Publish Novellas 9 January 2022
EPISODE 2 – GOD WILLING
When you can’t save everyone, you have to make hard choices to determine who deserves salvation.
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 reasserts.
“I ain’t want none of my sistas being no whores. We obviously ain’t in no position to take care of mamma’s babies,” Leland replies. “No offense, Joann.
“Bettye, I hate to ask ’cause yer the youngest here. But ya offered to keep from gettin’ a beatin’, so has father started in on ya?”
“Well, I see and hear what he does to Joann and Mattie and I expect somethin’ soon. It seems betta than a spankin’. When he looks at me bathin’, he says I’ll be ready when I grow some private hair. Sometimes he kisses me on the mouth different than he does when other folks is around. But I’m still waitin’,” Bettye replies.
“My poor little sista, it’s not somethin’ ya should look forward to. If we seem to enjoy it, that’s to keep him from hurtin’ us. As the oldest, if I had offered myself more, Joann might not be pregnant. I rather him take me every night than start in on Bettye. 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 and said she’s willin’ to do it every night at home.”
“There’s a difference between wantin’ and willin’. I’m willin’ to sacrifice my body wit’ father to protect my sistas!” Mattie shouts in defense. “We ain’t got not experience pleasin’ a bunch of men. Strangers can be dangerous. There’s many ways they can hurt us.
“After gettin’ what they want, how’d we make ’em pay? We’d also get pregnant more often without knowin’ the daddy. Besides breakin’ more commandments, turnin’ abuse into a business ain’t no plan. It’s what we tryin’ to get away from.
Contact local Child Protective Services to halt child sexual abuse. Parents face criminal charges with children placed in foster care.
“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.”
“I still don’t know why he spanked me—or any of us—when Malcolm is the one who left,” bemoans Bettye.
“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. I can’t tell y’all to like it or hate it. Yer father is sick from the war. So he expresses his love in that way. The alternative is violence. I didn’t approve of his beatin’ y’all bare behinds. But what could I do? One day when ya get a husband, yer gonna learn how to support yer man.
In a survey of 312 participants, one of two themes associated with increased motherhood blame for child sexual abuse was covert knowledge. —PubMed
“We all family—even Joann’s baby when born.” Bowing her head in tears, Jamie admits, “Look how many siblings ya have. I don’t withhold myself from yer father. Sometimes…, I hope ya understand…. Sometimes… a man needs more love than one woman can give.
“By satisfyin’ yer father, y’all girls ain’t hurtin’ me or makin’ me jealous—whether y’all experience some pleasure or not. 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.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t say, but sometimes… it can seem nice, even though it’s wrong. I don’t know how howI should be feelin’ ’bout it.”
“If ya stop thinkin’ ’bout his bad habits, he can be real pleasin’.”
“I think yer saying it’s okay to enjoy it…. Since ya say so, I’m gonna try. Sometimes, he asks fer extra things tho…. They’s as embarrassin’ to say as fer ya to hear.”
I know the kinds of things my man be likin’. It’s all right. Just do what he tells ya. Y’all girls don’t hafta tell me details. Sometimes after satisfyin’ me real good, he visits ya the same night. There’s only so much I can do. He’s gotta lotta desires. We helpin’ each other tame ’em.”
“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 from some of it, 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.”
If you find yourself in a similar predicament, do not fall victim to such sacrilegious reasoning.
“That means a lot comin’ from ya since ya worked durin’ the war and raised ten kids. I’m surprised ya never lectured me on adultery… and say we honoring him. But this talk was good, ’cause I don’t feel embarrassed around ya no more. Yer not mad at me fer sharin’ yer man. That’s what we doin’, right?”
“Do me a favor, please. Be careful what y’all say to the pastor. I ain’t mad, we sharin’, 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. Between us, I’m not showin’ yet, but I suspect I’m pregnant too. 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.