writing prompt from the book Write the Story by Picadilly
challenge words: brothers, potato, common, hands, boyfriend, alphabet, scribble, hydrangea, sandwich, tug-of-war
My brothers were back. They had been on a pilgrimage for the last three years, as all people of my village, Hopscotch, do when they turn seventy-five.
Some villagers have complained that maybe seventy-five is a bit late to see the world but no official vote has been conducted to change it.
But my brothers were back early. The typical pilgrimage was five years. Though I was glad to see them so unexpectedly, I also knew that pilgrimage’s ended early for two reasons. The elderly pilgrim had died on their journey. Or they had committed one of the Seventy-Five Sins. An act that would require a cleanse.
Samuel and Dean approached, hand in hand, waving as they strolled across the village lawn, past the hydrangeas for which Hopscotch is known. Hopscotch is nestled in a valley between two mountains affectionately called The Twin Molars. The Molar’s peaks are white all year but the valley is sheltered from harsh winds and snow, leaving it lush and tranquil.
Samuel and Dean embraced me and offered me the ceremonial potatoes. Before a pilgrimage, a villager harvested a potato from the gardens and took it on their journey. They brought back the same potato after three years and planted it into the same garden.
The two potatoes looked like a peach pit after all this time. I took them and tucked them into my armpits, sandwiching them in my warmth. Once the potatoes were warm I handed them back and my brothers grinned and we laughed. They were back. I was glad. But what happened out there?
As we lumbered down off the porch of my tiny home, not a small house but an actual tiny home on wheels, we talked about their adventures…beyond. Samuel had a boyfriend and Dean played a horrifying sounding game called ‘tug-of-war’. He was easily bested and thrown to the ground, breaking both his wrists. But what sins did they commit?
“So, brothers, tell me, why are you back early?” I needed to know before we got into the thick of the village. I wanted this cheer to last before the Elderly Elders got wind of their early arrival and commenced the cleansing ritual.
Samuel smiled, his wrinkles deep and his watery eyes carefree. Dean gazed at The Molars with appreciation.
“We just are,” Dean said.
“Sins?” I asked.
“Many,” said Samuel.
“Come with me,” I said, “You’ll need to be cleansed.”
They did not hesitate as I led them toward the Elderly Elder’s hut. I knocked and a raspy voice called out for the password. I recited the alphabet and the door creaked open. Three Elders sat scribbling onto paper. With one look at my newly arrived brothers the Elders smiled, then frowned.
“Sins?” they asked and Samuel and Dean nodded.
The Elders rose and approached. They wore their typical Elder cardigans and pleated pants. They were unmistakable in their power and prestige.
“Come with us,” one of the Elders said, leading the way to the Cleansing Cabin. Once inside two attendants turned on the lights. Eight common bathtubs filled the room. Two were already filling with water and soapy bubbles. Lavender. I smile, such a comforting scent. One I’ve known since my childhood.
Samuel and Dean removed their clothing and the Elders gave them privacy. They sank into the tubs and sighed in relaxation.
“Clean the sins from your body,” I said.
They each took a loofa and washed themselves. I handed them towels.
“Indeed,” they said. They dressed and we spent the evening eating homemade lemon custard and talking of the beyond.
Next year was my turn. I couldn’t wait.