It had been so long since her last spell. Did they think she was getting better? Nelson & Cora.
July 21, 2013
A VG Serial: Nelson & Cora
McGinnis Plantation, Kentucky, 1866
Nelson moved a step closer and continued talking. “Just like with the slaves, just like the ones who escaped. You could have stopped those men. You could have saved that boy, but you didn’t. You did nothing. And, then, when it was over, you wanted the men to pay you. Pay you! Because he died, like he was cattle. You did nothing to save him,” Nelson yelled.
“That’s about all I am going to take from you, boy.” Nelson saw the curtains in Analisa’s room move when he turned to walk back to the house. He would deal with her later. First, he was going to eat. Then, he would find his father.
If everything went smoothly for George in town, he would return early in the morning with the doctor. Nelson wanted a doctor that didn’t know Randall McGinnis, that didn’t work for him.
Nelson’s anger flamed up each time he thought of Gert and her arms and face and neck. Nelson wanted to rip the house down, with his father and mother in it. But, he knew if he wasn’t calm, he wouldn’t be able to take care of Gert. That was most important now.
Nelson thought of her tapping his hand. He couldn’t help but think of Cora and how her hand had felt in his. Why did it seem so long ago since he had seen her? He wanted to find her and talk to her about what happened to Gert, what his mother had done, what his father had failed to do. He felt like Cora would know how to make it better. But, he couldn’t be with her, not now.
Nelson went in the house and headed to the kitchen. Mattie was holding his plate and heading towards the dining room.
“I’ll have it in here,” Nelson said as he went in the kitchen.
Mattie sat the plate down on the table. Nelson looked at her before he started eating.
He had been so angry when he came home, he hadn’t noticed her arm until now.
“Mattie, did Mother do that to you?” Nelson asked. He motioned to her arm. It was thick and swollen around the wrist.
Mattie looked at Nelson and then tried to put her arm behind her. Nelson stopped her.
“Mattie, I’ve already seen it. Did Mother do that? Or did Father? What happened?”
“When I was trying to move Miss Gertrude out of the way, when I was trying to pull her away from the table…” Mattie said. “Mrs. Analisa. She was still swinging the candlestick,” Mattie said and stopped talking.
“Oh, Mattie,” Nelson said.
He took her arm gently and held it out in front of her so he could look at it.
“Is it broken? Did the doctor say it was broken?” Nelson asked.
Mattie looked at him.
“Mattie, did the doctor say your arm was broken? Where is the splint? Mattie?” Nelson asked.
She wouldn’t say anything.
“The doctor didn’t look at your arm? Did he?” Nelson asked.
He pulled the other chair away from the table and motioned for her to sit down.
“No, Mr. Nelson. The doctor looked at Miss Gertrude. Like he should have. She is hurt so bad. I thought… Well, I thought she might die,” Mattie said.
“When the doctor gets here with George, he is looking at your arm,” Nelson said.
He picked up his coffee. Mattie started to get up, but Nelson stopped her.
“No, just sit here with me. We aren’t done talking,” Nelson said.
Mattie started crying again.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t stop it,” she said.
“I’m sorry too. I’m sorry for Gert. I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry for Apollo. I’m sorry to all of you that I wasn’t here,” Nelson said.
Mattie whispered, “It wasn’t your fault or Mr. George’s.”
He pushed the food around on his plate. Mattie sat there with him, silently.
Nelson said again, “I’m sorry to all of you.”
He looked at her and said, “And, I’m sorry for what I am about to do too, sorry that I didn’t do it sooner.”
Mattie didn’t know what he meant, and she didn’t ask.
The fire crackled in the wood burning stove. Mattie waited until Nelson got up from the table. She started cleaning up the kitchen, but Nelson stopped her.
“Go on up and sit with Gert. Be with her now,” he said.
Mattie sat the plates down and wiped her hands on her apron.
Nelson said, “And, Mattie, put the chair in front of the door and don’t let anyone in unless it’s me or George with the doctor. Understand?” he asked.
Mattie nodded and left.
Nelson went into his father’s office. It was empty and the fireplace was cold. Nelson sat down behind the desk. McGinnis Plantation, this desk is where his father ran it. This
is where he sat and made decisions that affected people’s lives. This is where Randall
McGinnis decided if people were going to have enough to eat, where he decided if barns would be burned, if people would be driven from their homes, if soldiers would be ambushed. This is where he decided, not too long ago, if slaves would be kept or traded, or, if the stories were true, if they would live or die.
And, if Nelson didn’t change something, he was next in line to make the same decisions.
He played out in his mind what must have happened between his mother and Gert. He couldn’t understand how his mother could have done that. But, even more upsetting was how his father could have sat there and watched it happen.
Usually when they saw it coming with Analisa, Randall would get her upstairs to her room before the screaming, before the throwing things.
Nelson remembered once when he was twelve or thirteen that his father had been out checking the back fields and his mother started having a spell.
Mattie had taken off running out the back door, to the fields, as fast as she could go. Analisa yelled and cursed Nelson and George. She told them that she never wanted them, that she wasn’t meant to be a mother. She shattered every vase in the house before Randall returned.
When their father came storming in the sitting room, Nelson was standing between Analisa and George. There was a bright red mark on Nelson’s cheek from where Analisa had slapped him.
Randall picked up Analisa and carried her up the stairs. Nelson watched as his mother tried to pull his father’s hair and scratch his face.
Nelson told George then that he would never let their mother hurt him.
It had been a long time since Analisa had one of her spells. Had they thought she was getting better?
Chapters of the serial are published on Sunday.
You can learn more about Nelson & Cora on Amazon.