"This is Where I Leave Her" by Birdy Odell — Our June 2019 Bronze Medal Winner

by - Friday, August 16, 2019

Birdy Odell is our third place winner from the contest posted in our June, 2019 issue!

What the judges had to say:

"A lovely sad snapshot"

"I appreciated the quiet, elegiac tone of this story. It proceeds like a meditation, with no need for an abrupt hook at the beginning or a startling reversal at the end. ...I felt that This is Where I Leave Her captured the mood of the story prompt."

"An emotional tale of unexpected depth. I felt the character's sense of loss and recovery over grief."

Meet Birdy:

Birdy Odell is a Canadian writer and artist whose work reflects themes of loss, identity, childhood and death. Her work has appeared in various literary magazines including Nightingale & Sparrow and Barren Magazine. Watch for her work in the March 2020 issue of Blank Spaces!

The photo prompt:

  the unedited story:

This is Where I Leave Her

by Birdy Odell

The pack on his back is heavier than he thought it would be when he filled it. A thermos of lemonade, cold chicken, a small tub of potato salad and a good loaf of bread. Simple food has always been their favourite.

Joe doesn’t remember how many times theyve made this hike over the years. He knows it like the back of his hand. Though it never seemed this long before, each step is wearing him down. He keeps this to himself.

The lake is in view now. The path is slippery in spots. Moss clings to the posts of the bridge and the north side of the trees. Some of them are shiny with it. He knows Elly has always loved the smell. He breathes deep and they pause at the top of the rise, before the way slopes down to the beach. A black dog has followed them since they left the cabin and plops down, panting. Joe isnt sure who it belongs to but hes glad of it. It reminds him of their old Gyp. What a good dog he was.

Im feeling my age today, Joe thinks. Not much farther. Over the bridge, down the wooden steps, across the shingle to the old shack and the cove they think of as theirs. His heart has begun to ache something fierce. But it means too much to Elly to turn back now. He just needs desperately to set this pack down. Then hell be ok.

They put a lock on the old door of the shack years ago in an attempt to keep out squatters. For whatever reason it seemed to work so one year, Joe carted down an old day bed that they could use if the weather turned. Elly told him they were the squatters now.

His breath is coming in short rasps. When they reach the shack he is almost in tears. Good lord his chest hurts. He pulls out the key and opens the door. Thank God. At last he sets the pack down. There is a little table under the window. He sets out the picnic on it. Im sorry,he says. I dont think I can manage to sit on the ground today.

The dog waits for Joe at the door. He takes the wooden box from the bottom of the pack. It was a good one, some of his best work. The inlay took some time but it was worth it.

He got to his feet and they walked to the shore. Well, here we are.The beach was deserted as it always was this time of year and the breeze was gentle. He was glad. The dog sat looking out to the horizon. Joe lifted the lid of the box. This is where I leave you Elly,he said tilting it away from him.

The ashes drifted away slowly at first and then more sure of themselves floated out to sea. He watched her go and his heart gave a lurch. His knee gave out a little and for a second he thought he might fall. The dog came over and licked his hand. Joe patted his head and suddenly felt a warmth spread through his entire being. He was glad hed waited until the time was right. And it was. The warmth washed away as the last of the gray mist that was Elly bid him farewell. He was left feeling grateful and at peace.

Joe wiped a tear from his eye and turned his back to the water. Come on Gyp,he said. The two shuffled through the sand and back to the shack and quietly ate their lunch.

[Read the first and second place stories]

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