Johnson County Library and The Writers Place are pleased to announce that Rebecca Schier-Akamelu has won the short story category of our writing contest on the theme of MUSIC with "From One to the Next".
Rebecca writes from Overland Park and has previously been published in A Long Story Short and The Kansas City Star. She is also a voiceover artist and a proud wife and mom.
From One to the Next
Steph took a deep breath and plunged her foot into the muddy stream. It was icy cold; she curled her toes into the mud. She took a moment to let the cold rush through her, chilled to the bone on this November morning. Her breath hung suspended in the air in front of her, arms wrapped around her torso in a sort of hug. Still, she took a half step forward. Both feet were in the water, freezing. Icicle toes, she thought. To take another step farther in would be unbearable, but that was her plan.
This area, little more than a turnaround off the road for cars, had always intrigued her. She’d always been curious about the wooded area, the tiny patch of water visible from a car. To explore it now, like this, seemed fitting. She’d learned that it joined a larger body of water.
A loud truck turned in to the small dirt semicircle, and Steph silently cursed the driver. Gravel and dirt crunched under its tires, the engine so loud that she could no longer hear the sound of the water passing over the rocks in the stream. A car door slammed, hard booted footfalls came towards her, but Steph didn’t turn. She wished whoever this was would just turn around and leave, act like he hadn’t seen her.
It was a he. He was tall and bearded and was even wearing a plaid lumberjack shirt. “What happened to you?” He asked her, hands in his pockets and a look of genuine curiosity on his face.
Steph shrugged and gave a half smile. Her teeth were starting to chatter in her head.
“I didn’t see a car . . . you weren’t walking out here, were you?”
“I was, actually,” Steph said between chatters.
“You’d have to be crazy! What are you trying to do, get yourself killed? You’ll get pneumonia. Frostbite, for sure.” Steph was positive it wasn’t cold enough to worry about frostbite. The man ran back to the car and grabbed a heavy black parka. When he returned, he left the cab of his truck open, letting rock music blast out into the cold, further polluting the soft cadence of the stream. “Where are your shoes?”
Steph didn’t answer. She’d taken them off a little way from the stream. This man must think she was insane. She wished again that he would leave. She squelched her toes into the cold mud again while he looked anxiously around her. He finally found them under a pile of leaves. Steph didn’t protest when he pulled her backwards, her feet reluctantly hitting the cold hard soil. A leaf was stuck to the underside of her foot, and he pulled it gently away. She didn’t help him as he shoved her feet awkwardly into her socks and boots. She did manage to keep her balance.
They walked together to the cab of the truck. Their boots crunched over leaves and then gravel, the exhaust rattled and a guitar wailed on the radio. Somewhere underneath all that was the sound of the water lapping over the rocks and gurgling its way down the stream, which Steph knew joined a river later.
“Are you trippin’?” The man asked abruptly after he opened the passenger side door.
“No.” Steph answered.
“Get in then.” He shut the passenger side door behind her.
The harder rock came to an end and a Beatles song came on. Help. So, she buckled her seatbelt. The guitar strummed its downward progression, like a spiral, yet somehow the upbeat tempo made it a not unhappy sound. It made Steph smile, just for a moment, before the man opened the driver side door and hopped in.
He reached out a hand towards the dial, but she grabbed him by his flannelled wrist. “Please, don’t. I like this song.” It was the most she’d said to him. He looked at her with something like wonder on his face. He let the music play, and they drove back up the road Steph had spent all morning walking down.
“I’m Anthony, by the way.”
They shook hands as though he hadn’t just pulled her back from some precipice.