes. See?”
Diwali watched as a swarm of fireflies gathered close by and flew slowly across the cliff-face as if by magic.
“Great! Okay, I’m done here! Haul me up, injun!”
“My grandpappy used to say ‘do a good thing, do…’.”
“‘…it well.’ Yeah, just pull me up, injun.”
“He also said ‘do a bad thing, do it quick.'”
Diwali let go of the rope and watched the Wasichu fall to his death. He’d collect the cup later, after the re-run on TV.
M. D. Pitman
The julep cup wasn’t valuable to anyone but to Chris and Toby. It was plain and silver-plated worth a few dollars. The value came in stories of their grandmother stored in its dents and scratches.
The cup wasn’t a part of their grandmother’s will because she actually promised it to both of her grandsons, and didn’t realize it. It was just a cup used to fix mint juleps during Kentucky Derby weekend, and for “fancy” drinks while watching Mary Poppins and singing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
Chris Beaumont and Toby Kellogg were raised as brothers by their grandmother. Cousins by birth, brothers by the death of their parents.
Toby objected when Chris grabbed the cup from the liquor cabinet that sat on a worn oval rug.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. What are you doing with that?” Toby set the box of knickknacks down he was filling with items from the mantel. Chris had placed the silver cup in his “to take home” box.
“Ma’ma said I could have it.” Chris continued to sort through the contents of the liquor cabinet.
“No, I don’t think so. Ma’ma said that was mine after I won it on a horse race.” Toby walked over and reached to remove the cup from the box, but not before Chris grabbed his wrist.
“Now hold on a minute there, cuz.” Chris reached for the cup. They stared into each other’s slanted eyes. “Ma’ma promised me this cup years ago after I asked for it.”
“It was mine after I bet her that Animal Kingdom would beat Dialed In in the 2011 Derby.”
They both pulled at the cup. They went back and forth several times before Toby’s hand slipped. Chris stumbled backwards. He tripped over the rug that had bunched up.
Toby didn’t know what he could have done differently, but when the liquor cabinet broke apart and blood seeped from the back of Chris’ head he screamed his cousin’s name.
“CHRIS! Oh, no. No, no, no, no.”
Toby dialed 9-1-1 as he kneeled by his side, trying something, anything to stop the bleeding. He couldn’t.
Toby clenched the julep cup throughout the entire funeral ceremony and burial at the cemetery. His reaction was vacant with every condolence offered. It was just two months ago when he was just two feet to the left with his cousin saying “goodbye” to their grandmother.
After the ceremony he stared Chris’ headstone. When the fireflies lit the night’s sky, Toby kneeled down next to the overturned dirt. He sat the cup down as he dug until a hole several inches deep appeared. He took the cup in his dirt-stained hands and stared at it. He kneeled for several minutes searching for something to say, a prayer or a few words to ease his mind. He just sat back on his feet silent.
He placed the cup in the hole and methodically filled in the hole before he collapsed over the grave.
“I’ll love you forever, Alex.” Julie said, sitting cross-legged on the rough mulch of the flowerbed we were planting together. She gave me a look that melted my heart so bad, it ran down my legs, out of my old worn-out sandals, and soaked into the rich black dirt with the worms and stones and the old thrift store silver julep cup we’d buried there – our hidden treasure trove of love and hope.
“I’ll be loyal to you, sweetie. And I know you’ll take care of me and be the best husband I could hope for.” Melted heart, times two. She was talking so earnestly, with such down-to-earth, loving frankness. I swear, I was on the verge of tears, right there and then, and I don’t freaking cry. Never have been able to.
“Just don’t ask me to quit.”
I caught my breath and my muscles clenched fist-tight all over, like my heart really had poured out of my chest and then gotten frozen to my clothes and skin. I was a giant frozen heart popsicle, rigid as an old heartwood chestnut tree, standing there with my mouth ajar.
“I – what do you mean, Julie? Quit? When did I ever say anything about quitting? I mean, I want you to be healthy. Of course I do.”
“You were right about it, sweetie. I should have listened to you. But it’s what you do. How could I not want to try it?”
“Baby, there are programs. I can do something else. It’s stupid. It’s so damn stupid. The economy is coming back. It was just temporary. It’s dangerous, Julie.”
“But it’s like magic, baby. Like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. You’re a magician. I’ve never been so productive, and I know I’m so close now to getting my deal. It’s because of you, baby. What you do for me. What you give me. You can never ask me to quit.”
It was the 15th of May. Prime time for the synchronous fireflies in Elkmont, and our reservations for the camping site there had been made for almost a year. It was crazy hard to get a camping spot during the fireflies, but I had called in some favors with customers to get one, because it was Julie’s favorite thing in the world to see.
“OK, honey. I’m not asking you. Let’s just go to our fireflies camp, and maybe you could try going without while we’re there-”
“NO! I said no!” She leaned over her folded knees to put her hands on the soft earth for support, and wobbled a little in place before standing to face me. “No.”
It was a week later when I found her. I thought she had just fallen asleep again while working on the couch. I suppose she had, now that I think about it. It’s just a nice, long nap.
I’ve never been one to try my own wares. It’s bad for business, and I know what it does to people. Believe me; I know. But Julie was so right: it’s magic. It’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Finally, I can cry.
Halfway to the moon, she turned to him and said, “Its done.”
He smiled at her.
“We are exiting the atmosphere.” She said, cranking the old Chevy. “Look, at all those stars.” She pointed outside, where a million synchronous fireflies flashed their lights. She revved the engine to mimic the rocket, and gave his profile one last glance. Her breath caught in her throat.
Tears in his eyes, he stared out the car window, the perfume of Gardenias heavy in the night air. He’d planted them for her on their first anniversary.
“Get ready. We will be there soon.” She pulled a long strap, first over him, then her, and locked it in place. She pressed the silver button and the windows sealed them inside.
“They say fireflies use their light to find their one true soul mate. After that, nothing can separate them, no matter what.” She whispered. Her hand found his in the dark. She checked the rear view mirror.
“You always said, we would make it to the moon one day.” He laughed, tears rolling down his face. “But you can’t go with me…” he stopped, unable to finish his sentence.
She smiled at him through tears. “You know I can’t let you go to the moon without me. That would be, so…unlike us.” She reached down, pushed a cassette tape into the stereo, put the car in reverse, and stopped a few feet away.
“…Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids…”, Elton John sang to them.
As the carport door lowered, darkness enclosed them, the fireflies disappeared, and the smell of exhaust filled the car.
“I guess we are even then, because ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ should never have been allowed on the Scrabble board… but I was feeling generous…,”he laughed, looking at her.
“I know.” She said, eyes flooding with tears.
She unbuckled her seat belt and kissed him, full on, just like she used to do. Her hands felt for the scruffy beard that had tickled her face all these years. Then she reached down under a pile of papers and books, for the buried silver Julep cup. It was the first wedding gift they’d opened. She felt further and withdrew a bottle of Jack Daniels, pouring it a little over a third full.
“You first.” She said and held the cup to his lips. His arms and legs had been no use for so long now, that she had become that part of him. After he drank it, she put the cup to her own lips, felt it burn her throat and turned up the volume. She gave him one more sip, brushed the tears from his eyes and pressed herself against him. They were one.
“Thanks, for being every single thing there is to love about life.” She said, as she hugged his motionless body, and sang to him, in a more and more quiet voice.
“…and I think its gonna be a long, long time…and I think its gonna be a long, long time…”
His heart beat long after her last breath was burned up in the atmosphere. And the fireflies played on…