On my drive home last night, the flakes danced in and out of my car’s headlights, and a dusting of snow moved in low eddies over the pavement. The sounds of Pachelbel’s Canon in D echoed the snow’s dance. The violins’ descant soared in and out like the snowflakes while the cellos poured out beneath the violins. The cellos’ low rumble reverberated in my bones, echoing like emptiness deep inside me.

I remember thinking that Dad would have told me to turn the music down, that I would damage my hearing. Luke says I will ruin my hearing and the speakers. Music like the Canon in D, however, cannot always be played softly. Sometimes, like last night, I need to feel the music in my bones.

This morning, I stand at the sliding glass door and hold my arms around my middle to keep my heart in place. I try to blink away the swollen grittiness that burns my eyes.

The double panes mute sound, but cold seeps in around the edges all the same. There is not much to see yet, just the dim gray of a predawn January morning, alleviated by the snow and our weak porch light. Dull puddles of ice barely reflect the light. A slight wind moves the maples’ branches, and I imagine the faint clatter they would make.

Luke appears at my side. He hands me a mug of coffee. I nod my thanks and watch the tendrils of steam rise. I wonder how I had not noticed the rich smell as it brewed. Luke steps behind me, wraps his arms around me, and says nothing. We stand together, looking out at the early morning grayness and the snow.

I finally notice which mug he had handed me. It is the one I bought for Dad on Father’s Day, several years ago: the blue mug, with geese flying in formation over skeletal trees. Dad loved that mug.

I sip the bitterness of coffee, tempered by the richness of cream. Leaning back against Luke, I remember.

I remember pillow fights and tickling, story time and footie pajamas, tuneless lullabies. I remember homework and late night science projects due the next day, crying and lectures, yelling and being grounded. I remember camping trips, staring up at the stars, and the mystery of night birds calling.

A tear traces my cheek. Luke kisses the top of my head.

I sip the coffee, then stare down into the creamy brown in my blue mug. “It isn’t fair,” I say.

“I know.” I can feel Luke’s voice rumbling like a cello through my chest. “It’s not fair at all.”

I wipe the tear away with the back of my sleeve.

“Need a tissue?” he asks, and I just shake my head and sigh.

Luke rests his cheek on the top of my head. “It’ll be all right, eventually.”

We stand together, watching the loose snow drifting, forming faint scallops along the dull January ground. It skitters across the frozen puddles, making soft shapes in the air. He gently kisses me again, and I remember the violins’ soft melody rising and falling like snowflakes in the wind, dancing like hope. I nestle back against his chest, and he holds me close. I know, deep, deep down, that he is right. Somehow, some when, it will be all right again. The predawn gray lightens.

“Look,” he says. “Sunrise.”

Cathy McCrumb writes in the Midwest, or wherever she happens to be. Most of her imaginary friends are nice people.

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 average 3.5 stars • 39 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • The writing quality is certainly there. But to what purpose? To primarily make a reader feel mournful? To create some fictional emotional grief with a fictional person who has lost someone?

    For me, regardless how well written, a story needs more than sadness to be an interesting story.

    I speculate I will be in the minority view about this story.

    • Stephen

      I agree with you entirely. This reads like a text-book masterclass in “sensory details”, and very well done too, but as you say, to what purpose? For me, it was like a nice memoir, but too vague, too nostalgic, and too sentimental to be a story.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I’m sorry but found less in this story than Jeff and Stephen.

  • Camille Gooderham Campbell

    Each time I read this piece (both now and in an earlier version we saw as editors), I’m impressed at how accurately and vividly the transitions of memory are explored, triggered by something like too-loud music or a particular coffee mug. I also particularly like that the father’s death is never spelled out, simply implied.

  • Teacher

    Apologies on this one, but too much emotional writing that I couldn’t resonate with and not enough physical progress for the characters in the tale. Because of this the story came across as overdone and a little forced in places. And instead of a tale, we have the words trying to elicit emotion on the reader’s behalf. I had to rate two stars this time around.

  • Rosalie Kempthorne

    While there wasn’t a lot of story, I thought the emotional situation of the protagonist was well evoked.

    The last line especially spoke volumes in just a couple of words. I gave this four stars.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    A lot of fine, well thought out writing, but a bit short on story. Opening sentences with a weather update (even though there was literary purpose behind this one) are notoriously weak hooks. Then centering the writing around esoteric knowledge (in this case a piece of classical music) can inadvertently make those readers unfamiliar with it feel a bit dumb. Mind you, I was guilty of a similar ‘misdemeanour’ with my ‘Krampus’ story.

    • Paul A. Freeman

      Just listened to Pachelbel’s Canon in D – very nice.

  • keralen

    So who needs a plot always? This was a lovely mood piece. I was just hit yesterday by a family photo from my stepmom of all my beautiful sisters and brothers and their kids, and in the back row an unintentional gap where my dad would have towered over everyone. He’s been gone 11 years and I still use the coffee mug I painted for him. So keep creating, Cathy. There’s always tomorrow’s EDF for space opera and zombies. 🙂

    • Paul A. Freeman

      I seem to have a foot in both camps on this story.

  • ed kratz

    I guess I have to say I thought this was lovely. I liked the specific details and the subtext of the implied grief. I just read it again, and I still like it.
    I do have to make one response about the sadness. It’s a part of life, and in this case, there’s optimism, too, which is hard to do, I think.
    Well done, to me.

  • Sandra Heggen

    Closer to “memoir” than “story,” very heartfelt.

  • Again a talented pen, and the exploration is wonderful. But this does not come across, to me, as a story. Perhaps a lead in, or an occidental chapter. Cathy, I can’t tell if this is something you pulled from a longer work, it’s gorgeous, it just needs polishing. The beginning had way too many flaws.

  • Dan Keeble

    Cathy, A very well written emotional piece, but not sure that it works as a short story.

    Perhaps a bit over descriptive in the scene setting robbed me of the chance as a reader to call upon my imagination. A long narrative at the beginning of a short story can dissaude a reader from staying with it. If you had started the story with your lines:

    I sip the coffee, then stare down into the creamy brown in my blue mug. “It isn’t fair,” I say.

    “I know.” I can feel Luke’s voice rumbling like a cello through my chest. “It’s not fair at all.”

    You could have then continued with the first paragraph of your story:

    On my drive home last night,…..

    The narrative would have shown the time switch and also left the reader wondering ‘What isn’t fair?’ and encourage them to read on to find out. Just my viewpoint Cathy.

    I hope we see more of your writing.