1.19.2015 Journal Prompt

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org

January 19, 2015: It was time.

3 Replies to “1.19.2015 Journal Prompt”

  1. Mam said I came ‘fore my time. She wasn’t ready, she said, no way and no how, and she held it against me all my days, held something against me. She was doubled over and on her knees, and not at prayer but scrubbing the dirt from the front step. It was a Monday morning after all. And sharp as a knife or a needle, and deep as the soul inside her, I signaled my intent to be in the world this day, and mam let out a cry, something between hurt and hold, and she knew, just like she knew before any doctor or nurse that I was a girl.

    I was not my mam’s first but I would be her last, or the devil take her for a handmaiden. She swore to whatever god she held dear, her fire and brimstone god, swore that he would not put his hands under her dress again and she would not soften to his sugar-sticky words, and she was talking about my da.

    Not yet, she said to me, not even though I was pushing ‘tween her legs, and her words was as sharp as a slap, for she could stop dogs and cats and horses with her tongue. Not yet, she said, for the step needs finishing. And I swear that my first breath had the sting of coal-tar soap in it and the first sound in my ear was the shush-shush scrape of the hard bristled brush against the worn stone, slumped and slung like a shallow hammock.

    And Marion, five years on her next birthday and knee-high to a duck, and mam sent her to fetch the doctor, but only when the step was good and done. And mind you be quick as kick about it, girl, for ‘tis time and past time.

    And mam said I could dance ‘fore I could walk, and run ‘fore I could dance. And I could talk ‘fore I had much to say, and I was always singing, bright as budgie, till she cuffed my ear, hot as toast and so hard I could hear bells, and she asked what I had to be always singing for. And she set me to my chores, and there was always chores, and she said there’d be time ‘nough for singing come Sunday and we was in church for the morning.

    And I growed to be taller than my mam soon enough, and she said over and over that I’d never be so tall she couldn’t take her hand to me. I was top in my class, every year and for everything, but mam said there was nothing good in a book, ‘less I was reading the One True Book.

    And at thirteen I began working at Cooper’s Grocery store, packing bags early morning, and running errands after school, working all the hours for old man Coop who had a squint so that he could see behind his head if you was stealing nuts or honeycomb. And I swept floors when the shop was shut up for the day, and scrubbed the front and back steps, on my knees and praying at the same time. I worked three years at that store, saving small pennies till they was enough and more than enough.

    And mam said goodness knows but college was not for the like of me, no way and no how, and she slapped me just to show she could. And I did not cower as before or dip my head in silent submission. Instead, I told my mam ‘tis time and past time. And I packed my clothes into a bag and I left, not looking over my shoulder to see if she was watching; and I skipped and danced when I was sure she had gone back in doors, and I let a song escape my lips even though it was not a Sunday.

    It was time, I said to myself.

  2. Mam tells stories. See her sitting in her chair, pushing back on the rockers, and she’s knitting socks or sewing tablecloths. And her glasses resting on the end of her nose, and she’s telling her stories, to every one and no one. Likes the sound of her own voice, my da says, but he don’t understand and he should, being as how he is a gardener: mam is planting seeds.

    ‘And the lion shall lie down with the lamb. That’s what I told him, and he waved his hand in my face and he called me all names and he said it was not yet time for that.’

    Mam telling her stories and telling ‘em over and over so we can say ‘em along with her, like prayers, like the litany said in church.

    ‘But I could see into his soul. The eyes, you know, they is windows to the soul. And I could see the white boy was better than he thought he was, better than he pretended to be. And I said as God is my witness and as God is his, we should be friends and neighbours.’

    She’s telling the story of when she was a girl, which it is hard to believe she ever was. Grey in her hair now and her teeth are yellow, and she walks with a stick, walking crooked for all that. She’s telling the story of da when he was a boy, a white boy who had lost his way and our mam would be the one to find it for him again.

    Mam laughs and she shakes under dress and da laughs also.

    ‘And didn’t he get up and give me his seat? Didn’t he? And he asked for my name, which I tied it up with a ribbon and made a gift of it for him. And it was time, and the world stood on its head. And there was marches and protests, and your white da kept smiling at me and he kept saying about the lion and the lamb, reminding me of what I’d said before.’

    Da arranges flowers in a vase and he sets ‘em down on the table in front of our mam. And he says mam must be going soft in the head for she’s told the same story every day for a week and it was never a new story then. But like I said, da doesn’t get it.

    ‘And he was pretty for a white boy,’ mam says, ‘and he said I was pretty, too. It sure was time and we was carried away with all that was changing.’

    Sissy gets ahead of mam’s story then and she can’t stop herself and she says how the world ain’t the way it’s supposed to be just yet and she says how it’s up to us to make it different again.

    ‘That’s right,’ says mam. ‘The world ain’t the way it’s supposed to be, not just yet, and it’s up to you to make it different again, and to make it better.’

    And I know mam’s right, just like she’s always right. And it’s seeds she’s planting, and it’s up to me and Sissy and the likes of us to stand up and make a stand for a better world.

    ‘And love is the answer,’ mam says, ‘and it’s just love.’

    And mam looks at our da, and they are the living proof, and Sissy and me, we get that.

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