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Published November 12, 2015

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*Flash Fiction Contest #2 - Winner*

Fiction by Katie Winkler

Grieved and Glad
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Grieved and Glad

by Katie Winkler

Septimus brushed his hand, tanned or red or black or brown, across his
forehead, glistening in the hot Alabama sun. Walking along, bending now
and then stooping to gather the fruits of the earth, the bitter fruits, healing
roots and herbs he had, once upon a time, brought to his mother.

She had been gone for two months now, and in his grief he had wandered
the fields of red clay, gathering up and storing as before. Now there was no
mother, yet the harvest grew.         

He stopped to sniff the air. He could smell Horsemint and Sassafras,
Wormwood and Red Root--Red Root, the medicine of the ages, red man's,
black man's, white man's, poor man's--for their time of need. He reached
down and touched a plant's jagged leaves and fingered the bright red berry.
The ginseng.  

After the digging, Septimus moved on and topped the hill. He looked over
the field before him, once barren, wiped out by man's desire and greed, the
southern pines and poplars slowly making their way to their former place,
their former glory. He could feel them reaching.

His hair was graying now.         

Mother had noticed, even in the long, quick days before she was gone.
"She had reached up, touched his sideburns and said, quavering, "I like
that little touch of gray, Septimus. Yes, I like it very much, looks quite
distinguished."        

She had smiled and let her hand fall back onto her quilted lap. The quilt was
old; it was so old, ragged with age and use, made before his time, before
hers. He followed her hand as it dropped to her lap. He stared at it.        

"How old are you?" she asked.        

"What?"        

"How old are you?"        

"You don't remember when I was born?"        

She smiled, wrinkling. "Of course I do, son. I just don't remember when it
happened."        

"I'm sixty, sixty years old in December, Mother."        

"Yes, that's right." She smacked her lips and nodded her head, touching the
gray sideburns. "I like that little touch of gray."        

Soon she was gone.         

He grieved and was glad, gripping the ginseng in his calloused hand.


Biography
Katie Winkler's short fiction has appeared in numerous online and print
publications, including
Punchnel's, Fabula Argentea, A&U Magazine, AIM,
Rose and Thorn, and Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, among
others. Also a playwright, she is a member of the Dramatists Guild of
America and frequently writes theater reviews of productions at Flat Rock
Playhouse, the State Theater of North Carolina. She teaches English
composition, literature and creative writing at Blue Ridge Community
College in Flat Rock, North Carolina.