Purple Plum Dead Summer

Purple Plum Dead Summer

A Story by Marie Harrison

A childhood summer filled with death.



Purple of Plum Dead Summer

Summer was in full swing that hot humid July in northeast Texas. The high pitched screaming locusts would serenade the queen summer sun with her golden halo as she rose in the mid of day.  I had climbed up as high as I could go in the old gnarly limbs of the mulberry tree, picking magenta and black berries in my neighbor Trudy’s tree. 

My plans were to pick enough berries to make two pies, one for Trudy and her family.  I thought I could at least make her a pie, as a present for the use of her berries.  Then I would make a pie of my own pie to share with my family.  My Mother often encouraged me to cook when I felt creative.

Because of my low tolerance for boredom, I had to keep myself busy this summer and this task seemed to be as challenging and as exciting as I could find that week of the summer.  I already had been through three courses of swimming lessons, gymnastics camp and ballet camp.

The sprawling mulberry grew on the side of a small brook that ran on the edge of Trudy’s backyard.  It was nice and shady in the tree, so I wasn’t too uncomfortable in the July heat.  Trudy’s blonde haired son West would often try to talk to me as I picked berries. He was thirteen, a year older than me.  But I was too focused on my tedious task to divert my attention very much.

Being extremely vigilant on my hunt for mature berries and slithering, hanging serpents in the tree was very important.  Last week I almost picked a hanging brown cottonmouth snake.  Trust me from the look of his mouth, his name is very misleading. For his sharp fangs looked nothing like soft puffy balls of white cotton that he’s named for.  With his pointy fangs and his piercing diamond eyes, he was very menacing to me!

Once West had killed him with his sharp pitchfork, we examined his mouth by prying it open with my No. 2 chewed up pencil.  But of course that was after we chopped his head off with a machete several times. 

It was funny, because we had to sever his neck several times before the cottonmouth actually died.  He was a very stubborn snake; for he refused to gently die without a fight, like we wanted him to.

West’s mother Trudy was a five foot ten beautiful, thin forty-five year old intelligent woman with short curly brunette hair.  She was a very fashionable paralegal for Judge Kilpatrick in our small town.  I have to admit that I admirably looked up to her because she loved to read and she grew the most beautiful roses in Atkins, Texas.

Every year her husband, who was a handsome balding man who had formerly served as a naval officer in Vietnam War helped her plant flowers.  It was funny because Trudy’s husband Glynn was several inches shorter than his wife.  Glynn worked as a civil worker for the Social Security office, in his leisure time he also enjoyed working on woodworking in his shop.

Glynn was a very kind and loving husband, who helped his wife every year plant and work her beautiful rose garden.  He also had his own vegetable garden in his backyard.  Together they planted an assortment of white, yellow, red, orange and pink rose bushes with prickly thorns.  Most of full bushy roses had sweet aromatic scents that I loved to smell each day, but some of them had no odor at all.    

Anyway Trudy was watering her roses like she did every other afternoon, I was picking my berries, West was avidly cleaning his shotgun and we were all listening to the Texas Rangers play the Atlanta Braves on the radio.  West had been preparing his shotgun for his hunting trip this fall since the beginning of June. Seemed a little early to me.

Meandering out of the tall willowy tan grass came Butterscotch, my four year old golden retriever with her white silky hair.  Butterscotch liked to roam around and play in the ten acre barren field that butted up to our dead end street.

Butterscotch came up to Trudy and plopped down something that made a loud thud as it dropped.  Immediately Butterscotch started licking Trudy’s hand, as if she was begging for a friendly pet and for acknowledgement of the great trophy that she brought to show her love for Trudy.  Sometimes Trudy gave Butterscotch leftover table scraps from their dinner in the evening. Butterscotch was always grateful to Trudy.

Trudy started swatting a fly with the loose hand that Butterscotch had been licking and noticed the foul odor coming from Butterscotch’s fresh saliva on her hand.  Then Trudy looked down and noticed a purple bloated stick like item at her feet resting against her denim blue Keds tennis shoe.  Attached to the purple stick was a strange ripped black glove thing with fingers.  On one of the puffy black fingers was a shiny gold ring with a large red ruby in the middle of the ring that sparkled, as if it was winking at Trudy. 

Soon Trudy let out a shrill, shrieking scream at the top of her lungs.  In reaction to Trudy’s high pitched scream, I fell out of my tree; and West accidently pulled the trigger of his gun, firing a stray shot into Farmer Brown’s vegetable garden across the way. Butterscotch started barking and wagging her tail from all of the commotion.  She knew she stirred up excitement in her environment with her new trophy.  Butterscotch always liked to be the center of attention.

My Mother soon came running over to Trudy’s yard; she assumed that I had found another cottonmouth on my quest for sweet berries.  She looked down at Trudy who was passed out and at Butterscotch who was still wagging her tail and drooling on Trudy’s face.  Then my Mother a petite blonde thirty-four year old school teacher saw Butterscotch’s trophy too and she started screaming at the top of her lungs also. 

By this time, West ran over to see his Mom and he started crying. Finally my Dad came over to help.  He picked up Trudy’s water hose, which was still pouring water and sprayed some of it lightly on Trudy’s hand to awaken her.  Trudy finally came to.  Then we all went inside Trudy’s house, including Butterscotch who was temporarily put into Trudy’s garage for safe keeping from her new found purple prize trophy.

My father Gentry Sutherfield called the Atkins police department and said, “Yes I would like to request a police officer come to 4550 Land O’ Lakes Drive in Atkins.  We would like to report the arm of a corpse that was found by my daughter Annie’s golden retriever Butterscotch.” 

My Dad was a very handsome 6 foot blonde curly headed chemist at a manufacturing plant in Atkins.  He had bright aqua blue eyes just like mine.  My hair was curly like his, although my hair was much lighter than his was.  My hair was almost the color of Butterscotch’s hair.

Who did this strange arm belong to?  Why was it missing from the owner’s body?  Why was it a purplish black color, similar to the flesh of a plum?  Soon a team of ten police cars came to Trudy’s house to ask questions.  They brought a team of spotted beagle dogs and started scouring the vacant field next to our house. 

My Mom and I came back home out of the way.  She said, “Annie, your imagination is active enough.  We don’t need this keeping you up at night too!”  I was relieved; I really didn’t want to see that bloated arm again.  Besides it really stunk!  It was worst putrid, musty odor that I had ever smelled.  In fact, I had to wash my clothing two times that night just to get that smell out. 

That afternoon I took my berries home with me so I could start cleaning them and removing any worms that I saw on the berries.  As the dogs did their work, I baked both of my pies.  My Mom helped me too. She hadn’t given me full reign of the kitchen yet.  Especially after I accidently caught my oven mitt on fire last Christmas when I tried to make cherry almond divinity by myself.

At first, Sheriff Brock’s howling and sniffing beagles weren’t successful on their mission to find the remains that the missing arm came from.  A couple of days later, Butterscotch brought a stray hand too, perhaps from the other arm. 

She was just as proud as she presented this prize to Trudy.  But she didn’t cause the crazy circus of commotion that she created days before.  We were all expecting Butterscotch to mull up the other hand soon, because Sheriff Brock warned us that this might happen again very soon.

Sheriff Brock was a tan, six-foot five man, in his fifties with straight jet black hair and a sleek black mustache. This time the handsome sheriff had a better idea of how to solve this case. He decided just to let Butterscotch lead him and his pack of loud beagles back to the body. 

I got to go with Butterscotch because she was my dog.  They thought she would be more comfortable with me walking beside her.  She wagged her tail proudly every step of the trip as she led the huge parade!

We ended up walking through the ten acre field, crossing Lee Road and a quarter horse pasture and entering another vacant lot behind the Veterans Hospital.  It was in this vacant lot behind the Veteran’s Hospital where we found the rest of the rotting trophy.  My Mom kept me from seeing all of the dead body.  But I did get quite an eye full before she covered my eyes with her hands. 

I just saw a black purplish head with dry wisps of blonde hair.  I did see his gaping mouth open wide and I noticed a dark hole where one of his eyeballs had been plucked out.  West said that was probably plucked out from a black vulture that had been circling up above and crowing loudly.

The dead man’s name was Stephen Harris who we found still wearing his baby blue pajamas from the hospital.  In the end we discovered that Mr. Harris was a psychiatric patient who had been a Vietnam soldier years ago.  He was about 40 years old when he wandered off from the hospital.  In the field he had shot himself up with a lethal dose of a drug used for oral surgeries at the hospital. 

Apparently he had experienced much loss and personal trials on his tour of duty in the rice patties of Vietnam and he hadn’t been able to shake his vivid memories of the war’s events that he had seen.  His wife had also left him for another man months after he came back from Vietnam.

Little did we know that was only the beginning of our year of death that summer.  Soon one of our own would be the next to turn purple as plums that year in Atkins, Texas.




© 2010 Marie Harrison

Author's Note

Marie Harrison
This is still very rough. It's a first draft, riddled with errors I'm sure. This is Part I of the story.

My Review

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It's a little bizzare as a story, and the cliff hanger at the end sets it up for parts quite well. While it took me a while to get into the story - by the end I was reading quite intently. So as a first draft - you might like to think about using more impacting and drawing in language at the start, like narritive. To grab people's attention more.

While the first paragraph is good, I think you could play on the idea of 'read more for death' :P As silly as it sounds, it works. Personally, I was really put off by the killing of the snake - but that's just me being kind-hearted to everything. :P

I think your writing style is well nailed down - the short paragraphs are consistent and it is clear enough for everyone to follow and understand. However, I can't quite put my finger on exactly why I think this story could have been more... exciting?

Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed it, and would like to read on, I just feel it lacks something. Perhaps you can figure it out in a future edit? :P I didn't note any errors specifically, though editing is always beneficial.

My only other question is at the lack of shock on the reveal of the dead body - especially of a little girl. It might not be overly bad, but it'll have a horrid effect and a little less understanding than is shown, I think. So at the time you've mentioned the screams - but after that, she seems too casual about it. Perhaps play around with wordings here to hit on some emotive notes :) Thanks for sharing.

Posted 9 Years Ago

This is really good, well done.

Posted 10 Years Ago

A very good story. I like the strength of the story. You create positive people and a interesting tale. I like the description of the area and the people. A very good story with a sad ending. The V.A Hospitals are very sad. Just leftover of once strong men waiting for death. A outstanding story.

Posted 10 Years Ago

Vivid, colorful, brings the reader into the setting from the blueberry pie to the stubborn snake, to the dog and people, and other background details.

The snake part brought back memories of killing a rattler near a Kern Co. forest fire lookout tower my parents worked, and spent a summer at (along w/other subsequent and previous sites).

The finding a corpse part recalled the movie. . .Stand By Me, was it? Anyway, you have an excellent capacity to deliver a heightened sense of LIFE (and the husks of death), whatever format you assay.

Impressive realism.

Posted 10 Years Ago

I’m no expert when it comes to stories so I couldn’t tell of errors if any, but as far as the story line, you’re doing fine. Keep on writing.

Posted 10 Years Ago

What a trophy . . . leave it to a retriever to retrieve a hand . . .

I did see this. Looks like your program didn't catch the period and spaces.
It was in this vacant lot behind the Veteran’s Hospital where we found the rest of the rotting trophy. My Mom kept me from seeing all of the dead body

Posted 10 Years Ago

Some examples of comma usage I would change, personally:

Comma splices: "Anyway Trudy was watering her roses like she did every other afternoon, I was picking my berries."

Longer (though not necessarily run-on) sentences: "Especially after I accidently caught my oven mitt on fire last Christmas when I tried to make cherry almond divinity by myself." It's nice to just have a breath in the midst of a sentence this length.

Also, you can (but don't need to) add commas before the word "and", as it makes the pause a bit easier to immediately do. This works really well in longer sentences- I found some of them quite long, and it was difficult keeping track of things.

Either way, like I said, I think this was great, and these are personal changes that I think would make it smoother.

Nice job either way.



Posted 10 Years Ago

Great write- I would rephrase some thins, as some parts are quite awkward. Some changes in comma placement could definitely make this flow smoother. Also, I think that the voice should be more consistent- you are writing from a child's POV, and while some thoughts reflect that, others don't at all. Make sure that the language you use would be natural for a child to use.
I would also be wary of over-describing things, especially towards the beginning. Description is a large part of writing, but getting too flowery, or getting too wrapped up in making it beautiful can be distracting for the reader, and deter from further reading.

These things aside, I thought this piece was great- I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment. Nice job.


Posted 10 Years Ago

This is very fascinating, I couldn't stop reading. You left me wanting to know who next turns purple as plums.

Posted 10 Years Ago

I await the unraveling of this mystery...

Posted 10 Years Ago

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11 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on September 19, 2010
Last Updated on September 27, 2010
Tags: Summer, Death, Adventure, Family, Childhood, Horror, Dead Bodies, Dogs


Marie Harrison
Marie Harrison

Atlanta, GA

Momma told me to get out and enjoy life, so now I'm going to dance. more..


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