All Bedlam Courses Past (part seventy-three)
All Bedlam Courses Past
An Object in Motion
The cabin had one room altogether, a cot mattressed by the full store of quilts, a barrel stove, home-crafted, in a corner; and the braided rug and patriarchal armchair from the stead.
Verbena patted the cot. “That old seat ain’t right for nobody but Richard. I got the kettle on, Lucy. Let me see what else I got…” She backed from the stove carrying chickory brew in the blue tin cup. “Now how is your poor sister a-doin? I hear she’s back out there by the river, with your mama. Here, I got something nice, hid.”
A glance, saying so, to the cabin’s rear. She brought from under the sleeping pillow boxed comfits, the sort of gift Cleome would bring. Cleome Towson, vehicle of all gossip.
“Oh, Nildie is improving, I think.”
“God love her. My little daughter come out so perfect, like a angel carved out of ivory. I would never thought. But He wanted her up in his house.”
“I know. It’s so sad.” This was a brand-new confidence.
At Élucide’s back, knuckles rapped a window. The tattoo was sarcastic in its way, imperative and playful, too intelligent a rap to belong to Samuel. The front door skidded open. She rose to greet Old Richard, saw the green of the woods color the air; saw a pond, well below, one they must have dammed for themselves, reflect an oval of sky…
“What, ma’am, have you come to my private home to make a nuisance of yourself over?” He did not let her answer. “Richard! Don’t you know you have a guest?”
He was gone, and he was back, gripping his son by the arm. Richard had his overalls hip-high, bib flapping.
“Is it April Fool’s Day? No? Must be well August, I suppose. In that case, Miss Gremot, you’ll just have to take the bull by the horns. I don’t want him, and his mother can’t keep him…”
Richard said: “I’m leaving right now. Thanks, Daddy.”
Once upon a time, this had been a close-knit family. So much for the efficacy of prayer and home visits. Maybe it was a reach to blame the Temperance Fellows…
Richard’s shins crowded his mother’s knees. But Shad had circled the cabin, and stood eyeing them through the door, balancing a firelog in his hand.
Élucide said: “I think you’re having one of your jokes, Mr. Everard.”
“Who’re you talking to?” Richard pushed his face close, although his eyes flickered shy. His breath was monumental.
“If he ain’t rational, you oughta have him out the house.”
“Never fear, the matter is in hand.” Old Richard answered Shad with almost a wink.
“Please. There’s a dinner this afternoon at Crownhaven.”
(2023, Stephanie Foster)