One of my fondest Telltale memories was starting a writing club with some of my co-workers. Every week or so, we’d all write short stories based on the same prompt and share them during lunch the following Tuesday. I found this one from March 2017 on my drive, and I still like it a lot, so I thought I’d share.
A cracked bone floated up from the muddy pond OR “Warning, may cause SHC”
When they met for the first time, they were both twelve, though she would have lied and said she was fourteen, had he asked. It was summer vacation, and his parents had dragged him to Grandma’s house in what seemed to be the land of tall grass and marsh. He only ventured out when he ran out of notebook pages to doodle in, though there wasn’t much to look at besides mud and more mud. At the edge of a the largest muddy puddle, he found her holding a makeshift fishing rod – made from a stick and some string – over the cloudy liquid that passed for water.
“I don’t think there are any fish in there,” he said.
“Maybe not fish,” she replied, giving the stick a tug, “but treasure. Sometimes.”
Hanging from the loop of string was a cracked bone that looked like it belonged to some kind of bird. She scowled as she released it from its trap and passed it to him.
“You can have it. I have seven. Want to try?”
She held out the stick. For lack of anything better to do, he began dragging the string along the bottom of the shallow pond. After a few minutes, he felt resistance and slowly tugged on the stick. This time, the loop of string held a piece of sparkling green glass.
“Whoa, cool,” her eyes lit up.
“Might make a pretty necklace,” he said as he gave it to her.
“Jewelry’s annoying,” she said, but continued to admire filtered green sunlight.
They stood in silence for a few minutes.
“Want to race or something?” she offered eventually.
“Nah. You look like you could run circles around me.”
He was probably right.
The next time they met was three years later. She intended to join the track team at school that fall, and on one of her runs, she found him standing by the same pond. He was skipping stones across the water. There was noticeably less of it, but it was no more clear.
His stones were making two hops. She decided to try it too, and hers made four.
“You have to be cheating,” he sighed, throwing another stone. It only made one hop before sinking into the mud.
They soon ran out of stones to throw. She found a stick and started scraping at the bottom of the pond in hopes that one would float up.
What floated up instead was a small, empty medicine bottle, its label long since worn away except for a single legible line that read: “Warning: May cause SHC.”
“What do you think SHC stands for?” she mused.
“Serious Health Condition?”
“Boring. How about, hmm… Sugary Hell Club?”
“Sudden Headache Cure.”
“Strangely Heavy Chocolate.”
“Sparkly Heart Crisis.”
“Spontaneous Human… Castration.”
They laughed uncontrollably for at least ten minutes.
She resumed her run, and he gazed longingly at the sunset on his way back to the house. He had kept the bottle.
She studied astrophysics and marine biology before deciding to be a programmer. He spent his days as a camp counselor and his nights painting the songs of the world. He’d had many stumbling blocks on the road to finding love. She decreed that relationships were pointless and unnecessary.
They were both alone when they found themselves together in that marsh, in a place where there was once a muddy pond. Neither expected a meeting, nor found it particularly surprising, as though it was simply the natural course of things.
“I thought you found jewelry annoying,” he said by way of a greeting.
His eyes found the pendant she was wearing over her dress shirt. It was an irregular shape, green, and glittered brightly in the sun.
She grinned, meeting his eye.
“Annoying and beautiful aren’t mutually exclusive. So did you ever figure out what SHC stands for?”
“Strongly Held Connection.”
After a beat, they both said, in unison: “So, what is your name?”