For the first time, they no longer felt alone.
August 26, 2014
A VG Serial: Where It Ended
The day Miss Katie come home be one of those glory-filled spring days. The trees juss finish dressing up in green an the forsythia pushing its gold up against ’em, cozy-like, the air rich with its sweet perfume. The dogwoods be coming on a little early, dusting the yards an patches of woods with soft white an pink flowers. An the sky so blue an spotless, you think you looking straight into heaven. It feel like a garden party, everthing so pretty an bright.
I think on Miss Katie all morning atween cooking an washing clothes an playing with Miss Martha Faye. I think ’bout how scared she muss be coming out of a place where she only have to look after herself—an with a good bit of help to do it—to a place where she in charge of it all once agin. That a hard move fo’ someun who stable an well, an I know in my heart, she still a long way from that.
Juss past one o’clock, after I put the child down fo’ a nap, an while I be washing up the lunch dishes, the phone ring. I pick it up an be surprised to hear Mr. Judd on the other end.
“She’s home. I dropped her off an hour ago. She’s asked me to leave her alone. She followed my truck down the drive and locked the gate after me. I can feel her shutting down, Miss Imogene. I don’t know what to do.”
“Well, I don’ know neither, Mr. Judd, but you have my word I’ll be working on it.”
“Thanks, Miss Imogene.” He sigh was loud. “Oh, I almost forgot to mention. I have spare keys to that lock.” He jingles them in the phone so I can hear.
The last thing Mr. Judd hear afo’ he hang up is me chuckling. It’s like we be kids playing catch-me-if-you-can. An I tell myself to stay right there chuckling fo’ worrying never done no one any good.
I sing me a little tune as I finish in the kitchen. Then I sing me another little tune as I dust an mop the front room an the hall. As I tidy up, I pick up the sheets of the morning newspaper Mr. Sutton git sent here, The Commercial Appeal from Memphis. They scattered all over. I practice my reading ever day when I do this chore. As I fold up the business section, I see a big ole headline (that’s what Liddie tole me they called) an it talking ’bout how good things be except for farming, specially cotton. It git me to thinking. I ain’t seen Mr. Sutton round much of late. He bring his little prize home, but he ain’t been around much to see her. As I dust tabletops, the pie-save, an sideboard in the dining room, I thinking maybe he got some problems, an then I be thinking maybe that a good thing.
The gate remained locked for several days. Had anyone been watching, they would have seen Miss Katie up early and outside walking around trying to piece together what went on while she was away. The most obvious thing, of course, was that no one was on the farm, including Martha Faye. She figured the locked gate had a great deal to do with that, but it couldn’t have been locked long, because the farm appeared to have been kept up. Someone had mowed the grass recently, yet there were no tire tracks in the barnyard.
She opened the door to the store and found what looked like a going concern. Jams, jellies and pickles stood in orderly array. The barrels of pecans were filled to the brim. The red and white checkered vinyl that covered each display table had not a lick of dust on it. The floors appeared swept. The windows were clear and clean as if awaiting the first customers of the day. As she passed through the doorway at the back of the store that led to the work area, something caught her eye. She backed up and stared at the lintel over the door. It wasn’t crude penknife whittling she saw but a craftsman’s carving, something done with great care. The two lines read:
In loving memory of Mazy Robinson
1928 – 1969
Katie stood there trying to make sense of it. For all the world, it looked like everyone had shouldered on, kept the place running and attended to. To test her notion further, she left the barn and walked out to the berry patches. No weeds met her eyes, just freshly cultivated soil and loads of white flowers indicating the berries to follow. Finally, she walked on to the pecan orchard. This time she had to open a gate to get into it. A four-plank fence painted white surrounded the orchard, and twenty feet into the orchard she saw why. A small flock of sheep, the caretakers of the orchard now, lay clustered around a thick pecan tree trunk, chewing their cuds contentedly in the shade of its canopy. Their heads rose as they saw her nearby and they watched her, their eyes kindly, curious. She sat down at the next tree over, leaning her head back against the trunk, following their example by letting her shoulders and neck relax. She stretched her legs out in front of her, like they did—one leg out, one leg bent back in—and dropped her hands in her lap.
She closed her eyes and slowly counted on her fingers as if she were figuring some amount she needed to know, perhaps how long she’d been gone. Perhaps it was a to-do list she was ticking off. But soon she fell asleep, and when she awoke hours later, the sheep had changed napping spots, sharing her choice of trees, lying close in around her. One even had laid its head on her thigh. She didn’t move. She rested on with them. She watched their ears flick off flies. She saw the slow rise and fall of their bodies as they slept unconcerned. She rubbed softly between the ears of the ewe resting on her leg. She swallowed hard, but then gave it up and let the tears roll down her cheeks unchecked. Tears of frustration maybe, tears of worry, or perhaps tears that come when, for the first time in a body’s life, in the company of accepting creatures, they no longer feel alone.
Episodes of Where It Ended by Christina Carson will be published every Tuesday.