Since I have stopped writing on my silly blog I thought I would dedicate some more time to this one.
Here is a short story I wrote; hope you enjoy it.
“Not goin’,” she said simply.
Nobody ever argued with mamma and daddy didn’t even then, though you could see the concern in his eyes.
Another little sister had been born, took a look at her surroundins’ set out a wail, and as if she was aware of the misery that would accompany such a place as this, promptly gasped her last breath and gave up the ghost.
The doctor had come too late and there was whispered talk among the neighbor women, who had come on over to help, that he probably could have done no good had he been there, anyhow.
She had come fast that baby, eager, it seemed, to see where she had landed.
And just as eager to leave the misery behind and seek out her heavenly reward rather than remain in such a place as this.
She lived exactly 33 minutes 10 seconds, but I reckon only God and the angles had kept the time.
Momma weak from hunger, fatigue, overwork had collapsed and slept 6 hours before she was conscious enough to realize what had happened.
Daddy had come home 8 hours later smelling of the moonshine he brewed up in the mountains and was obliged to taste and having tasting it for quality was apt to drink too much of it.
He looked at his weeping wife, dead daughter, the rest of us eight hungry children and without saying a word turned around and vomited all over the floor.
The neighborhood women were disgusted and not afraid to tell Henry James Jr. just what they were thinkin’ of him.
He ignored them and sat beside his wife; his head bowed down like a little boy in trouble, and wept without apology.
The ladies cleaned up the vomit and split us kids up among the neighbor ladies nearest to our place.
I got stuck with fat Mrs. Wilkins and my little pesky brother Able, who was 6 years my junior.
We were fed. I had to admit the vegetable soup and day old bread seemed like a feast, none of us had ate since yesterday mornin’ and that was only a piece of corn-pone and some fatback the size of a postage stamp.
I wondered how my other siblings had fared.
Isaac, Mary, and Rebeca had ended up with Mrs. Grower the wife of dad’s partner in crime Mac.
Adam, Rachel, and Ruth had ended up with Mrs. McMillan the widow.
And, I, Sarah ended up with Able and fat Mrs. Wilkins whose husband was a traveling hawker, almost always away from home, but he sent checks regular like.
Although, it was, in reality not very much money, she was by far the wealthiest of her neighbors for miles around.
She was thrifty and she could sew, helpin’ her meager income out a bit by sellin’ her fancy work to the general store and such.
She had chickens and a garden and so she managed fairly well.
Had she known the children were a starvin’ she’d have brought them charity baskets long ago.
But she knew that the Haley clan were always proud and foolish.
Rather starve than eat, if eatin’ meant they had to be a beggin’ off their neighbors.
She wasn’t too proud to say these things out loud as she fussed in her kitchen and fed us, the two temporary orphans.
Too hungry and tired to argue we had gulped our food down and didn’t say much.
We went to bed early, exhausted both from the events of the day and the worry.
Grown-ups like to say kids are carefree and happy through any set of circumstances, perhaps that is a comfort to them when they can’t provide the necessities of life, but it just ain’t so.
We slept long and when we awoke from our makeshift beds the sun was pokin’ out.
Mrs. Wilkins had apologized for havin’ us sleep on the floor with only blankets.
We just kinda stared at her, this is the only ‘bed’ we had ever known and we usually doubled up to share the blankets, but we told her none of this.
Poverty has its own shame and we did not want this woman thinkin’ any worse of us than she already did.
We had a breakfast of pancakes and syrup, rare treats in our world, gulped them down so fast, that the woman thought we were animals and accused us of havin’ been taught no manners at all.
I bristled inside, turning bright red with shame, had I not been taught from the time I could sit at the table to not gulp my food, sit up straight, and mind my manners?
My mother had dignity despite the poverty and hardships she endured and I had shamed her.
I hung my head and whispered, “Sorry, ma’am.”
She regarded me a minute and then unexpectedly said, “You’re just hungry and that is not a sin, I am just cross at times and forget about children and their ways, you see I never had any of my own”
I had no idea how to react to that; grown-ups did not apologize nor explain things to children.
She probably did not know since she never had any, I reckoned.
She said that we could go see Momma and Daddy today and that the other children would be there, too.
We would be headed over in about an hour or such.
I could smell somethin’ tasty comin’ from her oven and as much as I wanted to go home, I am ashamed to admit; I wanted that ham and baked beans she was cookin’ more.
Who knows what we’d find at home?
The hour came and to our surprise the woman took the ham and the beans out of the oven, put their proper lids on and I was made to tote the ham and she was fixin’ to tote the beans.
I realized then we were gettin’ charity and wondered how that would sit with Daddy?
When the relief lady came trying to persuade him to take the charity the government was offerin’ he chased her out.
Would he do that with Mrs. Wilkins, now?
I was even more surprised when we got to the house, it weren’t only Mrs. Wilkins toting in food.
All the ladies had brought somethin’ even if was just a sleeve of soda crackers and homemade jam.
Instead of anger, Daddy thanked everybody and asks them in to sit awhile.
While we all ate I could hear the grown-ups ask when the baby was to be buried.
The reverend Peterson was there and he spoke up saying it was set for tomorrow mornin’.
That is when Momma spoke up and declared that she ‘wasn’t goin’.
The ladies tried to reason with her and the reverend had a hushed talk with her in the corner, but it did not do a lick of good.
When all the people piled out, we were left with our folks, the reverend and his wife (who were stayin’ the night) and our dead sister who had no name.
To my surprise all the leftover food was put away into our cupboards and ice-box.
The next morin’, we piled into Daddy’s wagon, without Momma or our littlest brother, Isaac, who was only two.
None of us kids had ever been to a funeral before, so nothing could have prepared us.
We shivered in the sunlight and fidgeted as the reverend gave a long winded sermon that sounded more like a scoldin’.
Then they put the cardboard box, which contained the little sister without a name, into a deep dark hole.
Deject, angry, and tired we piled into the wagon and on to home.
Momma was there in the doorway when we returned
and for the first time since the baby died, she seemed to see us.
She kissed each one of us as we entered.
We all gathered around the table for more dishes made from the neighbors’ generosity, hungry more for explanations than for food, but knowing better than to ask for any.
And, so life went on just like that with no explain’ at all.