In the writing prompt you were to incorporate the Youngstown sign. This is what I came up with. What would you think up for this prompt?
The drought swallowed the river. Maggie stood on the old iron bridge missing the watery haven she enjoyed as a child. The year she’d left for college the water splashed passed the old Ohio sign which read:
Maggie glanced at the crisscrossed metal overhead. Like a time capsule, visions of Jeffery dangling from the top bar like a monkey came flooding back.
Regret filled her heart, those times had withered away like the river. Why did she worry so much about growing up to be the successful business women? She had floated over the rapids of childhood like a visitor, and yet Jeffery anchored himself down to enjoy every moment. Maggie stared at the sign that reminded her of her youth. “Why did I want this life so badly?”
Success brought responsibility that at times felt like a current of water holding her under.
Beneath the sign poked the corner of a box. Maggie recognized it and took off her high-heels to run down the riverbank. A choking cloud of dust blackened her gray slacks. She didn’t care.
Clods of debris flew into her long blond hair, “Why’d Jeffery hide it here?” Her manicured nails were caked with dirt as she dug for the release of this familiar treasure.
Jeffery carried this wooden Crayola box every time they visited the river. She teased him about the valuables he stuffed inside. Never did she think he’d part with it.
The box finally came loose from its grave. Maggie opened it to see three familiar items inside. One by one she lifted them out.
A fishing line with a bobber and hook. Years ago the two dangled their feet over the bridge and fished with this line. Whoever found the best stick got to do the fishing. Maggie usually found the sturdiest twig but didn’t have the patience for the sport so Jeffery took over. The conversation was enjoyed more than fishing anyway. Occasionally they caught something, this meant Maggie had to carry the fish home so her brother could carry his box. She hated smelling like fish, but how she wished could now.
Maggie rolled the fish line around the bobber and placed it by her side, then pulled out a homemade toy boat. A tear pooled in the corner of her eye.
Her younger brother insisted on making boats to float. Maggie agreed if they could race them. Because of their age difference, Maggie’s boat looked more polished, yet Jeffery spent more time on his. The first time they floated them down the river, Maggie screamed with delight. Hers sailed yards ahead of Jeffery’s. He worried more about the paint pealing.
As Maggie sprinted forward with her boat, Jeffery lagged behind ensuring its safety. Soon Maggie heard a splash; she stopped and looked back. Jeffery plunged into the water to rescue his boat from sinking.
Maggie let her boat go and helped him from the river. “Why’d you go and do that? Mom didn’t want us gett’n dirty.”
“Didn’t want to lose it.” Jeffery whimpered as water puddled at his feet.
She patted him on the back. When they walked through the door muddy and wet, Maggie lied to her mother, “Jeffery slipped.” He flashed his mother some sad eyes to help seal the deal.
They listened to her curse. “At this rate, there’s going to be more dirt in my house than in that riverbed. Now both you change, so we can meet your dad in town.”
From that moment, Jeffery perfected his boat and brought a net to stop it from sailing on. He’d always tuck in back the box when they headed home.
Why didn’t I savor anything? Maggie thought as she pulled the last item out of the box. A skipping rock. They’d always search for the flattest rock to skip. Maggie ran her hand over the smooth surface then dropped it in the box and sobbed.
Why did Jeffery hide the box? Maggie wondered. She didn’t even know if he knew the the river had dried up. Eight years had passed since Maggie and Jeffery last hung out at the bridge together. Since then, Jeffery graduated, married and started a family and yet he still had the ability to enjoy the moment. For the first time, she realized she needed a net to block the boat of life.
Maggie safely packed away the items inside the box and without dusting herself off, she carried it under her arm as Jeffery had, so long ago.
When she walked into the house, her mother said, “Mag, what in the world happened?”
Maggie giggled. “Momma, I’m going to do it. I’m going to marry Rob. I’m finally going to do it.”
“That means moving to Maine and quitting your job. Are you willing to give up that promotion?”
Maggie looked down at the box in her hands. “Yes.”
Her family never understood why she turned down Rob’s marriage proposal in the first place. “Its time to savor the moments and live.” Maggie gave her mother a hug.
Visions of the dry river came to her. “Before it’s too late.”
Maggie sent Jeffery a package: a fishing line, a boat and a skipping rock with an attached note that read, “Thanks little brother. I’m living young again.”
She kept the box as a reminder to enjoy the moment.