If you need love, you can always come to me.
November 25, 2014
A VG Serial: Where It Ended
By the time Martha Faye be twelve years old, the age when her mama go to Memphis to begin her dance career, her sweet, simple, loving nature pretty much in ruins. Since she don’ show no special talents, Mr. Sutton lose all interest in her. My instincts be right ’bout him wantin’ a child star in his life, one that make him feel like he somebody important in his old age. He even stumble over her name sometimes, she so triflin’ to him. When I think Small Town almoss lay in ashes fo’ this man’s momentary desires, I shudder. We done make the bess choice back then we could, it juss there be no good choices in the bunch.
Miss Suellen see she can finally have power over somebody an that somebody be Martha Faye. So she mold that child in her own likeness. She teach her how to hate her mama. She show her how to put black people in they place. She teach her righteousness, the sort that say I be right. You wrong. An she hold it all in place with a sense of shamefulness ’bout Miss Martha Faye no one ever explain to her. It like she born cursed, an they be nothing she can do to redeem herself.
Neither Liddie nor Tara show any interest in this child either. Tara always be like a withered fruit, no juice, no sugar. But Liddie, she make a bid for somethun mo’, but once she see what happen to Martha Faye, it like all hope leave her, an she go back to her early ways. A bit simple-minded, a bit vacant altogether, like she find some place in her mind where life look a whole lot better than what be round her, an she live there.
As fo’ Miss Katie, she travel the Sutton road to the bitter end. Her bidness continue to grow an prosper, but she parch up like an un-watered plant. She mean, thoughtless an treat her black help like her family do. That what Mr. Judd see coming on down the road, though he don’ want to admit it. She an Miss Martha have some terrible fights.
One Friday night afo’ I leave work, Miss Martha come to me in the kitchen an say she want to ride with me in my wagon an git dropped off at her mama’s farm. I tell her that not a good idea much as I would like her company. She don’ ax why not an just leave the kitchen. I be halfway to Katie’s farm when I hear a stir under my seat. That lil’ rascal hid herself there juss afo’ I hook up Polly an now we be in this fine fix. She crawl out an climb up on the bench next to me. I don’ say nothing.
“I think these rules are stupid.”
“I cain’t say I disagree, but they the rules. You on the other side of the line, dearie, an you supposed to stay there.”
“What can they do to me, huh?”
I sigh deeply. “You don’ wanna know what they can do to you, honey child. You juss don’.”
When she saw how serious I be, concern show on her face.
“I don’t understand. Why?”
I think long an hard afo’ I answer. “I would answer you, child, if they be an answer. But they ain’t, not a real answer. An deep in they heart, they know they wrong, but moss people not willing to admit to it. They feel like if’n they have mo’ people doin’ what they do, that somehow make it right. Trust me, Miss Martha, they real serious ’bout keeping everbody on the side the line they belong.”
When we pull in the yard, Miss Katie be coming from the store. I stop the wagon, an Miss Martha git down. She feel in that moment what I try to tell her. She feel the weight of the law in the air round us.
Katie speak to Martha Faye first. “What do you think you’re doing riding out with her in her wagon?” She point at me.
Before the child can say anything an git herself in deeper trouble, I speak up. “She wanna ride along, an I tell her to git in. I should a knowed better. It juss look like it be fun.”
Miss Katie look at me colder than a morning in January. Used to be that look freeze me solid. But this time, I don’ drop my eyes. I not shuffle in my mind. ’Stead I say to her, “You don’ have to keep the cycle going. Where we start out juss be an accident of birth. What we do with that be what make it either a sorrow or joy. Martha Faye don’ understand. How could she? You know well as me them rules make no sense. We juss all caught up in they craziness. I know you feel you gotta teach her the rules. It be how you teach her that make all the difference.”
Whatever be going through Miss Katie’s mind, she juss snort like she disgusted, shake her head an decide not to reply. Margaret tell me later that Miss Katie not say anything to Martha Faye ‘cept not to do that agin. Two days later she say they have a fight of fights. Margaret say it go like this.
“If colored people are people we aren’t supposed to be friends with, why do white people have them working their farms and living in their houses?”
“We give them jobs. They can’t do that much so we give them jobs. They’re hired help, and thanks to us they can buy what they need to take care of their families. They aren’t in our houses except as hired help.”
“Well if they’re hired help, why did you let me play with their children, invite them to my birthday parties, and have them look after me like a mama? Why did you let me come to love them, their kindness, their joy. Why did you do that? Why did you let me grow up with them so that kids now call me a nigger lover? I didn’t end up on either side of the line Miss Imogene talks about. I landed right in the middle where no one wants me. Why weren’t you my mama? Why didn’t you look after me? Why didn’t you love me rather than farming me out?”
Margaret say by that time, Miss Martha be yellin’ an sobbin’ all the same time. She say she see Miss Katie squeeze her eyes shut like she be seeing her life afo’ her eyes an don’ wanna look. Miss Martha look desperate. Margaret say Martha Faye cain’t turn to her fo’ comfort, an she cain’t turn to her mama, so she run out the door an run off into the woods.
Margaret say she go looking for her as it close to dark. She find her curled into a ball ‘neath a big ole pecan tree with Bounty lying at her side. When she see Miss Martha’s look of fright as she uncurl her, an pull her up agin her, she speak as soft an kind as she now how.
“Missy Martha, I so sorry fo’ all the pain silly grownups cause they chilun. I know we not suppose to do what we be doing right now. But people cain’t live without love. An it don’ matter to me what they say we suppose to do. I know I love you an always have, an always will. If’n you need love, you can always come to me. Always.”
She say she feel the child’s stiff body relax, an she hold her ’til she can feel her fear gone. They walk together through the woods with Bounty trailing by they side. At the edge of the clearing, the line reappear. Martha step across it an go into the house. Margaret wait until it dark, then she slip in an go to her room. Miss Katie be working in her office with the do’r closed an be none the wiser for what be goin’ on behind her back.
Episodes of Where It Ended by Christina Carson will be published every Tuesday.