Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stir with a Knife ~ Part Two

Bart Roach was a pretty, pretty man. His entire family were very comely people. Bart was a rare thing up in these hills, an only child. His folks were better off than most, since his daddy was a foreman at the local cannery. Bart, with his black hair and sky blue eyes could have any girl he wanted. But for some reason, he wanted Bessie. And Bessie hadn’t wanted anything to do with him since one day several summers ago.

She’d just come through the woods that day with a basket of eggs for the old sisters who lived up the road. There in the road was Bart with an old horse that had collapsed in its traces in the road, it’s spavined legs trembling in exhaustion. The load of logs Bart was asking it to pull was just too much for the old mare. Bart wielded a whip in one hand and an axe handle in the other.

He alternately struck the horse with both, screaming, “Git up, Dammit. Git up you worthless sack of bones!”

He was in such a raging fury that he didn’t see Bessie standing there. She ran forward, hollering, “Stop! Stop! She cain’t help it! Stop!”

But it was too late, by the time Bessie reached the poor mare. Bart had beaten her to death.

He stamped in the road, dancing about in anger. Bessie knew then that a man mean enough to beat a horse so badly in anger had something wrong with him.

But that didn’t stop the other mountain girls from seeking him out. When he was on his best behavior in a social setting, he could be quite charming. And he was considered a good match by most of the local families. The only sign that he might be a difficult man was his pouting bottom lip and his tendency to flash his eyes when he didn’t get his way.

But he almost always got his way and had since he was a tiny baby. Indeed, anything bad that Bart did, was brushed away by saying, “Awww, he were just petted too much.”

But still, there was many a girl who would gladly take over the job of petting pretty Bart from his family.

But Bessie wanted nothing to do with him. He’d once come calling at her house with a bunch of flowers and some candy for her. He’d come to ask permission to call on her. Bessie turned him away at the door saying, “Thank you, but no.”

Bart threw the flowers in the dirt of the yard and stamped on them and threw the candy out to the pigs. Bessie looked out the small window, peeking from the lace curtains at him.

“Lawd, he just ain't right.”

Bart just couldn’t get her out of his mind though. It was more that she wouldn’t have him than anything else, and he decided if he couldn’t get her by courting her that he would just take her. He figured once he’d had her, that itch would be scratched and he’d be done with her.

But now, sporting a big black shiner courtesy of Bessie’s dainty fist, he felt the humiliation keenly. So he put about that she had slept with him after the dance.

Bessie didn’t notice much at first. She’d half forgotten about the incident after the Harvest dance. But soon she was aware of the nasty looks and cold shoulders. It didn’t take long for it to get back to her.

It wasn’t that Bessie was unaccustomed to sniping about her. She was a very pretty girl and many of the girls were jealous of her. Until she was safely married, it was likely that she was going to be the object of nastiness and envy. She knew this, but the attack on her virtue stung particularly bad.

Cora, June and Stella were three of the most hostile towards Bessie. They had always had a sore spot towards her since they were children. The three friends seemed to delight in tormenting Bessie for as long as she could remember. Now that they were of an age to marry, they each had an eye on Bart.

Cora came up to Bessie one day as she was coming down the road from Timmon’s store and seemed to be in a terrible state.

“Bessie! Bessie! …We need help!” Cora seemed all out of breath. Her pale freckled face was flushed in splotches all down her neck.

“What’s the matter?”

Cora wrung her hands and said, “It’s little LiAnne…she’s fallen down in the cistern at Mr. Greens. Can you come help?”

“Well, surely!”

They took the shortcut through the woods on Cora’s suggestion. Halfway through the path in a place that was cool and damp from a wet spring, June and Stella came up behind Bessie and roughly put a burlap bag over her head. Bessie felt the rough scratchy texture of the burlap and that smell that was somewhere between raw cotton and cracked corn. She struggled to breath beneath the rough cover.

“What are you doing? Let me go!” She screamed.

Her only answering was the giggling of the three girls as they tied her arms to her body. They dragged her over to a poplar tree and tied her to the tree, firmly by wrapping rope around and around. Finally the girls were done with their task.

The took a knife and slit the burlap sack so Bessie’s face was showing. They scowled at her.

“That should teach you!” June sneered at her.

Bessie started to cry and sob. It was clear that they meant to leave her here and while someone would eventually find her since this path was used now and again, she had no idea when she would be found.

Stella pulled something out from the pockets of her skirt and stuffed them in the bib pocket of Bessie’s pinafore apron.

“That’s in case you gets hungry.”

They screamed with laughter and ran off down the path.

Bessie looked down through her tears and saw with a sinking stomach what Stella had left there. She had left her two Moon Pies and Bessie knew then she was most likely done for if someone didn’t find her soon.

She’d been tied out in the woods as bear bait with a lure planted on her body.

Stir with a Knife ~ Part Four

1 Comment:

  1. Chris said...
    Rosie, were you fortunate/unfortunate enough to catch one of those old Jasper shorts when you were younger? I was watching "Jasper and the Haunted House" earlier today.

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