Happy Memorial Day!
From the book: Free Pecan Pie and Other Chick Stories
Janelle Meraz Hooper
In the night sky, stars as big as snowballs danced around the moon as it came
up over the pond behind Samie’s aunt and uncle’s motel. Even with the beauty
around her, the young college graduate was uneasy sitting on the screened-in
back porch that looked over the water. Inside, she could hear the laughter of
the annual family reunion. She knew she’d have a long wait before she could
talk privately to her parents. It was a shame to have to spoil such a beautiful
evening by making them unhappy, but she was out of time.
At the front of the motel, her little nieces and nephews ran barefooted
through the trees, around the pink crape myrtle bushes and over the grass.
Each had a jar in their hands to collect lightning bugs.
With nothing else to do, she looked around the back porch. The only shiny
things on it were the stacks of pop that were used to replenish the vending
machines and the new turkey fryer her uncle had gotten for Christmas. Everything
else had been around for years and had a homey, burnished patina. Strangely,
she no longer felt comfortable in the stability the porch represented.
Inside, the rest of the grownups played pinochle or cribbage on the scattered
tables in the motel snack room. Every year, Homer and Lou closed the
business for a few days so the family could get together. The relatives paid the
going rate because her aunt and uncle weren’t rich, but it was a lot more comfortable
place to get together than going to one of their homes, none of which
had enough beds for the whole family. The families all chipped in for the food,
and Thelma, the motel restaurant’s cook, fixed all of their meals. The dishwasher,
who was on summer break from the local college, worked for tips. This
perk gave the women a rest from cooking and washing dishes, and the kids
were thrilled to be able to choose whatever they wanted from the restaurant
This was Samie’s first family reunion since she’d graduated. The school she
went to in the east was so expensive that she’d had to work during the last few
Tonight, after everyone went to bed, she’d talk to her parents. She was sure
they wouldn’t like what they were going to hear. Her stomach ached, and she
thought she might actually throw up. Her mother had been looking forward to
her coming home to stay as soon as she got her degree. Samie was sure she
wouldn’t take the news well. Her father would nod, say nothing, and rattle the
keys in his pocket. That’s what he always did when he didn’t like what he was
hearing. Walk up and down in front of everyone and jangle his keys.
The games started to break up, and Samie almost thought the evening was
over, but her Aunt Bess brought out a hefty watermelon and called the kids in
for dessert. Uncle Hal got out a big butcher knife and started teasing the kids.
“How big?” He’d ask, marking a tiny slice with the tip of the knife. “This
big?” The child would giggle and shake his head no.
“This big?” He’d ask again, scratching a line in the rind bigger than half the
“No,” the child would giggle again.
Laughing, Samie’s uncle cut a perfect piece for every child and sent them
out to the porch to eat it. The grown-ups lined up to get more modest pieces
and refill their coffee cups.
The watermelon was so ripe and juicy that its smell wafted out to the porch
where Samie waited for the perfect time to tell her parents what she was going
to do with the rest of her life.
The first thing she had to tell them was that her wedding was off. Moreover,
she would not be moving back to her hometown.
Next, she had to tell them was that she was not going to settle for the boring
life of a nine-to-five office job. There was a whole world out there, and she
wanted to see it all.
The last thing she had to say was, before she came to the reunion, she’d
joined the Army. She knew the news wouldn’t go over well. Their little darling
in the Army? After six years of college?
Everyone was beginning to drift off to bed. One after the other, doors to
motel rooms opened and shut softly. This was the moment she’d been waiting
for all night.
“Go Army! Be all you can be!” Samie chanted under her breath. She just
hoped she’d live through the night so she could get on the bus for Ft. Benning
in the morning.
This is one of the stories in my short story book, Free Pecan Pie and Other Chick Stories, Amazon and others, PB & Kindle.
If you like this story, please share!
Note: Illustration is not in the book.