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Old Country Women

Published by Em_Anders in the blog Em_Anders's blog. Views: 178

A little exercise I made of writing out a portion of one my more recent dreams. I've presented my unedited version for public review here on the Forum Blog. Opinions and critiques are welcome as always =)

“What you want, old woman? What’d you come’ere for?” Hattie leaned on the front door jamb, arms crossed with an old rag in hand. She stood casually, as if there wasn’t a pie set out to cool and wayward birds to keep from eating it.
“You know what I came here for, you old negra. I ain’t the travelin’ type, and you live ‘bout as far on this side of town as no one else,” Bessie huffed as she pushed up the steps to greet Hattie. They reached out at the same time and hugged like old friends instead of old enemies.
“Times was you’d never be seen near me, let alone touchin’,” Hattie said as she waved Bessie inside. “Go on, old woman. Tea’s on the table.”
The two walked to the back of the house where it opened into a bright, airy kitchen. With the back door and curtains open, beams of sunshine highlighted the age-stained walls and hard wood counter tops.
“You know,” started Bessie as she sat herself at the small wooden table beside the door. “My son in Georgia says kitchens have tile on their counter tops. Says wood tops have been out since the log cabin days.”
Hattie set a saucer and small teacup in front of Bessie and poured tea for them both. “Mm-hmm. Next thing you tell me is water don’t need pumped from my well no more. That it? Them new inventions men make that s’posedly make women’s life easier?” she shook her head as if the way things were was too much for her to handle.
“Times are changin’ Hattie. Things got to change to keep the world going. But I don’t like it. That’s why I’m out here.”
Hattie gave her a look as she sat across from Bessie. “What you up to old woman?”
“I’m not taking kindly to Jane’s boy movin’ in, buyin’ up land, and changin’ things around here,” she slapped her palm on the table. “It ain’t how Plainsville works. Ain’t how things are supposed to be. Plainsville ain’t goin’ to survive if there’s all this change so quick. It won’t be Plainsville after he’s through running his plans.”
“What’s this got to do with me? Hmm? Me, an old negra, all the way out here, in the sticks? I ain’t got no say in what goes in town. I leave the town be, and the town leaves me be. That’s the way I like it.” She crossed her arms defensively.
“I need you to keep your house, Hattie. Don’t sell to Jane’s boy if he comes sniffin’ ‘round your property.”
“Sell my house? To Jane’s boy? Not in my lifetime, Bessie. I keeps my great-great-granddaddy’s land like all my kin before me. He’ll have to peel the deed from my dead fingers if he thinkin’ of takin’ my land. The likes of that mean little soul are why I live so far r’moved. Don’t cut no track with devil spawn.”
Bessie sat back, the hate from Hattie too much to digest all at once. Mean little soul? Devil spawn?
“What do you know ‘bout Jane’s boy that I don’t, Hattie?”
Hattie pursed her lips, glaring out the window beside them.
Bessie stood. “Hattie?” her tone dropped with shy concern. “What is it ‘bout Gerald I don’t know?”
Shaking her head, Hattie stood and paced the kitchen, hands wringing behind her back. The tension wrinkled her forehead, pulled taut the skin over her cheekbones.
“That boy is Ellis’s blood through and through. ‘Member his temper when Jane’d try and control those fits he’d get in church? It hadn’t gone away just ‘cause the child grew. It grew with the child.” She wrung her hands harder, her voice getting louder. “The man he is now ain’t just a mean child grown up. He’s conniving. He’s malicious. He’s-”
“Hattie!” Bessie shouted to silence her. “What happened?”
“No Bessie. It’s best you don’t know. Just know that if this town should ever fall apart, it’ll all be ‘cause of Gerald’s doin’. That boy was born wrong.”
Bessie was quiet a moment, contemplating the unspoken accusation in Hattie’s tone. Had she not married the man she had married, her resultant child Ellis wouldn’t have been around to help produce Gerald. She shook her head. Sad as it was that her grandchild turned out the way he did, it was even sadder, she thought, that she couldn’t feel anything but dislike and unhappiness toward him. Never had she had maternal love or affection for her son’s offspring, and as the years passed, the maternal love for her son faded, too.
Hattie took Bessie by the arm, jarring her from her depressive reverie.
“You have my word, old woman,” she said as she directed Bessie to the front door. “I won’t sell my property. I’ll send Jane’s boy down to you for a good ear full should he come snoopin’ around these parts. My grandson’s will escort’m.”
The door closed with a firm click behind her. She stood momentarily dumbfounded. Never had she had such a bizarre conversation. And never had she been shown out the door by anyone for anything. It just wasn’t polite! She hadn’t even tasted her tea!
Walking down the graveled road back toward town, Bessie ruminated over all that her conversation with Hattie had implied. Gerald wasn’t a well-to-do man as he would have everyone believe. He was still a mean spirited child, and if anything Hattie said held water, he was worse than she thought. Should she believe the old negra? What to believe and what not to. As she approached the old cross road that led south out into town, a dusty black car rolled by, kicking up clouds of dirt and blowing it in Bessie’s direction.
“Inconsiderate degenerates! Can’t see an old woman walking here!” she shouted at the empty, dusty road. With a sudden flash of nostalgia she thought of the days before cars, before she’d married, before school; when wagons were pulled by horses, not pushed by motors, and children were children, not devil spawn.
“And it all started with my Abel,” she said quietly, speaking her deceased husband’s name for the first time in over twenty years. Regret tasted worse than road dust on her tongue.
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