Sins of the Mothers

Below is my round eight entry for NPRs Three Minute Fiction. For reasons I will not discuss, I have chosen to withdraw it for consideration in the contest. This has nothing to do with the fine staff at NPR who coordinate and run this contest.

Sins of the Mothers

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. Her decision was made.

She stepped outside onto the wide wraparound porch and stared out across the land. The fallow field ran back to the distant tree line. Somewhere an owl hooted and was still. She hugged herself against the crisp night air.

The wind shifted, bringing with it the dry dusty smell of corn from a neighboring field.

Her baby kicked. She placed her hand on her belly, could feel its tiny feet beneath her skin. Five months along, two months longer than her first pregnancy. This was her miracle baby.

A wave of nausea swept over her. She sank down onto the porch steps. Crooning an old familiar Scottish lullaby, she rocked back and forth, soothing herself as much as her baby.

She had grown up here, had entertained thoughts of moving back and raising her child here. This land was MacMillan land.

Her husband didn’t understand. He’d grown up in the city, had never felt dirt squish between his toes or plunged his hands into rich dark soil warm from the summer sun.

“It’s a fair offer,” her attorney had said, when he called her. “The land isn’t good for anything.”

“It’s my family’s land,” she‘d said. Though truth was, it had been years since she’d set foot on it.

“Think about it,” he’d said, before disconnecting.

Her husband wanted her to sell it.

“It’s my decision,” she’d argued, packing a suitcase. “I’m the last one.”

She found the book jammed behind an empty shoebox in the back of once had been her parent’s closet. She shivered as her fingers brushed across the worn leather. She pulled it out and turned the small volume over in her hands. Embossed on the cover in gold calligraphy was “The Book of Naming.” Her fingertips tingled as she cracked it open.

Inside was an accounting. The book was a litany of horrors. A story of human sacrifices, ancient rituals practiced to a forgotten fertility god, rites passed down in her family from one generation to the next.


















She stared up at the harvest moon and whispered each name. Sixteen children. Sixteen small sacrifices. Their forgotten bones buried in the field behind the house.

Wynda. She spoke the last name aloud. Her name.

She picked out Orion’s Belt, the Summer Triangle, and the Big Dipper. She used the pointer stars in the Big Dipper to find the North Star. Her father had taught her the names of the constellations before they’d moved away when she was five, too young to understand. She only remembered raised voices, sudden silences when she walked into a room and, more than once, her mother crying, silent sobs shaking her shoulders.

Her parents chose to give her the gift of life. They paid a high price for their disobedience. The land failed them. They had sacrificed everything for her, as they struggled to eke out a hardscrabble existence.

Tomorrow this land would belong to the TRC Development Corporation. The sins of the mothers buried beneath concrete and asphalt.

Her baby kicked again, harder. She rubbed her belly, watching the Milky Way wheel overhead.

She doubled over with a hard cramp. It felt as if someone had punched her in the stomach with an iron fist. Her baby’s kicking stuttered, paused, ceased.

She struggled to her feet, as she felt wetness between her legs.


6 comments so far

  1. Angi Gray on

    This is such an interesting story, one that begs to be expanded, explored. It’s a shame you withdrew it, but such a pleasure to be able to read it here without having to wait for it to show up in the favorites – which I think it very well could have!

    • Roberta Codemo on

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thank you. Be sure to follow my blog.

  2. Jeff Swanson on

    This is an excellent story. You have talent. Maybe without being distracted by haters, you can get more writing done! 🙂 Seriously, if I were you, I would’ve just stuck it out. The Internet is so full of ninnies and haters, it’s just not worth getting upset over. Keep writing!

  3. domi on

    Kudos for getting into the 3MF “favorites” however briefly. If it’s any consolation, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” (1948) still holds The New Yorker magazine’s record for the most angry letters (including one from Jackson’s own mother) and subscription cancellations ever in response to any story, fiction or non-fiction.

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