I never danced on a grave, but did steal something from the dead, once. I spied it, pried it loose, flattened it against the belly beneath my blouse and walked away without contrition.
It happened one sultry late-summer day when ocher leaves are as omnipresent as the sun a half-hour before high noon. I felt myself liquefying in line while waiting my turn to take a number.
“Who was she?” I asked the fidgeter in front of me.
“Nobody,” he said.
“Everyone is somebody,” I suggested.
“Name was Miss Edna,” drawled the clerk recording the details off my driver’s license. “You be biddin’ on the house?”
“Cuz it hasta be moved. Otherwise, it’ll be bulldozed in two weeks time. Land ain’t fer sale. Yer number seventy-six. Next?”
The house was one of those classic Cracker shacks built on a farm axed out of a forest that encroachment slaughters and sacrifices to almighty developers. Where highways supplant front yards claimed by eminent domain.
Miss Edna’s epitomized such woe, its slats of ill-fitted wood slapdashed together and embalmed in asbestos shingles that the sun blistered into coarse curls. Rust stained the ridged metal roof, inside and out. You could peer through her windows and peek through her walls.
“Did you know Miss Edna?” came a voice.
I turned to see a wisp of a girl, all blond and bowlegged in mismatched plaids and stripes, with dangling plastic beads being balanced on broken fingernails.
“No, I didn’t. Did you?”
“Of her, mostly,” she conceded, evading my eyes as she spoke in halting speech as broken as her spirit. “Mom died birthing her. Dad made her pay for it ‘til he croaked.”
“Never married?” I asked.
She sighed. “Eloped on horseback to the forest. Honeymooned, camped down by the Silver River. But the old man hunted them with dogs. Beat the boy bloody. Strapped his broken body to a horse and jest whipped it on away.”
THE ABOVE EXCERPT IS FROM:
Seriously, Mom, you didn’t know?
by Marguerite Quantaine © Copyright 2019
THIS LINK OPENS TO A FREE 3+ CHAPTER PREVIEW
(If it skips ahead, just tap the left arrow.)
This freshly edited, updated essay by Marguerite Quantaine first appeared in the St. Petersburg Times three years ago. (Copyright by Quantaine © 2010/2013)
Please share your thoughts, here, by selecting Reply.
I’m all eyes and heart.