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  • Writer's pictureKali Kuzma

Golden Hour in Clementine: A Random Generator Short Story Challenge

A Prompt Chosen from Real Life Experiences

The other day I thought to myself, why don't I write a story based on things I see or hear throughout the day? Anything that catches my eye.


Well, two things stuck with me. Dust floating in the air, the sun's rays catching the specs to make them look like gold flecks. Another, the name Clementine. A name I wasn't fond of until that moment.


Unlike my usual random generator short stories challenges I felt this one to be more open which in itself can be a challenge. but I knew those two elements together, I could create a great story.

 
Golden Hour in Clementine

Have you ever experienced golden hour?


The way the light hits just right casting shadows at bay before they inevitably overtaking the skies ombre of color. The warm filter capturing the landscape in a dark glow with flecks of gold as nature settles. There is always the slightest breeze that in a few minutes will sting your cheeks but for now highlight your freckles. The same breeze that opens your lungs and makes you thankful for the day. Even in the beauty and warmth and light, you yearn. You yearn for the feeling of young love, for endless adventures, for summer days where connecting with others gives way. In those few minutes of the golden hour, you have everything, yet desire so much more.


So, I ask you again. Have you ever experienced golden hour?


Because I have.


And her name is Clementine.


 

It was the Winona County Fair. The same one I had gone to since I could teeter on two legs. My mother's cherry pie filling our nostrils as we followed her to the judging booth. Dora May giving us a white toothed smile. "Cherry pie again, Martha?" Her head tilted like a dogs as if asking an innocent question knowing full well she could bite.

"Why, yes it is, Dora. I figure one of these years we will finally get a judge who knows what a true pie tastes like," my mother jabbed back replicating Dora's smile with a small laugh. Dora's husband had been the reigning judge for the past twenty years with Dora May receiving a blue ribbon for each of them. "See you at the judging."


She turned to us then, "Now you two go on and be good. If I hear about any funny business, I'll see to it you both get a bush whacking so hard you won't be able to walk until school starts, you hear?"


Our mother was a kind woman. Always taking good care of us but we knew better than to set her off. She was a gal of her word to which we didn't want to be on the other end.


It wasn't long before my younger brother Dale, only 10 at the time, split up. Him to see the pigs, apparently Jimmy Banes had a winner of a hog this year, while I passed the gaming booths in search of my friends. I could hear their escapades before seeing them.


"Give me that!" Stewart pushed Harry to the side. "It was my penny that paid for that there cotton candy."


"Leave him be, Stewart. You know his mama ain't let him have anything to sugar his teeth. Let him live a little," Tommy snatched the cone of fluff taking a large bite out of the side before handing it to Harry.


"You know his mama will ground the poor kid all summer if she sees him with that," I snatched the treat from his hands before he could take a bite and passed it to Stewart whose brows were furrowed towards Tommy.


"Oh, look Stewart, Jack here to ruin the fun times again," Tommy punched me in the shoulder.


"You lot know I want this to be the best summer we've ever had and we can't do that if Harry's grounded the first week of summer now can we?"


Tommy rolled his eyes while Stewart shoved the sugar fluff into his mouth. Harry nodded in agreement. "Now come on, what are we gonna to do first?"


My favorite games were to knock bottles or ring toss. I'd won a fish every year with the ring toss. Dale still had last year's prize swimming in the same bowl. I'd given it to him after a bout where'd he returned home with a black eye and some scuffs on his elbows and knees. He didn't have many friends, but Bubbles seemed to cheer him up some.


"Why don't we see if we can hit the bell?" Stewart chimed up. We all groaned in unison.


"You know as well as I that we'll be the laughingstock of the town if we go do that. I just saw Pete's gang head that way anyways. We ain't got nothing compared to them."


Barry Petesman ran with a group of older boys. Much stronger, hairy boys who all the girls pined after. We tried to avoid them, not because they were mean or vindictive, but because of how small and scrawny we looked compared to them. Barry already had a mustache coming in and I hadn't even cracked a single word yet. At 14, I was the last to have a squeaky voice but at least I had some armpit hair growing in. Harry looked like a waxed baby despite his name.


"Fine, let's go toss some bags," I suggested heading back in the direction of the booths.


"I ain't paying if Earlson is running the booth. He's a good for nothing cheat," Tommy's voice mingled into the crowd. "He still owes me a dime from two summers ago."


But it wasn't old Earlson heading the booth this year. It was Mrs. Johnson from Sunday school. "Oh, hello boys. Thomas, did you make sure to give your mother that prayer bracelet I gave you last week?"


"Yes, mama," he hung his head low. No matter how much he talked backed or gave us shit he could never act that way in front of adults. His pa had made sure of it when Tommy gave Mr. Parker down the road some lip a few years back. It was the last time he'd done that when he showed up to school with a pillow to sit on and a wince in his step.


"Ah, wonderful! Now what can I help you boys with?"


"Can I get five bags?" I tossed a nickel on the table. It was all the money I had, but I knew I could win. The last few years, I'd had my eye on the BB gun hanging above the prizes. Each year, I'd lost only needing one more toss to win.


"I didn't realize you were such a risk taker, Jackson Dean," Mrs. Johnson chuckled pushing five bags my way.


"Got to get that there BB gun you see," I said tossing the first bag which landed perfectly in the hole meters away. What Mrs. Johnson and the others didn't know is I'd been practicing all year with Dale as my pretend booth worker. We'd set up in the yard during the fall and spring months but took to the garage once the weather turned sour.


Another bag landed, then another.


"You got it Jack," Harry encouraged from behind.

"Go, Jack, go," Tommy sarcastically waved his arms in the air before snatching the cone from Stewart's hands and taking the last bite. Stewart, stunned, could only fold his arms in frustration and stick out his tongue.


The fourth bag found its way with a thud. I wiped my forehead of sweat tossing the bag from one hand to the next. The fifth and final bag was always the hardest. It was where I always missed, but not this year. I blew air from my bottom lip as I swung my arm back. In that moment, nothing existed. Not my friends, not the crowd humming behind me, only me, the bag, and the hole. I let go and watched the bag soar.


 

We were over by the pond shaded from the summer sun and admiring my new BB gun. It didn't come with pellets, but I would make sure to mow a few lawns in the coming weeks to buy some.

"Did you see the look on Petes' face when Mrs. Johnson handed you the gun? Even he was impressed."

"Shut up, Harry. We were there, we all saw Petesman pat Jack here on the back," Tommy was flicking dirt out from underneath his nails. "It's not like we can do anything with it anyways without any pellets, now can we?"

"Well, no, but to have Petes...."


Harry's voice faded into the background my attention being pulled across the pond. Lilly and Tilly, the Turner twins could be seen in with their backs turned talking to someone. I squinted, my eyes trying to look past them to see who they were speaking to and as if on cue they separated. My breath caught and eyes widened.

"Take this," I pushed the gun into Stewart's sticky fingers still looking at the other side of the pond, "I'll be right back."

I didn't know what I was doing as the boys called after me, but I kept my eyes across the pond and followed the path around to the other side. Lilly and Tilly were giggling but stopped at my appearance.

"Hi," I said sticking my hand out, "I'm Jack, Jack Dean."

"Hello," the girl replied taking my hand in hers, "I'm Clementine."

 

The twins giggled again, but I didn't care as I stared into the bright blue eyes accompanied with a spattering of light gold flecks across her cheeks. Clementine. Her name was Clementine. She hadn't given me her last name, but I didn't mind. Not when someone has pretty as her existed.

"Clementine is visiting for the summer," the twins harmonized with one another. "She's our cousin."

We were still holding hands, I too scared to let go afraid she would disappear. She smiled tucking a lock of auburn hair behind her ear. "Have you been to Shakie's yet?" I asked.

"Of course she hasn't, silly, she just arrived yesterday," the twins interjected with a giggle.

"I can take you if you want? Friday night?"

Clementine shook her head, "I would like that very much."

"Okay, I'll see you there at 6, then. If for some reason you get there before me, try to get one of the booths on the right. They aren't as sticky as the rest."

We stared into each other's eyes for a heartbeat when Tommy called out my name. "Jack! Your mother is looking for you!" Dale was with the group now holding another fishbowl in his hands. When I looked back, Clementine pulled her hand from mine our eyes still locked. "C'mon Clementine," the twins grabbed her by the shoulders pulling her away.

"Friday at 6!" I called after them.


 

The following days were spent mowing neighbor's lawns within a three-block radius. I didn't want to encroach on Tate McRay's 'territory' as he called it, but to see Clementine again, I needed to make sure I'd enough money.


She was all I'd been thinking about since the moment I had seen her across the pond, standing there in her blue lace dress, the golden hour making her air glow as if on fire.


Waking with the robins and working until the moon was full in the sky, I was able to scrap up a dollar. More than enough for a burger, fries, and shakes for the both of us. The coins clinking together in my pocket, I was ready.


Anxious, I made my way to Shakie's early in hopes to get a good booth. One that the foam wasn't spewing out of the cracked plastic trying to hold it in or sticky, as I had told Clementine. Friday nights were the most popular which meant a less likely chance of getting a good booth, but I had to try. At 5:30 pm, the place was just filling up and I snagged the gang's favorite spot. Three from the right when you walk in.


Lucky for me, I knew the group wouldn't be hanging out here this evening. Harry had been grounded for a week after his mother caught him eating sugar, the pinkish hue residue still on his tongue when he got home. And Tommy thought I was the one putting a damper on any kind of fun. He clearly underestimated Mrs. Fredrickson's lack of no nonsense.


The bell dinged against the door frame indicating a new customer. I sat upright in my seat seeing Clementine walk in and look around. The twins following close behind. My smile dropped seeing them with her but quickly regained my composure when they headed for two open counter seats located on the other side. I gave a slight wave when Clementine turned my way. She scooted into the booth tucking her green dress under her.


"Hi," I beamed. She was just as I'd remembered except this time her hair was pulled away from her face half clipped back.

"Hi," she replied shyly folding her hands into her lap.

"Do you like Oreos?" I asked. She nodded in approval. "They're my favorite and...."

The night was a blur. By the time the oreo shakes had arrived, my nerves were gone as I listened to her tell stories of her childhood, her siblings, and friends back home. Watched as her hands fluttered about in the retellings, eyes full of wonder and excitement. Her smile beaming from ear to ear or her soft laugh at something funny I had said. By the time we'd left, the moon was high, our milkshakes melted and fries gone cold. I took her hand and walked her home.


It was like that everywhere we went. Engrossed in each other as the summer days followed. Days at the local pool where sun kissed her skin to a light tan freckling her body even more. Nights were spent looking at the stars, the twinkling lights bringing wonderment to us both. Her first time at the movies where I finally gained enough courage to kiss her in the back row for the first time. The twins, and boys sitting in front of us throwing popcorn at each other. Harry and Stewart casually putting their arms over their shoulders.


Bike rides to the gully, days spent in treehouses, and firecrackers in the July heat were what made me wish the summer would never end. But it was the night I told Clementine I loved her that she told me she would be leaving in a week's time. Her father telling her to come home early due to her grandmother's failing health. The golden hour in which I had been entranced was now coming to an end. The darkness of the night closing in from behind. I said my final goodbyes to Clementine on the last day my hands cupping her face and tears streaming down mine. I needed to get lost in her wonderful blues eyes one final time.


A week before school, my mother sent me to the garage in charge of clearing it out before the leaves first fall. There, I found my bb gun, dusty and unused sitting on top of my mother's second place ribbon. A warmth washed over me, and I found myself a little while later seated in front of the pond. The very first place I'd seen what golden hour truly felt like, where I'd meet Clementine. I watched the sunset drop below the trees yearning to have it for just a little bit longer.

 
Final Thoughts

Apparently, I'm in the mood to write about coming-of-age stories lately with my last short story being Crossing Paths. Even though not my genre of choice I'm okay with changing it up a bit. But who knows, maybe it will become permanent if I keep at it!


In case you were wondering how I came up with the idea, it was on a trip home to visit my parents in which I was thinking about the name and the gold flecks. The overall feeling of calmness I felt watching as they drifted to the ground. I decided I wanted to capture a feeling in the story, something that can be hard to portray. There's no other way of portraying a feeling than comparing it to something most people experience. That's when the thought of golden hour came to mind. My favorite time of day and one many people take note of. It felt right to have Clementine be compared to gold hour.


Overall, I did not think I would write a story like this based on the items that stuck out to me over the day but I'm glad I did. I cut this story bit short and hope one day to come back to it with more details of their summer days and what Clementine meant to Jack. But for now it can stay a short story with us wondering what ever happened to Clementine and the golden hour she brought with her.


If you liked this short story, tell me in the comments below! You can also check out my past stories here:









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