Saturday, July 07, 2007

Bone Soup ~part one

Enough with the pity party, folks! Time to get back to work. I think it's time for a story!

Caidy rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and tentatively tested the air with her breath. She poked her head out from under the quilts and saw the steam emerge from the warmth of her feather bed.

Her feet hit the icy floorboards of the loft of the old cabin where she lived with her Ma, Pa and six siblings. She jerked her foot back as they encountered the icy coldness and then slowly put them down to adjust to the cold.

Aidin, her brother, snuffled in his crib. Caidy checked on him and pulled his little cap more closely around his ears. She saw the scabs and irritation that was part of having an infant in the fall. But water couldn't touch his head until the 1st of May so the crocheted infant's cap would have to cover the "cradle cap" rash until spring broke. Caidy did think it might be getting worse so she'd ask Ma if she should put some tar and sulphur on it. Though she grimaced at the thought of the smell filling up the bedroom.

Her brothers were already up and about when she climbed down the ladder into the main room of the cabin. But they hadn't tarried long enough to fill stoke the fire before going out to tend the pigs.

Caidy glanced longingly at her school shoes by the door. She sure would like to put them on to go get the firewood, but shoes were for school and not for chores.

Tucking her dirty blond hair behind her ears, she put on her shawl and hat and went out to the woodpile on the back porch. She grabbed as many sticks as she could in her thin arms and brought them in...using her shoulder and her hip to prop the door open.

For just a moment she looked over the frozen landscape of the farmyard and the mountains towering above the holler. It was one of those crystalline mornings where the entire land seemed to be breathing smoke. The creek was frozen solid and the usual murmuring of the creek was silenced as the water rushed, untroubled beneath the ice. The silence was unnerving. Everything felt dead in the pre-dawn light. February in Raven's Gap was a cruel time of year.

Her mother came in from the small lean-to bedroom she shared with Caidy's Pa as she was stirring the firebox of the big old cook stove. The water reservoir was warm from the leftover heat of the embers.

"Mommy!" Caidy said, "You shouldn't be up out of bed. You know what Nanny Hall said!"

Her mother had barely escaped death from childbed fever when Aidin was born and was still very weak. The midwife had gravely taken the 11 year old Caidy aside and told her, "Caidy, you are going to have to be the woman of the house for a while. Do you think you can do that?"

Caidy had looked up with wide blue eyes at Nanny Hall, the old woman who birthed most of the babies in these parts. Nanny Hall had long white hair and gentle eyes in her sun weathered face.

"Yes, ma'am. I reckon I can."

The fire roared to life in the firebox of the old stove. Caidy's Ma lowered herself with effort onto the bench beside the rough hand-made table that they all ate at.

She sighed with effort and said wearily, "I know, child." Her mother's soft brown eyes beckoned Caidy to her. Her Ma stroked the side of Caidy's cheek and patted the strands of hair escaping from her woolen cap.

"You are my precious angel. Did you know that? Did you?"

Caidy melted and grinned a snaggle tooth grin. Impulsively, she wrapped her arms around her frail mother and hugged her tightly. She hugged her with the desperation of a lost child.

Her mother patted her on the back and said, "That's my good girl! Now why don't you go up and get your little brother so I can feed him before he starts a'squallin'."

As Caidy scampered to the ladder to go fetch her infant brother, her mother watched her go. She drew the quilt around her tightly. Though the warmth from the stove was beginning to heat up the cabin, Caidy's Ma didn't know if she'd ever be warm again.

2 Comments:

  1. Chris said...
    Rosie, do you know if Simone was ever a smoker in real life? I ask coz her character in the movie "Hot Target" smoked.
    Jbeeky said...
    This is the type of writing that would have had me making cabins out of sheets and chairs as a child. Lovely. You are so talented.

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