This story is by Dee Capocelli Hyers and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
She was my sunshine even on gray days. Sweet as sugar, and pretty as she was wise, made an impact. Her beautiful hair wrapped around and around circled in elegance. She was the center of my universe.
Ruth lived in a charming house that even a child’s storybook could not have fantasized better. The front had a high pitched roof, a bay window and a cluttered, but clean, open porch. Chairs, covered with rust scabs, displayed handicapped arms and legs that were bent in every direction. The glider was our treasured spot.
The center hall went straight to the kitchen, overlooking the backyard. Like a stud king, our turkey marched and strutted all day around the outhouse shed. He was in residence from early summer to the day before Thanksgiving, gobbling his head off as though he was defying the inevitable.
I spent a lot of time watching our turkey. “The Turkey Jerky” could have been as popular as “The Pony” and “The Monkey” in the sixties. His snood led a rhythmic wattle that had a beat, and style, fit for Motown. The only other turkey around was our friend Silas, who daily sat on the front porch swing, playing his guitar devoid of any recognizable tune. He was totally
inept; possibly because his dragon breath reeked of moon shine. He gave me the creeps.
Down the road a piece, going into town, was a settlement called Negro Quarters in Holt, right in the heart of Alabama. I was never tormented or humiliated for being white skinned. It felt natural. Our blood color was the same.
During the end of the great depression through World War II, Ruth and I became inseparable. Times were hard. There were no Jobs. Families helped families. We were together as one, praying for better days ahead.
Food rations were at least something. Ruth started a victory garden, as many others, that boosted morale in our little community. We exchanged food and gave freely to the poor, who without us would have decayed in spirit and health.
The garden supplied plenty of food that we stored in the chick barn. Left overs from our rations were weighed, divided and placed in a six penny bag. To make a hand full of change, we sold our rations out of our kitchen window. People struck gold for a bit of extra sugar or flour. Holding that bag out the window brought a smile every time.
Even though there was a struggle to have some of a quality life, Ruth knew how to bring happiness through laughter and love, never giving up our dignity.
The days were becoming shorter. Fall was on its way. Colorful tips of tree leaves, hardly noticed, forecasted the weather was going to change. By the first fall, we had two chickens, a cow and one pig. A few flower seeds cast about in the garden kept the insects controlled. Along with our well water, we were living like queens relative to the times. Ruth was kind, giving as much away from our garden as we rationed for ourselves. It was time to plant the greens.
Many fall evenings, after a hard day in the garden, we sat in a glider on the front porch. We would swing, hum or sing The Old Rugged Cross or repeat the powerful words from Amazing Grace.
How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
Every night she took my hand, nuzzled my neck that she called my sugar bowl, until the moon left behind clouds I loved her, she loved me unconditionally. We slept together night after night, moon after moon. We said our prayers asking God’s help to end the war, naming all those that we knew for their safe return home.
The green of summer faded, as fall came in shouting a burst of color. The wind blowing gold leaves, red and orange until limbs were nude. Leaves gathered; a blanket covering the earth as winter shivered in.
Years passed like a snail’s pace. Ruth and I heard that the war was over. It was a time for a new beginning. My grandmother Ruth died nine months later. I was left in silence. Lonely and heart broken, I prayed. Part of my soul was taken to her grave.
After Ruth passed away, my aunt moved in. My grandmother taught me everything. I was strong. I had the will to go on because that is what she showed me. She set the examples of honor, dignity and self-respect. Her work ethic was music playing determination to march on. She told me to be myself with no excuses for what I am not, but to shine for who I am. I learned that worth has no value without God. Times were improving. It was what Ruth and I had worked so hard towards. I could read and write when many could not. I was advantaged.
There were many days that I went to the chick barn, particularly when I was wrenching without Ruth. So much of our lives were spent there taking care of the animals and other tasks in abundance. It was my way of coping without her.
My life didn’t change much. I met a negro boy who made me tickle inside whenever I saw him. He was adorable and full of fun. I wasn’t sure if he had any attraction towards me. He did seem gleeful a little when we saw each other at the grocery store.
One afternoon I was on my way to the chick barn when my imagined boyfriend stopped me to say hello. My mind went asunder wondering if he had started to notice me. I was curious, thinking if my flutter inside was what falling in love would feel like. I was just plain nervous.
Continuing to walk slowly, he stayed with me almost to the chick barn. Suddenly the clouds turned dark. The Rain came with force. Lightning fiercely bounced to the ground near our feet. Thunderous clatter seemed to shake the ground below while trees swayed in the wind. We ran.
He grabbed my hand. When he did my chest moved so fast I was sure my heart was going to fail. I was in love. The barn door was stuck, until banging loose boards gave way. We walked in. He dropped my hand. I was disappointed.
The inside of the shadowed barn had an incandescent glow that intensified my emotions. The squally wind whistled musically through the cracks between in the planks that were imperfectly nailed. The boy moved close, touching my side gently. In a popsicles freeze, neither of us moved. We immediately became unaware of all that was around us. It seemed forever that we stood as still as a pole; except for the heavy pounding in my chest. With the beat and seconds in unison, I waited for what was next.
Without a spoken word, the motionless and silent moment ended. I felt excited as he turned in my direction. I tried not to move my head, just my eyes as far as I could until I felt they might stick. He eclipsed my face as I turned to look at him. The chicks chirping seemed more dramatic. The wind speed sounded fiercer. His lips vanished as he tightly sealed his mouth. He swayed forward. Without a pucker, our mouths touched. In the pleasure of a second, we jerked from each other followed by a quick withdrawal.
Fully clothed we sat across from each other on the dirt floor that whispered a blanket of hay. Without a caress, we innocently peeked at each other. It is ironic that my sexual awareness began with my own peep show in the chick barn. The repeated ritual was undeniably pleasurable, Sadly, in the vein of a bad airport novel, I can’t even remember his name. The way that I played with my boyfriend was a secret until now.