Anna Maria's Guide to Resurrection
Anna Maria cradled the empty soup can between her palms and knelt at the base of the crooked oak behind the trailer she now shared only with her father. The tree was dead, like her mother. The can was the last piece to fix that, though. Well, that and the wait.
Seven years was a long time, but that was all right. Anna Maria had thought it through. When the girls on the playground had explained all the steps—and there were a lot of steps—this last one had made her pause. She would be nearly seventeen when it was finished.
But then she'd remembered the day she had finally gotten through a pop spelling quiz without missing a single word. She'd run until her legs nearly gave out, almost the entire two miles home. When she'd stumbled in the door, too winded to speak, triumphantly holding up the paper with "A+" scrawled across the top in red, her father had glanced up from his newspaper and grunted. He may have said "good." But her mother had abandoned her dinner preparations mid-baste and taken the crumpled paper from her sweaty hands. "Oh, Anna Maria," she had said, and she had beamed.
So on the playground, Anna Maria had closed the notepad with the detailed instructions the girls had provided, thanked them, and left. She didn't know why girls who had never been friendly to her had suddenly shown her such kindness, but then again, since the funeral people she didn't even know were offering her wisdom, prayers, and something called "condolences." (Not to mention an awful lot of flowers that were dying all over their trailer.) At least this was advice she could use.
So on the playground, Anna Maria had closed the notepad with the detailed instructions the girls had provided, thanked them, and left. She didn't know why girls who had never been friendly to her had suddenly shown her such kindness.
Some of it had been easy. First, peanut shells from the floor of Mansey's Tavern. She'd had to sneak in after dark and crawl under some feet for those, but it turned out people were more interested in the girl on stage than something bumping their legs. Three stones from the bottom of a river took barely half an afternoon.
The claw of a hairless beast might have been hard except her Aunt Aggie had one of those cats, and Anna Maria's mother had always helped trim its nails. Aunt Aggie had cried a little when Anna Maria offered to help, but it had been easy enough to swipe one of the clippings when they'd finished. It was nice to see her, too. Her face was round, like Anna Maria's mother's. When Anna Maria looked in the mirror, she saw something different. Something hollow.
Anna Maria had been worried about trying to get a piece of Bobby Cloverton's hair. "From the root," Stephanie had said on the playground. "Or it won't work." Bobby was one of the meanest boys in the school, and yanking on his head could easily lead to having her face smashed in the dirt. In the end, Anna Maria had worried for nothing. He'd been dozing during recess one day and she'd snuck up and plucked a hair right from his head. When he jumped and screeched at her, she assured him she'd saved him from a bee (or maybe a horde).
The biggest item, and the one that nearly ended her quest, took nineteen days from playground to success. For most of that time, Anna Maria had been convinced it was impossible.
Then she'd remembered the sunny day when Jason Brinton had jumped out from behind a parked car so she would swerve and crash her bike. He and his friends had all pointed and laughed at her while the hot cement burned her torn up skin because she was too embarrassed to get up.
Her mother hadn't told her to "find something in common" like their guidance counselor or to "ignore them until they get bored with you" like her father. Her mother had hugged her into her warm, vanilla scent and said, "Oh, Anna Maria" in the same tone she'd used when Anna Maria's favorite hamster had died. Then she'd taken her to the bathroom and washed her cuts and bandaged them and smiled at her.
Anna Maria tried to keep that memory fresh in her mind while she'd stared at the item on her list. Mrs. Olinskey's spit. If resurrection were easy, Anna Maria reasoned, then everyone would do it.
Anna Maria tried to keep that memory fresh in her mind while she'd stared at the item on her list. "Mrs. Olinskey's spit." If resurrection were easy, Anna Maria reasoned, then everyone would do it.
Mrs. Olinskey was their fourth-grade math teacher. Anna Maria's mother said (when she was alive) that Mrs. Olinskey reminded her of her grandfather, who worked the fields from dawn to dusk and wasn't interested in anything but food and sleep when he was done. "Stern" was the word she'd used, but Anna Maria would have said mean.
Anna Maria had thought of hundreds of ways to get Mrs. Olinskey's spit, but they all included getting other stuff too. Gum or a soda top or a straw or a licked envelope. Stephanie hadn't been as clear about this as she'd been on Bobby's hair, but Anna Maria hadn't wanted to take any chances. She was pretty sure pure was better.
So she'd taken a little sample bottle from the science room, then she asked. Mrs. Olinskey had looked at her like she'd lost her mind along with her mother, but after Anna Maria explained that she was working on a "project" and yes, it was helping her move past her grief (whatever that meant), and thanked her for her "condolences," Mrs. Olinskey spit in the bottle. A session with the guidance counselor seemed like a reasonable exchange.
Shells, stones, claw, hair, spit. Anna Maria could feel them beneath her, buried in a circle under the dead oak in her backyard. The soup can would complete the set. She dug a small hole and buried the final piece, then sat inside the circle and asked for her mother, as she would do every night for the next seven years.
It was really not so long to wait to hear "Oh, Anna Maria" one more time.
Sara Seyfarth likes to nerd out with spreadsheets, still uses a flip-phone, and is lucky enough to have a day job doing something that matters. She grew up in Michigan as a bit of a wanderer with a family that moved every few years, so her imagination was her constant companion. She wrote her first (short!) book at age nine and has been telling stories ever since.
Illustration by Meghan Irwin.