Priscilla Hooked Me Like A Fish

 Pris Shartle wrote a keepsake story about a gold bangle bracelet her mother wore around her wrist. 

Pris Shartle wrote a keepsake story about a gold bangle bracelet her mother wore around her wrist. 

Great writers know how to grab your attention from the very first words of their story. It’s called the hook—like the readers are fish swimming around in a murky pond who pause to read the first words of a story only to be hooked. The writer reels them in and carries them home for supper.

Some of the stories in Project Keepsake start with a bang. I’ve always loved the way Priscilla Shartle started her story, “Mama’s Gold Bangle Bracelet.” She used powerful dialogue between her and her sister to create upfront drama. Her words demand immediate attention, and readers can’t look away. Pris also crafted a beautiful transition to the body of her story. Here’s an excerpt.

Mama’s dead!”

For a few seconds I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or awake. I remember hearing the telephone ring and glancing at the clock on the bedside table. It was 7:30 a.m., Monday, April 1, 1991. It was my sister’s voice on the other end of the line, but surely Mama wasn’t dead.

“What do you mean, Mama’s dead?” I asked. The telephone seemed to weigh a ton as I held it tightly to my ear.

“Well, I think she is,” Lindy added.

I thought, “This is an April Fool’s joke, and not a funny one.”

Finally I got her to tell me that Daddy had called her and said Mama had died in her sleep. Lindy was at my parents’ apartment in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at my home.

“Have you seen Mama?” I asked.

Lindy replied, “No.”

My frustration and fear of what she was saying began to sink in and my temper flared. I screamed into the phone, ordering my sister to go see and make sure Mama really was dead.

The tears came once I boarded the airplane headed to Baton Rouge. The flight attendants were kind and tried to console me, but I could not stop crying.

My mother was a beautiful woman who lived a tormented life of alcohol and prescription drug abuse, but she did so in a functioning manner so as to give me and my brother and sister a fairly normal life—when she wasn’t drinking. The last twenty years of her life were sober and happy ones filled with love for her friends, family and grandchildren.

As far as I knew, Mama was not ill. Why would she die in her sleep, and why would she die without telling me good-bye? I was her oldest child and my questions came from my heart.

After the funeral and days of cleaning out her drawers and closet, Daddy became very possessive of Mama’s personal things. He said, “Take all the costume jewelry you want, but I keep the good jewelry.”

We obeyed, and Mama’s jewelry sat in her red leather jewelry case for the next twenty years.
— Priscilla Shartle from "Mama's Gold Bangle Bracelet"

Pris, like so many other Project Keepsake contributing writers, is a member of the Chattanooga Writers Guild, a nonprofit group that promotes, encourages and supports the craft of quality writing and creates a supportive environment for writers in the greater Chattanooga community. If you live around Chattanooga or Northwest Georgia, I encourage you to join the CWG. It’s a great way to meet other writers in the area.

After Project Keepsake was published and my box of paperbacks arrived, I met Pris on the side of the road in Kennesaw, Georgia and hand-delivered her copy to her. She was as bright and bubbly as always.

Thank you, Pris, for sharing your keepsake story with me and other readers. I look forward to reading other stories from your life.

To read more stories from Project Keepsake, please consider buying a copy. Visit the BUY page and find a bookseller near you.