Publish Novellas 25 January 2022
EPISODE 9 – FEELINGS
Mattie and Joann attempt to establish laws for their uncharacteristic relationship within a dysfunctional family in this series finale.
⚠️ Reader Discretion: Mature dialogue.
Fearful of stirring Mattie’s anger for the first time, Joanna retracts her insult. “I’m so sorry. Don’t be mad at me. I shouldn’t make fun of ya ’cause yer the oldest and the one takin’ care of me. Yer feelin’s is important. I wanna know ’bout ’em.”
With trepidation, Mattie tries to broach the difficult subject, “We been real honest sharin’ emotions lately. But I never knew how to express my feelin’s fer ya, till…. Never mind!
“Maybe we should change the subject. Ya either gonna ignore my feelin’s or make fun of ’em. Ain’t none of this need to mean nothin’ ’cause we mostly happy. Don’t let me keep talkin’ crazy!”
“I know what yer sayin’ ain’t easy. Since I ain’t got no schoolin’, all my learnin’ comes from listenin’ to ya. Seems we shoulda been figurin’ out yer feelin’s those two years Leland had nothin’ to do wit’ us.”
“Maybe, but my feelin’s fer Leland was in the way of ones fer ya. I’m still happy wit’ Leland. But I get roused towards ya when I watch ya get pleased.”
“I learnt everythin’ I know ’bout love and… anythin’… from ya. I don’t know how to love ya more…. Besides, we made vows to Leland.”
“We keepin’ our vows to Leland. Ain’t nobody being unfaithful ’cause ya ain’t goin’ outside yer marriage. I’m already in it! There’s three of us, but yer givin’ all yer affection to just one,” Mattie reveals.
“As my closest sista, I’ve always loved ya. I loved father, but the law says he wronged me. I been lovin’ Leland, but just learnt the wifely way. So maybe I ain’t figured out how I should love ya right.”
“Mattie explains, “When I say I love ya, it’s the same as when I tell Leland while he’s pleasurin’ me. I’m riskin’ everythin’ sayin’ this. If ya think it’s silly, I’m gonna be mighty embarrassed!”
Joann hesitates. “Ya ain’t gotta be embarrassed none ’cause I kinda know whatcha want. Seems ya been hintin’ fer awhile and waitin’ a long time fer my reaction.” Pulling her hair back and wiping her hands on her dress before opening her arms, Joann continues. “I can’t do fer ya what a man does. Though I ain’t most presentable, if there’s some pleasure wit’ me yer lustin’ after, ya can get it right now. I ain’t gonna fight ya off.”
“That ain’t no kinda proper invitation! Yer right ’bout me lustin’ after ya. But ya gotta be lustin’ fer it too so I won’t be forcin’ myself on ya. If ya think yer happiness is all the way, then answer this. How did ya feel when ya was teachin’ me how to please Leland, and we changed places so I could please ya?
“Nobody ever learnt me how to have them feelings fer ya. I kept tellin’ myself I was showin’ ya how to please Leland. But I was confused ’cause my sista was pleasin’ me so much. Help me understand how I should feel ’bout ya.”
“Joann, we felt the same. We really had two honeymoons. One was just me and ya. It opened my feelin’s fer ya. Then we closed it shut and never talked ’bout it no more. If ya knew I liked makin’ ya feel that way, would ya stop me?” Mattie inquires.
“Mattie, I wouldn’t stop ya… cause them’s the feelin’s I like—whether it’s on account of Leland or ya. But I would still be… confused ’bout lettin’ my brotha and sista pleasure me,” Joann confesses.
“Let’s unconfuse ya. What we done, ya admit that ya like! When we teamwork fer Leland, we show how much we love him. When we practicing, we love each other. If I wasn’t yer sista and we was wives, would ya still be confused ’bout yer feelin’s?”
“Yer askin’ questions I ain’t smart enough to answer. I never knew no women could be wives to each other. Is ya askin’ me to be yer femme?”
“Ya may not wanna be called no femme. But yer plenty smart enough to know whatcha like. Our world is this farm. In our world, the things we decide is law.”
“So what’s the law fer us?” Joann asks. “Just tell me so I ain’t doin’ nothin’ wrong.”
“We is already two wives in a marriage. When we was practicing, ya enjoyed a honeymoon before the one wit’ Leland. We ain’t changin’ none of Leland’s vows. But since there’s three of us, we missin’ some vows. We can fix it by promisin’ to love and satisfy each other as wives. I’ll start: I vow to love and satisfy ya, Joann—not just one time, but always.”
“That sounds easy…. I know what a vow is. Here I is wit’ my baby suckin’ my teat and wearin’ no fancy clothes. Ya makin’ me blush more than Leland do, rousin’ feelin’s I ain’t known I have.”
Mattie tenderly kisses Joann while she vacillates.
“Okay, I vow to love and satisfy ya always too, Mattie…. Ain’t no more confusion ’bout that. I just didn’t know I was supposed to be treatin’ ya the same. Now that ya explained it to me, it makes sense.”
“Not like a sista, can ya say ya love me same as I love ya,” Mattie asks.
“Whenever I say it now, I’m thinkin’ like ya. I reckon the more we… practice our teamwork, the better we can please… Leland,” Joann hints.
“Yeah, we sure would please Leland a bunch if we… practice teamwork a lot more,” Mattie concurs.
“Now’s time to finish nursin’ some babies. Between when we put them down fer a nap and when we start fixin’ supper, I think we should bathe… fer Leland… before we… practice. I’m smilin’ ’cause ya know exactly what I’m talkin’ ‘bout without me sayin’ it.”
“We gonna give Leland plenty enough teamwork. Ain’t no need botherin’ him ’bout how much practicing we doin’. But if he sees us by surprise, we just say that’s exactly what we doin’—practicing… fer him,” Mattie suggests.
“Alright. If ya woulda told me to be yer femme without tellin’ me why, I woulda start satisfyin’ ya. I let ya give me extra convincin’ ’cause I like to hear ya talk.” Joann admits while smiling. Plus, I learnt a bunch of stuff so now I ain’t afraid to admit I liked the first time we practiced teamwork or to say I’m lustin’ after ya.”
With pleasant disbelief, Mattie responds, “Joann Shoemaker, I was feelin’ so scared and embarrassed till ya agreed to our vow! Ever since we came to this farm, I been the only one startin’ up satisfaction wit’ everybody. I really want somebody to lust after me without me doin’ all the convincin.”
“I think cause we grown and we got vows, it’s gonna be different. Yer the law on this farm. Ain’t nobody ever told ya ‘no’ to nothin’.” Joann enumerates, “I got married wit’ ya, cook wit’ ya, wash clothes wit’ ya, nurse wit’ ya, and bathe wit’ ya. How would I look tellin’ ya ‘no’ now?”
“Now that I think ’bout it, I can’t remember ya ever tellin’ me ‘no’ to nothin’,” Mattie realizes.
Joann acknowledges, “We don’t go nowhere and ain’t got nothin’ but babies and each other. If it weren’t fer ya, there’d be nothin’ excitin’ to do. I ain’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but ya make me feel special. Now I’m gettin’ excited ’bout havin’ them feelin’s on purpose instead of on accident while practicing teamwork.”
Mattie suggests to Joann, “Well, ain’t nobody fears gettin’ cut by a dull knife. So I feel comfortable wit’ ya. This is gonna be a big day fer us. It’ll make me happy if ya get started bathin’ right now before my turn. I’ll rock the babies till ya get back.”
On the way to the watering hole, Joann checks the barn to confirm her suspicion of Sue Ellen. To her surprise, instead of being with Ethan, she’s with Leland. Her first thought is to run him through with a pitch fork. Before doing so, she runs back to the house to tell Mattie. Joann is furious and fed up with all Leland’s licentious behavior.
Mattie is disappointed but not surprised. “Calm down. Let’s talk it through. What they doin’ exactly?”
“He’s kissin’ her the same as he does me—wit’ his arms around her in the hay. They clothes was still on. But I ain’t fool enough to not know what’s happening next!”
“I’m sorry ya seen that. He’s broken vows to us. That can mean different things. What ya thinkin’?”
“Ya said we make up our own laws here. All the laws everybody make ain’t right. What if Leland marries her too? I ain’t sharin’ no teamwork wit’ my daughter fer my husband,” Joann replies.
“Of course ya wouldn’t. Maybe we either ignore whatcha saw… or forgive him,” Mattie suggests. Tell me yer thoughts.”
“If he broke our vows, then we ain’t married no more,” Joann reasons.
“If he ain’t married to ya anymore, then what if he’s still married to me?” asks Mattie.
“Things is gettin’ complicated. What if ya and Sue Ellen is his wives? Oh no, then ya might have our vows… wit’ her. Tell me what to do!”
“We know nothin’ ’bout no vows wit’ Sue Ellen. I think he’s just satisfyin’ his bad curiosity. Here’s how I’m feelin’. We been knowin’ fer a long time that Leland has big lustful desires. Ya said he was eying Sue Ellen when she was younger. As more girls reach puberty, she probably won’t be the last.
“He’s the only husband I can ever have. So I wanna keep my vow wit’ him even if he can’t wit’ me. If we don’t forgive him, we ain’t wives no more…. Is that whatcha want? I’m just suggestin’. If ya calm down and let me please ya, everythin’ might not seem so bad.”
“If I ain’t his wife and we still do stuff we been plannin’, is ya gonna have a femme outside yer marriage? You’d be breakin’ yer vow wit’ him. When he finds out, he might replace us wit’ our daughters. None of them’s good ideas.”
“I can see yer hurt. It seemed fer awhile like everythin’ was perfect fer a family that ain’t normal. My feelin’s ’bout ya is the same but Leland can’t stop being my husband. Them two years without him was really tough fer me.
“I’m hopin’ ya won’t walk away from me. I ain’t got no freedom to condemn ’cause I done the same to Leland when he came of age. Then I offered my sisters to him. Bettye and me even done things in secret. Four of us came here snd I found ways to get satisfaction from all of ya’ll. I gotta forgive him, like I was expectin’ him to do if he found out ’bout us.
“I fer sure ain’t got all the answers. But I hope my thinkin’ makes sense. We never got started on what we was plannin‘. Seems it won’t be as right without Leland. Our kids gotta see us kissin’ a man ’less we have a farm full of butches and femmes.”
Butch and femme are terms that became apparent in the 1940s. They identify roles within the lesbian dyadic system. The term butch denotes a degree of masculinity displayed by a female beyond a typical tomboy. The femme maintains a feminine role. There are women in butch–butch and femme–femme relationships.
“Well, I’m fed up and ya made yer choice. Somebody’s gotta protect the chil’ren! I ain’t gonna wait to see if Leland wants Sue Ellen wit’ ya as wives when I leave him. After fulfillin’ my vow fer 8 years so Leland won’t touch Sue Ellen, he takes her anyway! I’m tellin’ him he can’t have her no more. I rather she be wit’ Ethan.”
“If I was wound as tight as ya, there’s no way ya could reason wit’ me. I can’t tell ya how to feel. All can do is ask to talk ’bout this when ya calm down.
“Right now ya has three choices. Wait till Leland is done wit’ Sue Ellen and they come in here like nothin’ happened; confront ’em in the middle of doin’ it; or holler fer Sue Ellen to come in the house and hope she ain’t gone too far.”
“I’m sorry, but all the vows is broken now, includin’ ones ’tween me and ya! Even if Leland is the only man, I don’t want him no more. Mother didn’t protect us, so we ran away. I can’t act like nothin’s happenin’ to my daughter!
“If ya keepin’ Leland, ya can’t have me too. I rather satisfy my passions by myself! Ya can be the only wife of this farm… if I don’t slaughter him like a hog first. Now I’m gonna confront him in the barn and rescue my daughter.”
Mattie has always wanted a husband to call her own. Out of what she views as fairness, she shared Leland. Part of her hoped her sisters would repel the notion. Now, without expectation of fidelity, she hopes to enjoy being the lone wife as long as possible—if Leland lives through the night. When tempers subside, she may revisit her feelings for Joann.
As hours go by and neither Leland, Joann, or Sue Ellen respond to the supper bell, Mattie fears what may have happened in the barn. Later, while putting everyone’s children to bed, Joann and Sue Ellen enter. They remove filthy clothes and wash in a basin before going in a bedroom together without saying a word.
Mattie’s heart races as she lays down alone on Leland’s bed. She doesn’t know if he’s too embarrassed to come home or if her sister buried him! The second day, Mattie tells Joann that she supports whatever she’s done.
On the third night of Leland’s absence, Joann knocks on Mattie’s bedroom door looking like she needs comforting. Closing it behind her, she climbs on the bed for an embrace and says to Mattie in a solemn voice, “I’m sorry…. We need to talk.”
“Ya don’t know how much I let him do to me to keep Sue Ellen safe. He’d say he needs to…. It’s hard to tell ya. He’d say he don’t feel like goin’… outside…. Then he’d make me drin… (urolagnia).”
“Ya don’t hafta say it,” Joann.
“There’s lots more degradin’ stuff…. He was abusin’ me worse than father ever done. Maybe ’cause I have such strong desires, I was willin’.
“I vowed to let Leland’s do anythin’ to me and promised to love him… even give him more babies… because it protected my daughter…. He experimented and pushed my limits. Since me and ya been sharin’ him, he’s been on his best behavior… doin’ more satisfin’ things. That’s how ya protected me.
“Then I seen him… layin’ wit’ my daughter…. It was more than just Sue Ellen that got me riled up. It was all them things I put up wit’… fer nothin’!” Joann tries to confess while sobbing, “I’m so sorry… fer what I done….”
“Calm down, Joann. Don’t say nothin’ more ’bout what happened in the barn—ever. Too much talk ’bout stuff that ain’t gonna change is gonna get ya upset…. The important thing is ya stood up fer yer daughter…. Just tell me…, should we fear fire… or is he coming back?”
“No, Mattie, he ain’t…. Never.”
“Shhh, Shhhhhush…. It’s okay…. Sue Ellen’s safe cause yer brave. Now does ya feel safe… wit’ me? Is this where ya wanna be?”
“Yeah, Mattie all that talk ’bout leavin’ ya… and…. Well, it can’t be. I was just mad at… him, ya know. Our lives is all mixed together, and I’m hopin’ yer feelin’s ain’t changed ’cause of what I done.”
“Remember I said we make the laws here. I ain’t never gonna punish ya. I have some fault fer rousin’ him to satisfy his sisters that got outta control. It’s just us now. Ya was right bout me bein’ one of them kind of women, I guess. Them’s the desires I got fer ya. I can’t leave the farm lookin’ fer other femmes. So I'm hopin’ ya adapt fer me.”
“I was afraid ya might not want me no more after what I done. Thanks, Mattie…. Ain’t no sense in wanderin’ ’round lookin’ fer a femme to give ya somethin’ that’s right here fer ya. I’ll be yer wife or yer femme or whatever I need to be. So it seems we got more adaptin’ to do.”
“Does ya ever think somebody can have a sickness of wanting too much satisfaction?”
“I reckon it would be a sickness better than most if she gets it.”
The latest National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) reveals the number of women reporting same-sex partners has increased from 1.8% to 7.9% over the past 20 years. —Natsal
As the children grow, so do the number of houses on the property. In time, four additional homes provide lodging for a generation of families with more children. Others imitate their mothers. A few choose to move away. Those that remain care for their aging parents.
Progress for Gerald’s mental illness…
Many years pass by. Treatments for PTSD—mostly talk therapy at first—begin appearing. In 1980, “post-traumatic stress disorder” becomes a formal diagnosis in the DSM-3. Gerald’s behavior mellows out with treatment.
The surviving family has no idea what became of the runaway children. Twenty years after the fire, Jamie, the matriarch, receives an envelope postmarked in Kentucky that is addressed solely to her. With no return address, it contains a recent photo of someone who resembles her son. On the back is written, “Malcolm Shoemaker. I love brother Leland.”
Still wearing black in public as a sign of mourning since the fire, Jamie begins sobbing. She has renewed hope that the other children are also safe. Jamie frames the photo and shows it to anyone that visits. The billboard reward increases to $10,000.
The Shoemakers hire a private investigator to look for Malcolm in Kentucky. But the search yields no results. A year later Gerald dies. Another twenty years after that, Jamie dies. The Shoemaker billboard finally comes down.
The five younger children never hear from their older siblings. The cause of the fire and disappearance of the children remains a mystery to most anyone alive in 1955 when the reports were publicized.
“Grandpa… Grandpa! Earth to Grandpa, do you read me?” a young child says before boisterous giggles. “Grandpa, do you like the DNA test kit gift? It will build a family tree and tell us all about our ancestors.”
🧬 Researchers continue to develop new treatments for PTSD and learn more about how trauma affects both brain and body. Research suggests the possibility that the effects of trauma and stress can pass to another generation by means of chemical changes in DNA.
“Oh, thanks, Sweetheart. It is a lovely gift, but you don’t need a high-tech family tree to know I love you,” Malcolm replies.
As a teen, Malcolm could not find work in the city, so he enlisted in the army. When his service ended, he settled in Kentucky and looked up news reports about his siblings. After piecing together what occurred, he sent the postcard to his mother. Malcolm then moved to Louisiana to raise a family.
There is no way of knowing everything that really happened to his siblings. But this is the version of events that Malcolm believes answers many questions. So now, the faux life passes before his eyes once more before shutting his eyelids for the last time. He is content to carry a fiery family secret to his grave.
Yes, the meandering details of this story are fictional imaginations of dying man. However, his ideas are backed up by scientific data on generational effects of incest.
The abuse of children and incest are global problems. This fictional story presents a plausible outcome that deviates from published facts. It is Malcolm’s fantasized flashbacks of incomplete information. How do think the fire started? What do you think happened to Leland? Do you believe that childhood sexual abuse is cyclical? Did you identify more than ten unexpected plot twists in this story?