Congratulations to Ann-Marie Lindstrom, who won a Write Well Award for Becky’s Song, originally published in the September 2014 issue of Brilliant Flash Fiction. For details, check out Write Well Award and be sure to read Ann-Marie’s award winning story below.
By Ann-Marie Lindstrom
When I was a little girl, Mama always called me light-headed. I never did know what that meant. Look at my hair. It’s always been the color of mud. Never was light.
Now light-fingered I knowed. Cousin Billy Frank was light-fingered. Couldn’t take him into Mr. Hobbs’ store without his taking something weren’t his. Billy Frank had a sweet tooth. And them light fingers.
And light-hearted I know. Granny was light-hearted. She could sing songs that would make you feel like things was going to be better. They might not be good right then, but you knew they was going to be better.
“Raise a joyful voice unto the Lord,” she’d say. Then she’d sing until I felt like I could fly away.
And she told the most wondrous stories. All about when she was a girl in Arkansas, growing up in green mountains.
You know how the air smells after it rains? All fresh and new. She said it smelled like that all the time in Arkansas. I think Arkansas must be the most beautiful place in the world. I’m going there someday.
I’m going to sit in the grass and smell that air. And I’m going to sing a song for Granny. I know she’ll hear me. When I raise my joyful voice unto the Lord, she’ll hear me. ‘Cause she’s right there with Him.
And Becky will hear me. I sing a lullaby to Becky each night. I don’t think I know if you sleep in heaven. I don’t remember the preacher talking about that. But I sing each night, just in case.
I didn’t get to hold her and sing to her after she was born. They took her away too fast. I sit here sometimes and I imagine I’m holding her. I cross my arms like this and I rock them. If I look real hard, I can see her. And I can feel her. She’s not very heavy, cause she was just a little baby.
They could have let me hold her. Just once. But they took her away so fast. Nobody even asked me what her name was. I don’t know what it says on her stone. They never told me where her stone is.
I named her Becky after she was gone. My best friend at church was Becky. She was pretty and smart. Woo, that girl was smart. She could learn things so fast. She learned all the disciples’ names in one morning. I never did learn them. I get a little lost after Mark and Luke. Granny tried to help me, but she’d lose her patience. Seemed to me the Lord wouldn’t want me shut in a room reading from a book when his world was right outside the window.
When I was supposed to be studying the Bible, I used to sneak outdoors and plant things. Whoosh, I was a planting fool. You’d laugh if you’d seen me. I’d plant seeds Mama gave me. Beans and tomatoes. Mr. Hobbs gave me flower seeds once. Shoot, when I ran out of seeds, I used to plant rocks. What a picture. Scrawny little girl digging in the hard dirt to plant rocks. Don’t know what I thought would grow.
Mama caught me once. Watering a rock. Got a licking for that. Wasting water on a fool rock. Think that was the first time she called me light-headed.
Maybe I thought I could grow a mountain. Like in Arkansas. I can’t remember now what I thought.
Kind of funny that I can’t, ’cause I remember more of what I thought than what I did when I was little. I must of gone to school. And done chores. But when I try to go back in my mind, I remember what I was thinking more than what I did. Know what I mean?
I remember dreaming about mountains and cool, fresh air. Or wishing I was smart like Becky. And pretty like my Mama had been. I saw some pictures of her ‘fore she married Daddy. I don’t recall seeing Mama smile ‘cept in those pictures.
Granny said it was Mama’s smile that captured my Daddy’s heart. I don’t remember my Daddy. Not ’cause my memory’s bad, though. He died in the war ‘fore I was born. Mama said there was nothing left to smile about after that. I don’t think she loved me like I love Becky. Maybe everybody’s only given one love in this life. My Daddy was Mama’s and Becky was mine.
I didn’t love Becky’s daddy. I think that’s a sin. But it’s not like we was married or anything. Tommy was a boy I knew from school. He was going into the Army. There was this big party. He drank lots of beer. I don’t think he loved me.
When I told his mama I was going to have a baby, his baby, she slammed the screen door in my face.
I think Granny is the only happy person I ever knew. Really happy, not beer happy. That’s ’cause she was from the mountains. I’m going to the mountains some day.
They tell me if I stop singing to Becky, they’ll let me go. To Arkansas.
I try. All day long, I stay busy. I keep my mind so full of what is going on there is no room for Becky. But then it gets on to dark. I remember what it was like to be little and have that dark all around you. That dark, so full of nothing. Then I can’t stop myself from singing.
When the night comes I have to sing. I try to be quiet so they won’t hear me. But this joyful voice comes out of my mouth.
I want to tell you a secret. Sometimes I wonder if I’m really singing to Becky. She’s with the Lord and Granny and my Daddy. She doesn’t have to be afraid.
Sometimes I just wonder if I’m singing for myself.