An Aunt Truly tale: Milk for Grandma’s coffee

by | Jan 19, 2020 | Aunt Truly's Tales, Fiction, Short story, Storytelling, The Kiminee Dream | 13 comments

Aunt Truly is a character in The Kiminee Dream, my first novel, which is slated for publication in May 2020. Aunt Truly, a woman so old nobody knows when she was born, takes in Carly Mae Foley, a teen who has escaped an abductor and is far from home. She cares for Carly Mae through an especially long, snowbound winter. One of the things Aunt Truly does to pass the time is tell stories. One of them, “The Frog Who Wouldn’t Budge,” is told in the novel.

She’s too cartoonish to be Aunt Truly, but she makes me smile.

As a companion project, I’m going to create a collection of stories Aunt Truly told to Carly Mae. I’m thinking I’ll include ten, but that might change. Over the next few months I’ll be posting drafts of stories I’ve been crafting, many inspired by folklore, that I’m considering for the collection. I’d love for you to share your thoughts on them — what’s working well, what could be improved, whether a particular story seems right for the collection, that sort of thing.

So, without further delay, here’s one I’ve been working on:

Milk for Grandma’s Coffee

One mornin’ when I was a slip of a girl, tall as a yardstick and slim as a lamb, I finished my chores and was moping because my big sister wouldn’t play with me. “I’ve better things to do than waste time with the likes of you,” she said, stitching a pillowcase for her hope chest, for she’d just turned twelve and had decided to put aside childish things, which appeared to include me.

A hungry cow.

I didn’t know what to do. I thought I might go visit friends at farm across the road. They loved to make mud pies with me. But my mother said no to that. So I went to Grandma, who was rocking back and forth in her squeaky rocking chair, and asked her to tell me a story.

“Well, dear child, I’d love to do that, but why don’t you tell me a story first?”

“But Grandma, I don’t have any stories to tell,” I replied.

She squinted and looked me up and down. “Hmm, then why not get me a spot of milk for my coffee?”

I thought for a minute and decided our cow could help me. “Sure, Grandma, I know just where to go,” I said, and took off for the barn. There, I greeted the cow, patted her neck, and asked, “Can you give me a wee bit of milk for Grandma’s coffee?”

The bovine nuzzled me, causing me to giggle. Then she said, “Well, dear child, I’ve already been milked today, but I’d love to help you and can give a little more if you get me some of that sweet, sweet hay I love to chew.”

“I’ll be happy to do that. I know just where to go.”

I ran to the meadow behind the barn and cried out, “Meadow, oh, meadow, can you spare some of your sweet, sweet hay for our cow?”

The meadow replied, “Well, dear child, I’d love to help you, but you’ll have to cut it yourself. There are no bales left.” 

“How will I do that?” I asked.

“With a scythe, of course,” the meadow said.

“I’ll be happy to do that. I know just where to go.” I dashed to my father’s toolshed, but there was no scythe. I looked in the barn, in the house, everywhere I could think of, and could not find a scythe, so I hustled off to the blacksmith to see if he had one.

At the blacksmith’s.

I arrived out of breath, greeted the blacksmith, who was at that moment standing at his anvil, pounding a red hot horseshoe into shape. 

He paused, hammer in mid air and said, “Well, dear child, I’d love to help you, but first I’ll need a bushel of acorns for my pig, who has a hankerin’ for them.”

Thinking of the great oak tree on the edge of our farm, I said, “I’ll be happy to do that, and I know just where to go.” And I was off. When I arrived, I made my request.

The great oak tree replied, “Well, dear child, I’d love to help you, but I can’t shake them down myself, and you’re far too small to do it. I’ll need you to bring me a blustery wind.”

I thought of Lake Michigan, the great inland sea, where the wind was always blowing hard, I’d heard. “I can do that. I know just where to go,” I said. And off I went again.

When I arrived, at last, at the great inland sea, I made my request. And the wind didn’t say a word. It just blew stronger and stronger, lifted me up, up, up, and carried me all the way back to the oak tree, where it shook down all the acorns I needed for the pig. 

I thanked the wind, which whistled away while I gathered acorns. I carried them to the blacksmith, who fed the pig and gave me a scythe. I thanked him and dashed to the meadow, where I cut sweet hay for the cow. I thanked the meadow, ran to the cow and fed her the hay.

She chewed, then mooed and said she was ready to give me milk for Grandma’s coffee. I milked the cow, thanked her, and brought a cup of milk to Grandma, who was rocking back and forth in her squeaky rocking chair, just like I’d left her. 

Ready to drink.

“Thank you, dear child. Tell me, how did you get the milk?” She winked and poured a little into her coffee.

So that day I told my very first story of how I got milk for Grandma’s coffee. When I was done, she told me story after story after story. And after that, my sister never brushed me off again because I always had a good tale to tell.

The end

So, what do you think?

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Influenced by folklore and magical realism, The Kiminee Dream is a lyrical story with characters equally charmed and challenged while living where the ordinary and miraculous coexist seamlessly. If you like depth as well as whimsy, arresting twists, and details that rouse your senses, you’ll love what is both an eloquent exploration of acceptance and a tender tribute to the people of Illinois.

13 Comments

  1. Suz

    Latte, with a minuet of cinnamon, etc, etc, and etc!. I love it and you too.

  2. Laura

    Thank you, Suz. How wonderful to hear from you! The novel is set in a fictional river town in Illinois. Since you are a life-long resident of the Land of Lincoln, I look forward to getting your insider’s view of the book when it is released in May, along with your thoughts on further companion Aunt Truly tales as I post them. Love and hugs to you.

  3. Ann Philipp

    Fun! Really fun. I liked how she thanked the wind, and the meadow and the cow. Gives it a bit of a mystical quality.

  4. Laura

    Thanks, Ann. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and it’s good to know it has a mystical quality. I hadn’t thought of that. … How is your cozy mystery writing coming along?

  5. Vicki Batman

    Oh my, Laura. I see a children’s book in this tale. Wonderful.

  6. Laura

    Thank you so much, Vicki! I hadn’t thought of turning any stories I intend for this collection into children’s books, but many authors have done that sort of thing. It’s something to consider for sure. The bones of this story come from an American folktale. I can’t remember where I first ran across it, but I’ve seen a couple versions of it. I had fun freshening it up, giving it new language and twists to make it my own. Some authors have used folktales to inspire novels. A novel based on folklore I want to read is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Now that’s a story with several variants in folklore. I’m curious to know where the author took it.

  7. Sara Etgen-Baker

    I rather liked it!

  8. Laura

    Thank you, Sara. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  9. mary

    I wish I was there, on that farm. Loved all your details. And I love coffee

  10. Laura

    Thank you, Mary. I’d like to be there, too! I used to drink coffee, but I prefer tea now. Every now and then I’ll get a fancy decaf mocha, something the characters in this story never imagined. It’s like having dessert.

  11. Patrice PH Garrett

    Loved your story. It was a sweet spot in a busy day. Thank you, Laura.
    Patrice

  12. Laura

    Thank you, Patrice. I love that the story was a sweet spot in your busy day. It warms my heart.

  13. Barbara Toboni

    Laura, you sure have a gift for a good story. That little girl must have been you!

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