Heartlands: End of a Season

Amanda skips rocks over the lake. Her father, Wes, sips his beer, then shakes his line. “That was weird. That Harwaven Roe,” Amanda says, staring into the distance. She grabs another handful of pebbles and watches birds glide through the trees. “I don’t ever want to experience anything like that again.” Her words are muffled by an abrupt breeze. Fish jump up from the water. An unlucky leaper gets grabbed by a swift bird. Plumes drift in the air as the bird vanishes like a bolt of white lightning.

Melanie, Amanda’s mother, takes a gulp of Wes’ beer. She glances at Amanda. “Weird things happen, Mandy. Are you going to get traumatized by that too? When you leave for college next week, you’ll see things, and hopefully do things, that challenge your perspective. Things that challenge your way of life. Things that challenge what we taught you.”

Wes laughs. “Yeah, and those things that challenge what we taught you, will only show ya how smart your mom and old man are, kiddo. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise,” he says, smiling. He watches the feathers float and bounce with the ripples on the water’s surface. “Your mother’s right though. That fish was weird as hell, but if a weird looking fish puts you off catchin’ or eatin’ fish then what’s the point. That’s like watching a terrible movie and swearing off of movies, or worse, having a bad night that makes you hate going out at night. It’s just part of life, princess. Life’s gonna hand you lemons and some are gonna look like pomegranates,” Wes declares, reeling in his line. “Think I got a tug.” He examines his catch and shrugs. “Pretty big trout, eh, Mel?” he asks. Melanie nods. “I think that’s all I got in me,” Wes says.

Amanda stands on the water’s edge. She reflects on what her parents had to say and sighs. “Like, logically, I get all that, but I don’t feel like my life should be that way. I don’t feel like anyone should see and experience things that make them feel so scared that their mind or something in them breaks. I think things you don’t comprehend don’t always challenge you in a good way.”

“If you’re chickenshit,” Mel declares. “That’s not how the world works, Mandy. Things will happen and you’ll have two options: move forward or have a piece of yourself stuck in a moment. No one can tell you what to do, but there’s clearly a right choice in those scenarios. Sometimes, making the right choice doesn’t mean it will have the best outcome for you. You might find life a little harder and the world a little colder. You can’t be afraid of things like that.” She walks over to Amanda and rubs her back. “You’re my daughter, so you’re like me. I know what you’re made of, Mandy. Some weird little fish is nothing you need to carry with you for the rest of your life, but if you decide that you want to, then that’s entirely up to you. You’re the only one who really needs to consider the weight of your choices. Don’t make running mindlessly a habit,” Mel says, still comforting Amanda and skipping rocks over the lake beside her.

“Welp, I guess that’s all she wrote,” Wes says, packing up his things and organizing the family’s belongings. “You leave for school next week and we just want to make sure you leave with nothing left unsaid. Alright, ladies, let’s pile up in the car. We gotta’ pick up Shawn on the way home.”

Meanwhile, across Harwaven, enjoying the last few days of summer, Shawn and Arnold marvel over a discovery they made several weeks ago: a water bottle filled with a prismatic liquid that emits the sound of harps every time the cap comes off. “Have you used it yet, Arnold?” Shawn asks, beside himself, watching the swirls sparkle in the sunlight. “This reminds of this girl I follow. Some chick in Scotland named Marnie. She wrote about some weird stuff happening in the mountains by her house. She had a post about finding a strange metal bottle that looked like a rock. Maybe this is the same stuff.”

Arnold smirks. “Could be. I follow The Gael Gal too. She puts out some pretty weird, but interesting shit. Wouldn’t be a bad idea to message her on Twitter about this. Anyway, to answer your question, I put a little on my finger and tasted it. It was such a weird feeling, but I liked it. I had crazy dreams that night too. I left my body and wandered into some woods and found a cave. Then, I found an elevator that took me down to this strange place with monsters and fairytale things. Just really wild shit, bro. It wasn’t scary, but it felt so real. I saw a dragon in a suit working at a bar, who offered me some drinks. He was like ‘Ah, we don’t normally get Dream Walkers down here. Welcome.‘ and I was like ‘Where am I?‘, but then someone grabbed me and flung up and slammed back into my body. I haven’t been able to bring myself to try to this stuff again,” Arnold responds, crossing his arms. He leans against a tree and pulls out a cigarette. “Want one?”

“Nah, man. I’m good. My mom would kill me if I went home smelling like cigarette smoke,” Shawn says. His cellphone buzzes in his pocket. “Oh, speak of the devil, she’s calling me right now,” he says before answering. “Hey, Mom — Yeah, we’re at the woods behind Arnold’s — oh — oh, ok — Yeah, that sounds good. — ok, alright — see you later. Love you too.” He slides his phone back into his pocket. “They’re on their way.”

“Bro, you should totally take this with you. Try it tonight,” Arnold says, shaking that mysterious drink. “It might give you something to write about since you like making short stories and stuff.” He pops the cap and takes a small sip. “See, I did it too. Who knows, maybe we’ll see the same thing, Shawn.”

Smiling, Shawn grabs the water bottle. The fragrant aroma make his nose tingle. “Wow, this smells like a hot girl’s hair!” Shawn exclaims, taking a small sip. “Let’s see what happens. I’ll take this home with me. Hopefully this gives me some inspiration. I’ve been in a slump with Amanda going away for college.”

“Understandable. It kind of sucked when Jeff left, but whatever, you get used to it after the first semester. Besides, it’s not like you and Amanda can’t connect on FaceTime.”

Shawn shrugs. “I guess, but video calls just aren’t the same,” he responds. “Maybe she’ll drink some of this with me. What can go wrong, right?”

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