Summer of September 1945
It was courteous, not necessary, but courteous. Daddy was on the bed now, steadily in breath, his silent sighs corresponding to the up down, steady rhythm of his stomach and chest.
"Good morning Father." I opened the door, seeing that he hadn't moved his position since yesterday or the day before. (or the day before, for that matter.) He didn't respond nor did I expect him to.
"It looks like a beautiful day as always." I cheered pretending, feeling odd talking to someone who wasn't even close to consciousness. It wasn't a beautiful day. I hated the hot sun, the warm, humid nights, everything about the countryside. The bugs, the open fields, the smell of the dirty lake, it was all so horrid.
Another sigh answered me. I acted as though he was responding and we were having the smallest bit of a conversation. Perhaps he would say, "Yes my dear, Annette. It's a gracious morning." He would then take my hand in his and I would sit upon his bed. He would tell me stories of how he met my mother and of my birth. He would then have this odd smile as my grandmother had, and he would make me laugh with the wobbly tone of his voice.
So I continued on with the discussion as if he would happen to wake up any moment now to the sound of my voice.
"I went into town yesterday. It's very different from the city, very quiet and concealed. Today I shall be going there again to get more eggs and milk, possibly a book to read. Then to Elizabeth and Isaiah's house. Tomorrow I'll go to church, to pray for you and mother of course. And.." I rambled as I opened the curtains to the outside green grass, and yellow flowers. There was no excitement, no thrill. The rural area sickened me.
I stopped talking. My words were worthless, lost in the steady breathing of the stranger besides me. I wanted to scream, to tell him how much I hated this place, this town, him. I wanted him to wake up, to see me here in wrath, so I could get out of this forsaken place. Back to my life, to the city, to my mother, anyway from this horrid man and his reasons…Away from these humdrum days, melting into one long week…
My days consisted of a dense fog, through and through I daydreamed while in the middle of house work, cleaning for a man who has done nothing for me. I washed his floors, his windows, his clothes. I kept his house in order and repair. I was his aid, attending to every whimper in his breath, drabbing cooling compresses to his head. It was sickening.
After the morning chores, I changed into a white and blue cotton dress and heels and was off to the only town within ten minutes time. The smell of summer grass and weed's pollen greeted me as I stepped out and into the meadow, making my stomach instantly turn. The streets of the city were far more difficult to follow and navigate, so I collected my directions easily within my three days stay. To the northwest rest the sparkling turquoise waters of the lake, where children swam and parties were thrown, where fishers waited just off the shore for that night's dinner. Attached and north of the lake was the narrow river. The waters seemed to be the only economy to its citizens. The farthest east of the lake was a small town consisting of little shops, a bakery, bar, and church. To the west stretch the deep green fields and cloudless, light blue skies, where little houses and huts stood in the clearing. My father's house was here, the middle of this, on top of a grassy hill in back of a field of tall sunflowers.
I wondered often who had planted those flowers of golden pedals. My father didn't seem like the flower type, or at least I guess. I can just remember, as a little girl, how he would complain and pester my mother into making an investment in a tobacco or cotton field. Money and figures was all he ever talked about and he ever knew. So who had planted the luminous flowers? Sarah perhaps my father's intranstist?
My heels left their mark in the dirt, still moist from last night's light rain. The sun stood bright in the sky, hurling its rays upon me, bringing me to squint at the small village ahead.
Small stands and markets where opened. As I passed by a bakery I inhaled a deep breath containing smells of yeast and sugars. I heard a small radio near by and boisterous laughs retorted by the butchers to my left. Familiar faces greeted me with the tipping of hats and hollow hellos. I was still known as the newcomer by all those who existed in this small place. I was watched and poked at by the old women, judged by the adults, peered curiously at by the children. It was as though the whole town waited for me to create an error, to embarrass myself and ashame my father's name. I entered in a quaint market, purchasing eggs and milk, completing the trivial promise I made to Daddy.
Then I reached the book store, browsing though not purchasing anything. As I scanned the shelves of the thick novels, I felt a pair of eyes on my back. As I whipped around, a group of women stared awkwardly at the floor, leaving me feeling slightly uncomfortable.
At about two at noon I arrived at Elizabeth's farm. My friend greeted me with a warm hug. Then quickly sticked her small head through the door. In alarm, she looked out, into the empty land, in all directions.
"What's wrong Elizabeth? You act as though a murderer was on the loose." I puzzled return my gaze to Isiah who was fiddling around with a knife and some wood.
"Might as well be a murderer. Lousy Scum." Isaiah muttered under his breath. His muscles ripped as he worked, his tan hands diligently craving what appeared to be a little animal of some sort.
Elizabeth's dark eyes darted around nervously.
"What do you mean? What's happening?"
"At the river..." she stuttered, folding her fidgety hands around in her lap. "there's visitors."
"Oh?" my eyebrow rose defensively.
"No not like you, a visitor. These visitors aren't welcomed."
"Elizabeth, come out with it." Isaiah frustativly said. "They're Pond Scum, Lake Rats, Town Pirates."
"Pirates?" I almost laughed out loud to the names simple folk gave to such travelers. "Oh?"
Elizabeth nodded quickly. "Thieves."
Isaiah placed his knife down and looked towards the window.
"They come here on our land and earn our trust. Then, they steal our wives and children and sell us their deceitful scams."
"Mary mother of God." Elizabeth wheezed making the sign of the cross suddenly.
"Have you had these 'visitors' before?"
"Yes. They think we're stupid, because we have our values. They come here with their alternative religions and beliefs. With such…modernism.." Isaiah spit out the words in disgust as Elizabeth made another sign of the cross.
"But I am modern. I'm from the city. My father is pretty wealthy. He owns the cottage on Medora Road. And my mother owns a mansion in the West Brick Estates. Why not turn your noses up at me?"
shook his head at my ignorance.
"You don't understand. These people, they're unlike you. They have dark skin and travel in tribes. They sell their weird potions and smells. They bring fights to our land, hell itself breaks loose. They wake us late in the night with their crude parties and music. We don't want them-sort here. We don't need any trouble."
"Are they black men?" I asked, curious of these strangers.
"No, not exactly. They have brown skin, not of a black man, but one in the same violent beast. Indian I suppose. I don't know and I don't want to."
The nights were dreadful. Mosquitoes bit at my flesh, and the prediction smell of rain filled the pollinated air. The sun was barely appearing on the horizon turning the sky a beautiful pink and orange. Perhaps the sky was the only thing I loved in this strange place. It was clear and calming, satisfying to watch the bright colors and the night take shape. The meadow, although quiet, sounded of crickets in the distance. It was by far my favorite time of the day. I sat on a wooden benched a novel or diary in my hand and read into the darkness. Then, I would go inside away from the horrid night and its moist air.
In the direction of the lake, tall touches were lit. If I could see just a few more feet into trees surely I would sight the alienated travelers from exotic places. I wondered of their strange potions and smells, of their skin and culture.
I turned the next page in my novel. It was about China, the populated streets and cuisine, the advance technology and traditional holidays. The New Year seemed to be the greatest them all. Parades and late parties crowded the animated streets. The stores and houses were decorated in reds, yellows, and oranges. Ornamented dragons were carried among the backs of people. Lit lanterns were displayed in many colors and shapes. It all seemed so spectacular, to live in such a lively city around that time. I felt as though I had traveled to China hearing the different tongues and smelling the different food. Seeing all the lights...
When night swept the sky, I lied awake in my unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar house, dreaming of these places, these exciting experiences. I drifted into the lightest sleep, as slight shadows displayed against the unfamiliar walls.
The smell of rain woke me up the next morning. It was Sunday, the Lords day and though this day was filled of rejoice, rest, and prayer, a testy gray spilled over the light blue sky. Small particles of water clinched to the window sills, and the grass outside. I dressed in my yellow Sunday gown away, detest the mood and the depressing weather outside. I made sure my light hair was tied properly in its yellow ribbon, and that not a thread fled on my dress. I was representing dear Father and his good name. His false and cheap good name…
I said my good byes to him and left the large cottage, following its course and rocky dirt road to the main fence. I ran my hand on the wet white wall, like a little girl, feeling the strange texture of its chipped paint and water.
A sudden wind came making me shiver vigorously, so suddenly. In this strange wind I smelt foreign scents and spices. They nipped at my nose, tempting me. I then heard peculiar singing and laughter. Then, I had an unusual sensation in the pit of my stomach. Inquisitive chants and fragrances mingled into the September country air. I had a feeling, a sudden curiosity. I turned and saw the wind had come from the lake and its connected river.
As people gathered by the church, a certain suspicion and fear was in the air. The men stood aside from their wives, leaning again the church wall, talking amongst themselves, and sharing a single cigarette. There was nervous, alert, yet impassive expressions shone on their faces. The women were quite the opposite. They crowded in little clusters, sharing bits of information and gossip about the new company here. They chatted loudly and fast, ending after the other had just began, reminding me of the hens at Elizabeth's farm.
As I found Elizabeth, she seemed to be in the middle of it all, clenching her small womb with her equally small hand.
"Better keep that baby away from them. Better stay clear." An elderly named Maria warned, pointing her bony finger to Elizabeth's stomach.
"Yes. Better not cross their paths." Her only daughter, also named Maria, added. "They use witchcraft."
"Witchcraft?" a sudden scornful laugh left from my lips, silence can from the once rowdy crowd of women, their attention no long on Elizabeth, but on me.
The younger Maria's lip curled.
"Is this funny to you? Elizabeth's baby is in dangerous circumstances and this is funny?"
Ashamedly I looked to Elizabeth. Her sight avoided me, and she gazed at the ground still clenching her womb.
"Hush up now, Maria. She don't know any better." Her mother scowled her, never turning her crazed eyes from me. Of course I didn't know any better. I was an outsider, a new comer and no one had a right in telling me so. They pitied me. The daughter of a wealth sick man, lost in a comma. And because of this, they gave me kind smiles and greeted me into their private community. But I knew better. I knew the whispers hidden behind the warmth of their smiles.
"I didn't mean it." I pleaded to Elizabeth and the crowd of women.
"It don't matter." Elizabeth whispered suddenly, giving a small smile. "It don't matter much, since they don't even show their faces to the town. No need to worry much."
And while the chatted began again and all attention was off of me, I thanked Elizabeth silently.
Church droned on as usual, in Latin, but this Sunday was certainly different. People fidgeted nervously in their seats, even more then usual. The women fluttered their fans rapidly at the humidity that hung in the church. Even the priest's mind appeared to be preoccupied at the moment. It seemed oh so chaotic, from my perspective. It was also exciting, since it seemed this was the only change from normality the folk usual experienced.
As church filtered out into the now sunny and humid air, goodbyes were exchanged and everyone went back to their usual Sunday chores, but every so often I saw the people peering over their shoulders on their ways home.