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Repost of an old flash fic.

There were lightning bugs everywhere, a counterpoint to the dry buzz of cicadas from the cypress trees flanking Mamere Helene's house. They floated in the still air like tiny stars, blinking on and off, elusive and fascinating.

Cherice giggled, wandering through the grass around her grandmother's house with a Mason jar. She had the lid in her other hand, the top punched with holes, and every time she caught one she'd stick it in the jar with all the others. Sometimes she was a little too excited and she caught the bugs in her fingers and accidentally smashed them. The dead fireflies left soft glowy green streaks on her oversized T-shirt where she wiped her hands on the cotton.

When she was done she sat down in the soft wet grass and pulled the shirt over her skinny bug-bitten legs, then tucked her arms and hands inside the holes and wrapped them around her knees and watched the fireflies buzz around inside their glass prison. Her captured starlight.

The air smelled better up here than it had in the swamp. Mama Helene's house was stilted like all the others, in case of storms, she said. But it wasn't in the water or anything. It sat on a small hill overlooking the marsh, which made sense because Cherice knew if she had money she sure wouldn't want to build a house in a big stinky swamp like the ones they'd drive through. Mama Helene sat on the porch in her chair with her cat in her lap, smoking a cigarette and drinking her coffee.

Cherice heard a soft little giggle somewhere behind her.

She ignored it the first time. The second time she stood and wiped the dew off her butt, and went looking for the source.

The giggle was louder the closer she ventured to the back of the house with her lightning bug jar. It was really creepy back there, and if not for the winking lights of her jar and her own curiosity, Cherice would have turned back.

"Who's there?" she called. No answer.

At the same time she yelped in surprised pain from the thorny brambles in that unseen hedge to which she'd stumbled, she felt her grandmother's arms around her, lifting her out of harm's way. "No, no, pish'ette, don't wander off that way. It's dangerous. You'll fall into the nasty water and drown. Come back with Mawmaw."

She nodded and wrapped her arms and legs around the comforting softness of her grandmother's torso, her eyes fixed on the big thorny hedge she'd stumbled into unwitting. As they drew farther away, she thought she saw a pair of eyes gleaming at her from behind the thorns. 'Coons, Daddy would call them. There had been coons in the bushes back in the apartment building too and they liked to eat people's trash.

But the childish giggle that drifted towards her was no sound any raccoon ever made.


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The girl who stole the stars

August 2012

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