Jewelweed

Here is a sweet little snippet from my new novel, THE ROCKY ORCHARD.

jewelweed

“Good morning, dear!”  Lula said brightly as she stepped into the porch.  “I brought you some flowers I picked along the way.  Thought it would brighten up our table to have a nice centerpiece while we played our gin rummy.”  Lula held out a bunch of wildflowers on long stems, stunning little orange and yellow spotted blooms that looked like tiny orchids.

“Oh my God, they’re beautiful!” Mazie said.

“Watch this,” Lula said as she reached out a single finger and touched what looked like a green pea pod attached to one of the stems.  With Lula’s barest touch, the seed pod burst apart and shoots of curly green confetti shot out.

Mazie gasped, then laughed. “Oh my gosh, Lula, I’d forgotten all about these things!”

“Aren’t they a marvel?”  Lula said.

“I used to love these!” Mazie gushed.  I remember the first time my brother and I discovered them.  The orchard was filled with them; they appeared out of nowhere.”

“That’s because they’re wildflowers,” Lula said, “All wildflowers appear out of nowhere.”

“I can’t even remember which one of us – my brother or me – accidentally touched one of the seed pod things while we were looking at the flowers, and BOOM, an explosion of…crazy seeds, right?  Crazy seeds disguised as tiny party streamers!  We spent the whole afternoon combing through the orchard and popping the seed pods.  A whole afternoon.  When we’d found every single one, we lay down on the ground, head-to-head, staring up at the clouds and making up stories. That was a great, great day.”  Mazie threw her head back and laughed.

“It’s jewelweed, sometimes people call it orange jewelweed or spotted jewelweed,” Lula said. “The common name is touch-me-not.  You can see why.”

“We never had any idea what they were.  Looked for them every year, but I don’t think we ever found them again,” Mazie said. “Made it seem like some kind of…magic.”

“Oh, wildflowers do seem to have minds of their own – they appear here and there and disappear.  But it’s Impatiens Capensis, not magic,” Lula said.

“What?”  Mazie asked.

“That’s the Latin name for the plant – Impatiens Capensis.”

“You’re starting to remind me of my mother.  She knew a lot of things about a lot of things, too,” Mazie said.

“The juice from the stems and leaves has long been used for itching – going back ages.  It can actually stop poison ivy from getting bad if you rub the juice on right away.  I’ve even heard tell that it can clear up ringworm, and athlete’s foot as well,” Lula said.

“Now you’re really reminding me of my mother.  When I was a little kid, I was convinced she had to be making stuff up – no one could really have such an encyclopedic knowledge of so many different things.  Later on, we used to tease her that she got some kind of secret newsletter that was filled with random bits of information, and she would memorize every bit of it while we were at school, just waiting for an opening to throw in some new tidbit of knowledge.”

“Everybody around here knows about ol’ jewelweed,” Lula said.

“ ‘Everyone around here’ just happens to know that Latin name?”

“Oh, well, I suppose not,” Lula said.  “Now that you mention it.”  She gave Mazie a wry smile. “How about we put these beauties in some water and play some cards?”

“Thank you for bringing jewelweed, Lula.  Thank you for reminding me of one of the very best days I ever had,” Mazie said.

 

The Hand You’re Dealt

I’m about 11,000 words into my novel THE ROCKY ORCHARD, so have not exactly perfected the elevator speech.  Here’s a stab at a synopsis, following by a new snippet:

A woman retreats to her old family farm and encounters an older woman. The two form a friendship over daily gin rummy games. As the younger woman reflects and remembers her past times at the farm, it becomes increasingly unclear exactly what is happening.

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Mazie and Lula cut the cards to determine who would deal the first hand.  Mazie drew the ten of spades.  Lula drew the nine of clubs, and Mazie began to shuffle. “You know I promised myself I wouldn’t talk you to death again today, but, do you know what?  These cards were here when we bought this farm. The Bishops – the people who owned this place before my family did – just walked out one day, and we walked in.  They left everything.  Everything! Like a neutron bomb had gone off.  Every sign of human life had vanished; every remnant and relic stayed behind.  The kitchen cabinets were filled with their dishes.  The drawers held their silverware, their cooking utensils, their pot holders.  Towels hung on the towel racks.  Freshly washed sheets lay carefully folded in the upstairs bureaus.  Extra ones, because all five of the beds had sheets and blankets and pillows already on them, carefully arranged.  They left their board games, and their decks of cards, even their jigsaw puzzles with a piece or two missing, in an old oak table.  I used to go around each room of the farmhouse, opening every single drawer and looking at the things inside.  It was as if my family had walked right into someone else’s life.  I mean, look at these cards!  At some point in history, somebody went into a store somewhere and looked through all of the decks of playing cards, and they picked these – the ones with the Grecian urns overflowing with fake grapes.  One deck with a watery purple background, the other deck a muted peach.  Someone thought these extremely odd cards were the perfect thing.  And here we are, two people who were complete strangers just a few days ago, who met by chance, now playing a game of gin rummy with those very cards, so many years later.”

“Two people who at some point may play gin rummy,” Lula said.  “Or may not.”

“Point taken. Your turn,” Mazie said.

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Top photo: Harry Lapow

Bottom photos of Jessica Tandy, the image I have of Lula.