|Chapter 18 - Meyella's Point of View
Author: Bonnie Parker PM
I did this for a school project, it's a rewriter of Mayella's time on the stand through her point of view.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama - Words: 4,926 - Reviews: 4 - Follows: 1 - Published: 06-07-02 - id: 823453
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
By Ashley Harrington from the story by Harper Lee
There's nothing in the world that compares to everybody staring at you. It's not so bad when you're singing or performing, or at least when you're telling the truth. But when you're making up stories and condemning the innocent, your stomach turns upside down and you find it hard to form any words that aren't fake.
I had to stand there with my hand on the Good Book and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when I absolutely knew I wasn't going to be able to do that. I was going to say just what Papa told me to say and just what I wanted to believe. I guess it ain't lying if you believe it.
It seemed to take forever before Mr. Gilmer got any words out. He paced a few times and even stopped to look something up in his notes. I didn't know what to do, so I just sat silently and kept my head down.... The floor was more comforting than the mob of people waiting for somebody to do sumthing.
"What happened, in yer on words now, on the night of November 21st this past year? Just yer own words, thank you." He finally asked.
I didn't quite know what to say or what I was expected to say. I was still looking at the floor, trying to focus on anything other than this trial. I wanted to go away, go anywhere, that wasn't here or home.
He looked somewhat frustrated, but asked a more specific question. "Where were you at dusk on that evening?"
"On the Porch." I finally answered. I knew that for certain, I had been on the porch that night. No lie.
"Ain't but one, the front porch." It crossed my mind that Mr. Gilmer must have been a wealthy man, having two porches and all. He was probably raised that way, if it never even crossed his mind that I wouldn't have more than one porch. He was dressed well, although I suppose that's what lawyers do. I didn't really take a liking to him when we first met, and I wasn't too fond of him now either. He damn well knew I was about to lie, whether he'd say it or not, he had to have known.
"What were you doing on the porch?"
Judge Taylor had to interrupt. "Just tell us what happened. You can do that, can't you?"
I wanted to say no, I can't. But instead I just burst into tears. I hated this.
I was making Judge Taylor uncomfortable, I could tell. Sooner than later, he said "That's enough now. Don't be 'fraid of anybody here, as long as you tell the truth. All this is strange to you, I know, but you've nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to fear. What are you scared?"
But that was the problem. I wasn't going to be telling the truth and I did have reason to be afraid. From behind my tears I tried to get out the word "Him" but I don't think that's how it came out.
"What was that?" The Judge asked me.
"Him!" I shouted, and pointed at Tom's lawyer.
I hated that man. I knew right well he was doing what was right, and true, and good, but I'd never been right, or true, or good. So I don't have to take a liking to him like others might. "Don't want him doin' me up like he done Papa, tryin' to make him out lefthanded..."
The Judge didn't know what to do so he just went right out and asked me my age.
"Nineteen-and-a-half," came my quick answer that blurred together into one word.
I knew he wanted to make me feel better, so I could tell what happened that day. "Mr. Finch has no idea of scaring you," he told me, "and if he did, I'm up here to stop him. That's one thing I'm sitting up here for."
I wanted to ask him if that's what he was there for, why he couldn't have defended my Papa when Mr. Finch attacked his integrity like he did. I know Papa had no integrity, but that wasn't nobody's business but those who had to live with him.
He hadn't finished, apparently. "Now you're a big girl, so you just sit up straight and tell the-tell us what happened to you. You can do that, can't you?"
I spent a moment quiet before I decided it was better to get it over with. "Well sir, I was on the porch and-and he came along and, you see, there was this old chiffarobe in the yard Papa'd brought in to chop up for kidlin'-Papa told me to it while he was off in the woods but I wadn't feelin' strong enough then, so he came by-"
I was cut off. "Who is 'he'?"
I pointed in the direction I knew Tom was sitting. I didn't want to have to say his name. Mr. Gilmer though, wouldn't take that as an answer and asked me to be more specific.
"That'n yonder. Robinson." I choked on my own words. I couldn't look up. I'd kept my head down the entire time, it was no time to bring it up then. I was asked what happened after that, and I explained, "I said come here, nigger, and bust up this chiffarobe for me, I gotta nickel for you. He coulda done it easy enough, he could. So he come in the yard an' I went in the house to get him the nickel and I turned around and 'fore I knew it he was on me. Just ran up behind me, he did. He got be round the neck, cussin' me and sayin' dirt-I fought' n'holllered, but he had me round the neck. He hit me agin an' agin-he chucked me on the floor an' choked me'n took advantage of me." Throughout my entire rehearsed monologue I was in tears, but they were real. They weren't from the pain from a memory of what never happened, but from the stress of being put into a situation like this.
"Did you scream... Did you scream and fight back?" I was asked.
Dizzy and out of it, I wanted to yell at him he was asking me a question I'd already answered but instead I just did as he asked. "Reckon I did, hollered for all I was worth, kicked and hollered loud as I could.:
"When what happened?"
I blinked. I'd thought that was it, all I'd have to say. "I don't remember too good... but next thing I knew Papa was in the room a'standing over me and hollerin' who done it, who done it? Then I sorta fainted an' the next thing I knew Mr. Tate was pullin' me up offa the floor and leadin' me to the water bucket."
I was a little more prepared now, I looked up a little bit and some people appeared to be believing me.
"You say you fought him off as hard as you could? Fought him tooth and nail?" Mr. Gilmer asked.
"I positively did." I said, using the words of Papa.
"You are positive that he took full advantage of you?" He added.
"He done what he was after," I answered simply.
Mr. Gilmer walked up to where I'd been sitting and told me softy and kindly, "That's all for the time being, but you stay there. I expect big bad Mr. Finch has some questions to ask you."
The Judge announced, "State will not prejudice the witness against consul for the defense, at least not for at this time." I didn't know quite what that meant, but I knew I'd be talking to Mr. Finch now.
"Miss Mayella, I won't try to scare you for a while, not yet. Let's get acquainted. How old are you?"
I snorted. I'd been over this already. Had Mr. Finch fallen asleep? "Said I was nineteen, said it to that judge yonder."
Mr. Finch shook his head. "So you did, so you did, ma'am. You'll have to bear with me, Miss Mayella, I'm getting along and I can't remember as well as I used to. I might ask you things you've already said before, but you'll give me an answer, won't you? Good."
I glared at him, still slouched down in my sit and looking as downward as I could without staring directly down. "Won't answer a word you say long as you keep on mockin' me."
"Ma'am?" He asked, sounding shocked.
I grunted. "Long's as you keep on makin' fun o'me."
Judge Taylor was confused. "Mr. Finch is not making fun of you. What's wrong with you?"
I knew he was. Thought he was clever he, he did. And I hated him all the more for it. "Long's he keeps on callin' me Ma'am and Miss Mayella. I don't haffa take his sass, I ain't called upon to take it."
The judge was stumped, but Mr. Finch let him answer it. "That's just Mr. Finch's way. We've done business in this court for years and years, and Mr. Finch is always courteous to everybody. He's not trying to mock you, he's trying to be polite. That's just his way."
I noticed that Mr. Finch could easily use "his way" to convince the jury what a nice man he was. That way, they'd assume he was fighting for something worth fighting for. Mr. Finch was smart, indeed. Although that's what I wanted to believe, I had to remind myself he was the one being truthful here.
"Atticus, let's get on with these proceedings, and let the record show that the witness has not been sassed, her views to the contrary." Judge Taylor had pretended to be my friend, but now he suddenly was acting all friendly to Mr. Finch. I guess it's his job to play both sides.
"You say you're nineteen, How many brothers and sisters have you?" Mr. Finch went on.
"You the eldest? The oldest?"
"How long has your mother been dead?"
"Don't know-long time."
"Did you ever go to school?"
"Read'n'write good as Papa yonder." I bragged.
"How long did you go to school?"
I shrugged. "Two year-three year-dunno."
Mr. Finch must have asked me another hundred questions. He got me to tell him lots of things, from Papa's trips where he didn't come home for days to the problems my little siblings had. I felt like the questions were personal, but they didn't have much to do with what happened, or didn't, that night in November. So I just answered them all as honestly as I could, without making Papa come off too bad. I didn't ever want to get him angry with me.
Then he got to one question I didn't particularly like. "Miss Mayella, a nineteen year old girl like you must have friends. Who are your friends?"
"Friends?" I asked.
"Yes, don't you know any know anyone near your age, or older, or younger? Boys and girls? Just ordinary friends?"
I hated being asked that. It's like being asked why your house isn't rich enough, or why your hair doesn't look like the cover of a magazine. It's just an awful question if you don't got an answer, and he knows it. "You makin' fun o'me agin, Mr. Finch?"
He didn't say anything about it after that, I guess to leave well enough alone. "Do you love your father, Miss Mayella?"
"Love him, whatcha mean?"
"I mean, is he good to you, is he easy to get along with?"
I nodded. "He does tollable, 'cept when-"
He jumped at that. "Except when?"
I looked back towards the floor again after catching a quick glance from Papa. I didn't ever want to talk bad about him. "Cept when nothin'. I said he does tollable."
"Except when he's drinking?" Mr. Finch asked. He looked at me so kindly. That was such a rare thing I had to be honest, and I nodded a little.
"Does he ever go after you?" He continued.
"How you mean?" I didn't like where this was going. I didn't want to be tricking into saying anything...
"When he's-riled, has he ever beaten you?"
I didn't want to say. I looked to Judge Taylor, who told me to answer.
"My paw's never touched a hair o'my head in my life, He never touched me." I answered, feeling lucky I hadn't slipped up.
Trying to come off nice, Mr. Finch said "We've had a good visit, Miss Mayella, and now I guess we'd better get to the case. You say you asked Tom Robinson to come chop up a- what was it?"
"A cliiffarobe," I explained, "an old dresser full of drawers on one side."
He paced a little. "Was Tom Robinson well known to you?"
"I mean did you know who he was, where he lived?" He explained.
I nodded a little bit. "I knowed who he was, he passed the house every day.:
Mr. Finch took a moment to think about what he wanted to say next. "Was this the first time you asked him to come inside the fence?"
I didn't know how to answer that question. I knew for certain it wasn't, but saying it was, wasn't that a little more believable then that he would pick that day to attack me? Apparently I hadn't said anything for some time, because Mr. Finch started his question again. "Was this-"
"Yes it was." I muttered before he got to finish.
He looked a little confused, knowing I wasn't telling the truth. "Didn't you ever ask him to come inside the fence?"
"I did not, I certainly did not." I answered with a false air of confidence.
Mr. Finch shook his head. "You never asked him to do odd jobs for you before?"
"I mighta, there were several niggers around." I was sick of the lie, and it's better if I'd never particularly paid attention to Tom.
Mr. Finch looked pleased. I'd said just what he'd wanted me to. "Do you remember any other occasion?"
"No," I answered dryly.
"All right, now to what happened. You said Tom Robinson was behind you in the room when you turned around, that right?"
I nodded. "Yes."
He marked something down on a piece of paper on his desk. It went silent for a moment before he asked, "You said he 'got you around the neck cussin and saying dirt'-is that right?"
It seemed odd to me that Mr. Finch suddenly could remember a direct quote from myself but wasn't able to remember that I'd stated my age. " 't's right."
"You said 'he caught me and choked me and took advantage of me'-is that right?"
I grunted and raised an eyebrow. "That's what I said."
Mr. Finch rubbed his chin, making him look like a detective out of one of the new picture shows playing in the next town over. "Do you remember his beating you about the face?"
I didn't know what to say. I had to think about it for apparently too long, I sat there in my witness chair trying to remember an event that I was trying so hard to believe really happened. I couldn't say how long I was trying to reason, could have been ten seconds or could have been an hour.
Mr. Finch was somewhat frustrated. It was the first time he'd shown that emotion. "It's an easy question, Miss Mayella, so I'll try again. Do you remember him beating you about the face?" He took a moment to reform himself and asked kinder, "Do you remember him beating you about the face?"
I hurried into an answer so quickly I didn't know what I was mumbling. "No, I don't recollect if he hit me. I mean yes I do, he hit me."
"Was that last sentence your answer?"
"Huh?" I asked in confusion. "Yes, he hit-I just don't remember, I just don't remember... it all happened so quick." I looked down at myself and started to cry again. I hated every last bit of what was happening. I hated Mr. Finch, I hated him for being so goddamned righteous. I hated Tom Robinson, for what he'd made me think and feel and for what he didn't do that I wished in a way he had.
Judge Taylor tried to help out, "Don't you cry-young woman..." I hated him too. He sat there up on his chair that was higher than mine and everybody else's holding something that looked like a child's toy that he would hit on a table when we wanted to be heard. I wished I had one that could do the opposite, so I could just run away and wouldn't have to be there then, being heard.
Mr. Finch came to my defense, in his own way. "Let her cry, if she wants to, Judge. We're got all the time in the world." I wanted to do just what he said and cry until the world left no more time for me to cry.
But I couldn't do that. I knew it, Mr. Finch knew it, and then entire courtroom knew it. Instead, I just said what came to my mind, "I'll answer any question you got-get me up here an' mock me, will you? I'll answer any question you got-"
Mr. Finch nodded politely at me. "That's fine, There's only a few more. Miss Mayella, not to be tedious, you've testified that the defendant hit you, grabbed you around the neck, choked you, and took advantage of you. I want you to be sure you have the right man. Will you identify the man who raped you?"
I took it all it. I had been raped. There was no harm in admitting that much. If I'd been in any state other than denial, I may have even pointed to Papa at that time. But in my head, I really was starting to believe Tom had taken advantage of me. He was a nigger, after all. It's so easy to believe they all do things like that, since after all that's what Papa taught me since the day I was born. "I will, that's him right yonder."
Mr. Finch looked at Tom, something I hadn't yet been able to do. "Tom, stand up. Let Miss Mayella have a good long look at you. Is this the man, Miss Mayella?"
I had to look at him at the point. I don't doubt I'll never forget that look on his face, he looked so sullen, so hopeless. I hated looking at that, because I knew exactly what that was like. Papa kept me under his command for 19 long years, and he'd broken me. I remember Tom, slightly, how he used to be. He was one of the few people I ever saw who was so alive and I was creating an endless string of lies and that I was breaking him right then. But still I didn't stop. I knew what Papa had done to me, and the worst of all. He'd turned me into somebody no better than himself.
Mr. Finch repeated himself, "Is this the man that raped you?"
"It most certainly is." I think it was the weight of my words that pushed him back into his seat. There was a body there but Tom was already dead.
Mr. Finch scratched his head for a moment. "And how did he do that?"
I stared blankly at him "I don't know how he done it, but he done it-I said it all happened so fast I-"
Jumping into my sentence, Mr. Finch declared, "Now, let's consider this calmly."
"Objection!" Mr. Gilmer shouted. "Mr. Finch is browbeating the witness!"
Judge Taylor erupted in a roar of laughter that frightened me. "Oh sit down, Horace, he's doing nothing of the sort. If anything, the witness's browbeating Atticus."
Mr. Finch showed a slight smile, but went on. "Now, Miss Mayella, you've testified that the defendant choked and beat you-you didn't say that he sneaked up behind you and knocked you cold, but you turned around and there he was. Do you wish to reconsider any of your testimony?"
"You want me to say something that didn't happened?" I questioned him.
"No ma'am, I want you to tell us something that did happen. Tell us once more, please, what happened?"
This man seemed to need to hear everything two or three times. "I told'ja what happened."
"You testified that you turned around and there he was. He choked you then?" Mr. Finch put his hand to his own throat to reenact what had happened.
I don't know if he thought I was going to change my story, or slip yo, or if he just wanted to hear it again. "Yes."
"Then he released your throat and hit you?"
"I said he did."
"He blackened your left eye with his right fist?"
I shrugged. "I ducked it-it glanced, that's what it did. I ducked and it glanced off."
"You're becoming suddenly clear on this point. A while ago you couldn't remember too well, could you?"
"I said he hit me." I repeated.
"All right. He choked you, he hit you, then he raped you, that right?"
"It most certainly is," I said, curious how many times I'd used that phrase so far. It was so easy to you, and made me feel more defendant about what had occurred.
"You're a strong girl, what were you doing all the time, just standing there?"
I looked blankly at Mr. Finch, then looked back toward the floor again. "I told'ja I hollered' n'kicked' n'fought..."
Judge Taylor interrupted and came to my rescue. As much as I despised him, so holier than thou upon his high chair he seemed to think seated him at the right hand of God, he did have a kind side. He still looked down upon me, and surely Mr. Finch even, but he was compassionate towards the both of us. "One question at a time, Atticus. Give the witness a change to answer."
Mr. Finch complied. "All right, why didn't you run?"
"I tried..." I murmured softly.
"Tried to? What kept you from it?" He accused me of lying without directly saying it, but I felt it.
"I-he slung me down. That's what he did, he slung me down'n got on top of me."
"You were screaming all this time?"
"I certainly was." I used the phrase again, reassuring my confused self.
Mr. Finch got a mean look in his eye, and I was somewhat frightened of him again. "Then why didn't the other children hear you? Where were they? At the dump?"
I said nothing.
"Why didn't your screams make them come running? The dump's closer than the woods, isn't it?"
I remained silent, thinking.
"Or didn't you scream until you saw your father in the window? You didn't think to scream until then, did you?" Mr. Finch was starting to give me the answers rather than the questions. I was waiting for Mr. Gilmer to object, but he sat there. Saying nothing.
I put my hand to my forehead and rubbed it. Still silent.
"Did you scream first at your father instead of Tom Robinson?"
I couldn't answer this. I couldn't. I just had to sit there, saying nothing leading to nothing.
"Who beat you up? Tom Robinson or your father?" Mr. Finch's voice was a near scream, I was aggravating him. This clam, accepting man was going crazy right before my eyes. Perhaps it wasn't just Tom I was hurting, I was breaking Atticus too.
I'd never really thought about Mr. Finch as Atticus. Giving somebody a first name changes how you think of them. Suddenly they're a person, not just a name. Suddenly they have a life, and they have emotions, and you can feel equal to them no matter who they are. A Negro, a rich white business man, or the man yelling at you and accusing you or lying in court. Atticus Finch.
"What did your father see in the winder, the crime of rape or the best defense of it? What don't you tell the truth, child, didn't Bob Ewall beat you up?" He asked of me.
I wanted all this behind me. I never wanted to think about Tom, or rather Mr. Robinson, the man without a face, again. There was only one way to get rid of the haunting sin I had on my soul, and that was to burn the evidence. Mr. Robinson was that evidence. "I got somethin' to say."
Mr. Finch had a looked of hope in the corner of his left eye. It was so faint, it broke my shallow dead heart to know it wouldn't last. "Do you want to tell us what really happened?"
I looked away so that I was talking to the courtroom wall. It looked a lot like the floor, only sideways. "I got somethin' to say an' then I ain't gonna say no more. That nigger yonder took advantage of me an' id you fine fancy gentlemen don't wanta do nothin' about it then you're all yellow stinkin' cowards, stinkin' cowards, the lot of you. Your fancy airs don't come to nothin'-your ma'amin' and Miss Mayerllarin' don't come to nothing, Mr. Finch!" But the time I got to those words, I was in tears all over again. I thought it might work though, even though the pain was real, because I'd personally attacked everyone in that jury should they vote in favour of Tom rather than me.
Mr. Finch wanted me to answer more questions, but I just wouldn't do it. Mr. Gilmer couldn't get me to say anything either.
"The state rest, Judge Taylor." Mr. Gilmer sighed.
The Judge smiled a little bit. "It's time we all did. We'll take ten minutes."
When the trials recess was over, so was my torment. I didn't have to say anything more.
The Judge looked to Atticus. "Shall we try to wind up this afternoon? How 'bout it, Atticus?"
He nodded. "I think we can."
"How many witnesses you got?"
"Well, call him."