Vanishing Arrows E2

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Dialogue of four eldest children continues…

Mattie tells Leland to extinguish the match. “Stop actin’ weird, boy. Let’s all go outside to do our chores. We can talk more out there.”

Leland begins feeding hay to the cows while Mattie milks them. Joann and 11-year-old Bettye enter the barn with eggs from the hen house.

Joann bluntly expresses herself, “I’m just gonna say what everybody’s thinkin’. We need to run away. But we ain’t got no skills except farmin’ and satisfyin’. Nobody ’round here’s gonna pay us kids to farm.”

Mattie aims a stream of milk from the cow’s utter to squirt Joann, “Wow, I wouldn’t be so blunt!”

Bettye asks, “Really, what we’d do fer money? How’d we raise the five youngest?”

“I’m not sayin’ it’s right. We’d probably burn in hell fer it. We could make good money doin’ what we already do most every night fer free. I’m sayin’ it’s worth considerin’,” Joann asserts.

We obviously ain’t in no position to take care of mamma’s babies,” Leland replies. “No offense, Joann.

Like Malcolm, we have tough choices to make,” says Mattie. “We need to draw a line in the sand on who can be saved.”

“Y’all don’t like me being blunt, but y’all still haven’t answered how’d we support ourselves,” Joann insists. “Seems I’m the only one willin’ to earn some money. Mattie has the most experience satisfying.”

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“Malcolm filled my head wit’ ideas ’bout urbanization and industrialization. Factory workers is puttin’ together parts on assembly lines. Mother did it durin’ the war,” suggests Mattie.

Leland responds, “Perhaps in Detroit… maybe Hershey or Gloucester, but not Fayetteville, West Virginia.”

“Don’t expect nothin’ different if ya don’t do nothin’ different. There’s all kinds of factory work. Maybe we can package food or work fer a newspaper. I’m tryin’ to be optimistic,” Mattie says.

Leland replies, “Ya gotta be real too. We ain’t heard from Malcolm since he left. He could be too embarrassed to write us and say it’s not goin’ good.”

Mattie speaks up in Malcolm’s defense, “It’s been less than a year. If he wrote us, do ya think father would give us the letter? It takes time to save up enough money fer all of us. But if we leave together and share a place, we can pool our money and help each other, even if we all can’t find work.”

“So, that’s yer plan? We wake up one mornin’, eat breakfast, walk to the big city, and some of us kids find jobs,” Bettye objects.

Joann chimes in, “Even if I could walk five hours while pregnant, father would hunt us down in the truck and tan our hides. Y’all remember how mad he got when Malcolm left.”

“We shouldn’t hafta go on foot. Besides the truck, we also gotta wagon that we used to pile in together fer church,” Leland says.

Mattie snaps her fingers and shouts, “Church! Perhaps it’s time fer these arrows to aim fer church this Sunday. The pastor might be able to get help fer us. But, either way, the followin’ Sunday we’ll load up the wagon and roll outta here fer the last time.”

“Is we really gonna leave our younger brothas and sistas?” asks Bettye while stroking a horse.

“One is still in a crib. Mother will hafta look after ’em. We can’t kidnap babies or nurse them. Also, nine of us would attract a lot more attention than four. When they get old enough, they’ll do like us. They’ll find a way out,” Mattie assures.

“It almost seems they’d be betta off in heaven,” says Leland.

“We all would,” Joann replies.

“There is a Promised Land on earth. So dust off yer Bibles and hymn books. This Sunday we goin’ to church,” Mattie concludes. “Now, let’s take these eggs and milk in the house so mother can make breakfast.”


Mattie and Jamie discussion…

To reduce the shock of leaving, Mattie preps her mother, Jamie. On Friday she says that the four children would like to go to church on Sunday.

Jamie says, “It wouldn’t be wise fer Joann to go in her condition. What happens in the family should remain… private.”

“But mother, she’s the one that needs the most spiritual prayers and stuff,” Mattie protests.

“Perhaps that’s true. If my hands weren’t full wit’ tending to the other five chil’ren I’d like to go too. I’m thinkin’ of how yer sista will feel as others gossip ’bout her,” says Jamie. “Yer father won’t want reproach brought upon his house.”

“What if I go wit’ Leland and Bettye this week? If it’s okay wit’ ya, Joann can come wit’ us next week,” Mattie suggests.

“Yer father‘s the one needs convincin’,” Jamie replies.

“I’ll do my best. Somethin’ else I’m curious ’bout…. Ya ain’t gotta answer…. What father does… to Joann and me…. Does it make ya jealous… or angry wit’ us? I don’t understand why he needs us… unless ya ain’t able or willin’… to be… ya know… fulfillin’.”

“My sweet child, these ain’t things a mother should hafta talk ’bout wit’ daughters. Yer father is sick from the war. The alternative is violence.

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The Good Book says to honor yer father. That’s what yer doin’ in my mind. So fer peace in the household, it’s somethin’ I’ve come to accept… that calms his moods.”

“Through the years, it wasn’t clear if ya didn’t understand what was happenin’ or knew and hated me. Hearin’ yer acceptance makes me feel less guilty, I guess. We don’t hafta talk ’bout this again.”

“If pregnancy results, that’s somethin’ we can talk ’bout… and I can help y’all wit’,” Jamie assures. “Ya got natural smarts to be a good leader some day if ya stop thinkin’ ’bout what yer father does or doesn’t do.”

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“That means a lot comin’ from ya since ya worked durin’ the war and raised ten kids. I’m surprised ya say we honoring him. But this talk was good, ’cause I don’t feel embarrassed around ya no more. Yer not mad at me, right?”

“Do me a favor, please. Be careful what y’all say to the pastor. I ain’t mad, but it ain’t nobody’s business outside this family. If yer father lets y’all go to church, just listen to the sermon, pray, and get yer prayers. But don’t say nothin’ that puts me or yer father in a bad light.”

Without uttering another word, Mattie concludes with a hug before walking to the bedroom that she shares with two sisters.

Mattie and Joann conversation…

Joann is eager to ask, “Well, what’d she say? Can we all go to church?

“We gonna hafta ease ya in. This Sunday, Bettye, Leland, and me can go and talk to the pastor. Next Sunday, we’ll all get to go,” says Mattie.

Looking dejected, Joann replies, “Y’all plannin’ to leave me behind, because I’m pregnant.”

Sitting next to her on the bed, Mattie places her arm around Joann and assures her, “My sweet sista, ya just dunno how much I love ya. I’m takin’ ya outta here even if I hafta fight father! We just need to ease into this idea of goin’ to church… so father won’t get suspicious. We need to support each other.”

“Why can’t Leland be the one that stays behind?” asks Joann.

“First, he’s gonna drive the wagon. Second, mother is afraid that yer goin’ out in public while yer showin’ will reproach father. Over the next week, ya can sew a shawl that hides yer pregnancy.

“Cut apart empty burlap sacks from the feed meal and work in some ruffles or lace. It should be both pretty and warm. That’ll fix father’s fears fer next Sunday when we all leave,” Mattie assures.

This excites Joann and restores her confidence. In appreciation, she kisses Mattie, who returns the affection, holding her tighter and longer than normal. Joann then begins sketching ideas for her shawl.

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