Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Stir With a Knife ~ Part Three

Bessie struggled against the ropes and screamed for help into the gradually darkening day. The path was in the deep part of a holler which meant the sun would set here before it did on the ridge above. She lost track of time and her throat was hoarse from yelling for help.

“Oh, please, merciful Jesus!” she prayed tearfully. “Please send someone to help me!”

She continued to struggle against her bonds until finally, exhausted, she slumped against the tree in an uneasy doze.

In her first moments of returning consciousness she heard the babble of the nearby creek. The crickets were rhythmically chirping over this and the chirps were punctuated every now and again by the deep quivering call of a bullfrog. Before she even opened her eyes, she knew from the sounds that darkness had fallen here in this quiet glen in the wood.

Bessie wondered if it would be any use to holler for help anymore or if she should just prepare to spend the night here waiting for dawn to break and try not to draw attention to herself. She was dreadfully thirsty and if she could get to those moon pies in her apron bib, she would most certainly eat them.

She smelled it before she saw it. This is often the case. The heavy scent of wet dog slowly became stronger and stronger. It was like filthy wet wool that had been spun in the grease and then laid in front of the campfire to dry. There was not another smell like that and Bessie trembled in fear. She had no way to make herself larger or more threatening and in the dark of the night it would make little difference.

The dreadful sound of something large shuffling through the brush and grunting as it snuffled along the ground reached her ears and she was truly afraid.

She thought of the evil girls who had left her there and she thought of Bart who had set this all in motion. She thought about the community in general who seemed to take a perverse delight in thinking the worst of everyone as if a person’s hardships were cause for great joy. And Bessie felt a smoldering anger build deep within her. She’d be damned if she would face death sniveling and afraid here alone in this dark place.

Her eyes had adjusted to the dim moonlight filtering through the trees casting gray dappled shadows on the forest floor. The bear entered the clearing on the path where she was securely tied to the tree and lifted its huge head up into the wind to sample the smells of the night. Bessie hadn’ t seen such a large bear before, it seemed to easily be 400 pounds with a glossy black coat and its tan pointed muzzle. There was a curious intelligence glinting in the big bear’s button-like eyes.

The bear riveted it’s massive head around and stared at her, it’s eyes fixating on hers. Then it reared up on its hind legs like a shaggy man and roared. Bessie could smell the hot fetid breath of the beast from where she was. It shuffled closer and closer to her and she thought of her poor sick mommy who would be left without anyone to care for her once she was gone. And Bessie felt another surge of rage rise up from deep within her breast.

The bear snuffled at her feet then reared up again so that its huge head was looking down at her. She met the bear’s stare head on with a fierce look in her eye. Then, the bear lifted one paw, as big as a dinner plate, and rested it gently on the side of her face like a lover. She felt the coarse bristly texture of its pads against her cheek and the hard sharpness of its claws resting on her hairline.

“Hold! Ursula!” called a voice from somewhere in the darkness.

Bessie cut her eyes in that direction and she felt the bear freeze where it stood.

Slowly an eerie green light illuminated a spot across the wet spring. Bessie wasn’t sure what she was seeing but the spot grew brighter and brighter and suddenly there were three women standing there with their arms entwined. They were not comely but were strong looking women. Each wore a homespun kirtle and white shirtwaists with cameos at their throats. Their hair was long and flowing down their backs in the fashion of unmarried girls. They looked like women from old photos. They were not exactly young, nor were they old. They were bathed in the unearthly green light.

One carried a spinning bobbin, the other had a skein of yarn wrapped around her hand and the third had a large pair of scissors. They looked to Bessie to be women just come from a quilting bee or some other sewing gathering. She had been to many herself though she didn’t usually carry her supplies out in the open like that. She usually carried them in her large tapestry sewing bag.

The one with the scissors held them up and looked at the other two.

“Shall I?” she asked, looking at her two companions and then back at Bessie and the bear.

The one with the bobbin said, “No, wait…we may have a use for one such as this.”

Bessie finally found her voice, “Be careful! If you come closer the bear might git you!”

The three laughed. It was a silvery tinkling sound that seemed to travel over the air to the ear in a visible path. The green light shimmered with their laughter.

The one with the skein said, “Oh dear! Child, Ursula will not hurt us…nor you if we ask her not to.”

The bear looked kindly on the three women then looked a bit longingly at Bessie. Bessie frowned and glared back at the bear.

Bessie turned her face to the women and pleaded, “Please, please won’t you untie me? If you can control your bear I’d ‘preciate you callin’ her off of me!”

The three approached Bessie. The green twinkling light that surrounded them seemed to move with them and dance around in the night air. It moved around them like a live thing.

The bear continued to hold her huge paw against Bessie’s face as the women drew closer.

“You see,” said the one with the bobbin, “we lack one such as you in our circle. Mayhap you are the one we have been seeking.”

Bessie frowned and said, “What do you mean? Can’t you just untie me and let me go on home?”

The one with the skein said, “Well, you can clearly see that we have a weaver, a cutter and I hold the skeins, but we have no stitcher.”

The one with the scissors said, “Yes, we lack one to sew the fabric of life into quilts. Clearly, you can see that.”

The one with the skein said, “Mmmmm, yes, lovely quilts, warm and colorful. To hold the memories of the threads we cut.”

Bessie felt a surge of desperation. “Yes, Yes! I’ll join your sewing circle, though I’ve never seen you ‘round here before. I’m a good quilter, really I am. I’ve won prizes and all. Just please, let me go!”

And the one with the bobbin moved closer to her and wove around the tree and whispered into her ear, “But it will come at great cost. Are you sure?”

And the one with the skein whispered into her other ear, “Will you sacrifice your beauty? Will you live your life alone?”

And the one with the scissors said, stroking Bessie’s hair, “But you will have great power and will carry the golden needles. But it comes at such a cost…Are you sure?”

Bessie realized she was being offered something extraordinary, that these were no normal women. She wondered if they were even human and if they were maybe angels or fay folk of some sort. But she felt in her bones, in her angry tired bones that she would surely die if she turned down the offer of the three mysterious women and then no one would be there to take care of her mother.

She closed her eyes and said, “Yes. I accept.”

The women pulled back from her and the one with the bobbin reached into her skirts and brought out a packet of needles. When she flipped open the paper flap that covered them, Bessie saw that they were needles of the purest gold. They glinted in the moonlight with a mellow soft light.

And the one with the bobbin tucked the packet of needles into Bessie’s skirt pocket.

She whispered to her, “Take good care of them, my sister. Stir with a knife, trouble and strife…”

And they faded into the greenwood like ghosts with their bear following behind them and Bessie felt her bonds dissolve around her..

At least, that is the story she tried to tell months later when her wounds healed. They’d found Bessie still tied to the tree that morning. She had been mauled by what might have been a large bear or maybe a panther. They weren’t sure exactly what happened but the girl was not as injured as badly as they would have expected from such an attack. She still had two Moon Pies tucked in her apron pocket.

Her beauty was ruined by the deep claw marks on her face. They did not heal up well and the scars were puckered and drawn. One of her eyes no longer focused properly and she no longer could see too well out of it. One of her legs had been scarred as well. Bessie would dance no more. But she was glad she had lived so she could take care of her mother.

The other item she had on her when she was found was a packet of golden needles.

The Conclusion of "Stir with a Knife"

1 Comment:

  1. Renie Burghardt said...
    Wow, what a great story! I'll have to go back and start at part I. Came over from Mary's blog.

    All the best,


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