No editing is allowed while writing so this is a very raw draft.
Here is what I wrote.
The church bells floated across town on the same breeze that rustled the skirt of my new dress. I smoothed down the blue ruffles and turned to ask Grandpa what he thought of my dress. He was staring into the leafy top of the maple dream, a small smile on his face.
“Grandpa, what are you doing?” I tugged on his hand.
“Someone has died, my pet,” he said, the smile disappearing into the wrinkles that marred his face.
I lifted my head and listened to the bells. Shaking my head I turned to him. “How do you know?”
To my young ears the bells sounded no different then they did on Sunday when they called us to worship.
“They are slow, solemn.” He lifted a hand to the air and pulled on nothing. “Old Bertha, little Mary, hear how slow they ring?”
I stared at him. Had he lost it like Mommy was always saying. “Who’s old Bertha and little Mary? Did they die?”
Grandpa shook his head. “No, Bertha and Mary are two of the bells in the church.”
He lead me to the porch and slowly climbed the stairs. His bones creaked as he sat in the old rocking chair. He lifted me into his lap and stroked my red curls. I leaned into his comforting embrace and felt his heart pound out its own rhythm against my cheek.
“When I was about the same age as your brother I started ringing the bells in that church.” His hand stilled as the sound of the bells faded away. “Every Sunday morning I climbed into that bell tower and began to pull the ropes to call everyone to church.”
“Where they heavy?” I had seen the bells from below and they looked big. How my brother could pull them I didn’t know. He was only twelve and even if he did think he was strong I could sometimes beat him up even if I was only ten.
“Yes but I soon learned not to think about the weight. For years I rang those bells, for wedding, funerals, baptisms.” He voice rumbled on in my ear as he told me of the bells and what each was used for. He spoke of how he learned to play different songs as each bell played certain notes. He used the names he had given the bells and spoke of them as if they were old friends.
“Why don’t you play the bells anymore, Grandpa?” I asked as his voice trailed off, lost in the memories of the old friends that never betrayed him even in rain, snow, war and night.
He smiled sadly at me. “Because the people of the church thought it was time for me to retire. Your cousin plays them now. He learned from me and one day he will remember those bells as I do.”
He set me on my feet and disappeared into the house. I stood for a moment, straining to hear those bells again. But the wind had died and the bells were still.
I sat on the steps trying to understand what I had just heard. For just a few minutes Grandpa had seemed happy and young again. The wrinkles in his face had lifted and his blue eyes sparkled again. And as he spoke his hand had reached up pulling on nothing in the air, pulling as if he still stood in the bottom of that bell tower letting the town know that it was time for worship. In his mind it was him pulling the bells to let the people know that someone had died, that new life had been welcomed into the open arms of a growing family.
And I wondered if he had rung the bells when I was born.
Three days later the bells rang out their sad tune again and this time I walked beside my brother from the church. My blue dress had been replaced by a black one. Mommy walked beside Grandma and Grandpa lay in the black box as the horses pulled it away.
And the bells, Bertha and Mary, rang out one last time as my grandfather’s body was lowered into the ground.