Born: December 11, 1962
Died: July 5, 1981
By Nicole Lutrell
Here lies Gracie Jackson, and here I sit next to the grave of our beautiful Gracie girl. Our summer child, born in winter notwithstanding.
On the first day at her job at Grimley’s Hotel, I sent her to pick apples for baking
from the orchard. It had been so long since I’d made apple pies. There aren’t often
enough guests to warrant that kind of work. But there were two families there that
Gracie must have thought it a fine thing to do on a summer day, dressed as she
was in a cream sundress speckled with bright red cherries. There wasn’t a cloud in the
sky over the hotel. The clouds were off making mischief in other corners.
Maybe it was the cherries that attracted the stinging things. Or maybe it was her
rose perfume. Maybe it was just her presence there, among the apple trees they must have considered their own personal domain. We’ll never know, and it doesn’t really matter.
They couldn’t bear her. And so they took to stinging our poor Gracie.
When I found her it looked as though she’d fallen asleep, apples from her basket all around her. The smell of sweet, rotting fruit covered the stench. The cherries on her dress did a good job of camouflaging the bloodstains.
Gracie was born right here in Unpleasantville, to parents Bertie and Beni. They say they come from somewhere down south, but they can never remember the name. They say they only stopped for gas in our little town, but their car wouldn’t start again afterward. Or any time they’ve tried to leave since.
Gracie, born two months before her time, seemed determined to stay right here in Unpleasantville. Or maybe it was Unpleasantville that was reluctant to part with her. As it is clearly so reluctant to part
with so many of us. Try as we might to escape.
Gracie was known for having a big heart. A giving heart. Her former classmates all shared stories of her sweet, patient nature and generous attitude. They said she just gave and gave. That her good, pure heart never seemed to rest. Perhaps that’s why some at her wake thought it might still be beating an infrequent pulse.
Gracie loved the summer more than anything. She could be found fluttering around Unpleasantville, a bright spot on our dark streets, singing little tunes all the while. She acted each season at the Tin Roof theater, often gracing us with her soprano voice. None of us looked forward to her leaving the town for college in the fall.
Surely the stinging things were the only creatures in Unpleasantville who didn’t love Gracie. Her spirit will live on here, in the hearts of those who knew her. Visitors to the graveyard say that they hear something coming from her gravesite. The only disagreement seems to be whether they hear her singing one of her little tunes, or whether she’s screaming.
It could also be, of course, that the screams are coming from a different grave. Though the stinging things have won the day, fear not. Gracie certainly won’t be their last victim, but their time is limited. Their constant droning buzz is the background of our summers here, invading parks, river trips, and even the homes of some unfortunate souls.
But winter will come. And when it does it will put those stinging things, and a few of us, in the ground.
I hope that Gracie might find peace. I like to think of her sitting under a fruit tree in paradise, somewhere far away from our town. Perhaps with sweet insects, ladybugs and crickets. Things we don’t often find here. Perhaps they have such things in the town her parents hailed from, whatever that might be.
But I fear she will not find peace for some time. Her hair was still buzzing with the stinging things when we laid her in her casket. None were brave enough to remove them after Calvin Kroft’s unfortunate accident. Some who attended her funeral even said they saw something moving behind her eyelids. As though she wasn’t dead, only dreaming sweet dreams.
Goodbye Gracie Jackson, you will be missed. Our summer child, born in winter notwithstanding.
Nicole is a speculative fiction writer. That means she writes about dragons, ghosts and spaceships. She's the author of several horror, science fiction and fantasy novels, the latest of which being Quiet Apocalypse. You can find her on her blog, Paperbeatsworld.com, or on Instagram at @nicolecluttrell86 and on Twitter at @Nicole Luttrell