All Bedlam Courses Past (part seventy-four)

Pastel drawing of bird flying away from bonfire






All Bedlam Courses Past


Chapter Three
An Object in Motion
(part seventy-four) 







The hand that struck Richard was his mother’s. Verbena, swallowing cries, had been rising from the cot and lowering herself. She stood now. “I don’t have no filth in my house! You come ate my food and you slept under my roof, and you know I taught you manners!”

“Well, I’m sorry, Mama. I don’t mean to anymore.”

Braving Shad, he slipped off, but muttered…so that Élucide had to believe Richard addressed her, had parted lips twice this day to respond to her: “Just go home. Don’t be here ever.”

To his father, she said, “Be the way you have to about it, but I think it’s a shame. Mr. Sartain is your cousin, not mine. He has to leave tomorrow. He knows…he remembers, Mr. Everard…”

“And I have told you already, I remember too. I have no wish for it. I have no wish to be bullyragged out of my peace by a sermon from Horace. I have expended my store of civility for Miss Towson… Above all.” The phrase dropped, his point needing, it seemed, a heavy, phlegm-burdened inhalation. “Above all, young woman, you cannot repair your father’s crimes. Not…”

He raised a hand against her saying, crimes!

“…by continuing them. Do you see anyone in this room who belongs at Ebrach’s table? Is it charity?”

Charity to expect they’d come, or charity to be scorned, item by item? One borrowed ride to town; one instance of polite speech to Eugene Ebrach…

One beyond-price climbing down to thank a Gremot?

They heard jingling, the huff of hill-climbing. A naïve halloo from Samuel, in answer to a warning: “Boy!” And Lawrence, speaking in the familiar way to his stepson. “Don’t hang on my tail like that. Your mama knows you ain’t done your chores.”

He entered by the back way, to sneer a bit at the lingering smell of his brother.

“Richard gone? I don’t suppose…” He spoke to Verbena. “You got money to be giving him, so I won’t worry about that.”

This, of all Élucide had heard and seen, was the thing over-intimate—that Lawrence had implicitly the right to put his poor mother in her place.

“Good morning.” She said it…and a simple greeting was somehow the toppler.

“Is Shad taking you home, or do I need to?”

“Lawrence.” Shad, from outside.

“That’s right, this is where they got to live. Now you seen it. You go hunt up some cousin good enough to stay in town with Mr. Ebrach, then you chase after my parents so they can sit at the pauper’s table and say howdy. Maybe you can raise my brother up and make him teetotal, so you can push him back down at your father’s feet to say bless you, Squire…”

“Oh, don’t give that much of your mind to me, Lawrence.”







Pastel drawing of bird flying away from bonfireAll Bedlam Courses Past (part seventy-five)















(2023, Stephanie Foster)




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