Cutting Ties and Mudslides

Billy burst through the front door of the barbershop, sliding across the checkered floor and into an empty barber chair. He twirled twice and stopped.

Emil leaned back in the other chair, barber’s cape rustling over his sagging paunch.

Leon raised his shears from Emil’s thinning pate, “How can I help, Billy?” He didn’t really want to know, but he was a businessman.

“Dahlia’s gone and told me she wants another semester in Germany,” Billy buried his face in his hands. “It’s like she doesn’t want to get married!”

“Sounds like she wants some time,” ventured Leon.

“Sounds like she needs to be told, not asked,” Emil growled.

“You’re right,” Billy jumped up. “Time’s up, Dahlia!”

The front door slammed, bells jingling in alarm. Thunder rumbled; more heavy rains on the way.

“Dahlia’s runnin’ riot!”

“She’s only nineteen,” murmured Leon. He remembered his own sweet Rose, who’d run off to Paris and never returned. It’d opened the door to his darling Daisy. “Think of her as a fine wine, Emil. She’ll be better a bit aged,”

“Or turn to vinegar,” huffed Emil. “Ouch! Dammit, Leon.”

“Sorry. My scissors slipped.”

Hours later, Dahlia stood on the embankment that ran along town’s edge. The swollen creek tore past. She’d been trying to hike her way to a decision along the township trail. Billy was waiting for an answer. Always waiting, but never really hearing. She wondered if he would grow out of that.

Lightning flashed. After a few beats, thunder shook the ground. She peered over the edge for a better perspective. Closing her eyes, she inhaled the coppery scents of red clay and leaf rot.

She knew Billy loved her. She’d loved him in childhood for how far he could hawk a loogie, and for his dramatic flair. He’d been equally impressed with her spitfire pitch, sizzling across home plate striking out batter after batter.

By junior high, neighboring towns wouldn’t play them. Her team wouldn’t play her. She folded, taking up running, instead. She’d been good enough to earn a college Track scholarship and a semester in Germany. Her teammate and best friend, Sophia, had family there.

Dahlia opened her eyes, poking out her tongue to catch cold midnight raindrops. She stepped back from the roiling creek and turned. Flash of lightning, clap of thunder, and a burst of rain drummed the ground. The embankment slid into the torrent behind her.

Dahlia yelped, scrambling to the shelter of her and Billy’s willow. Grasping its trunk with one arm, she turned. The embankment was gone, the creek chomping greedily at loose stones and the last summer blooms.

Was this a sign?

She slid down the thick trunk, slim fingers tracing letters carved so long ago:

 Billy + Dahlia


Still true. But she had some growing up to do, too. She had an answer for him, just not the one he wanted.

First things first. She ran back to town; the floodwaters were spreading too fast.

© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2018)

Summary in nine words: Everybody had opinions, but the mudslide called it in.

18 thoughts on “Cutting Ties and Mudslides

  1. Woohoo! Well done, Liz! One thing the judges and I discussed with your writing is how well you used the TUFF process to explore different characters. It really comes together in this second draft because of that exploration. I like that you saved nuggets of your writing, big and small, like “Dahlia’s runnin’ riot” and the barbershop scene. Good addition of Billy coming into that scene and getting questionable advice. It’s a great contrast to Dahlia’s more introspective and courageous contemplation. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is a very interesting note on how weather can add to the conundrum of our thinking. Signs we will read in whichever way we are leaning. Even if it was on a tree with a carved heart.

    Somewhere up north there may be a tree with my initials and someone other than the guy I married. Not all young love was meant to be. However if strong enough – those absent years won’t matter a teeny tiny bit. 😉

    Cheers to riding and getting to almost relax. Since there’s that one more rodeo ride left 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Would love to see that tree!
      Thanks for your thoughtful commentary–I think sometimes a higher power shocks us into making a decision and getting on with our lives.
      Meanwhile, applying the liniment as we prep for the final ride of 2018. Uffda!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Or the marks in the tree become part of its essential core, whether grown-over or returned to dust, and are thus eternal?
        Enough metaphysics–I need a brisk walk in the woods and sun before pondering the Rodeo.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I had me some errands to wrassel too. One was lunch with the neighbor. I think after walking down to the creek and back (OK just about 100 feet or so) – I need a nap! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person


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