Mama's Eyes

Mama's Eyes

A Story by Julie Dant
"

A short story set in the woodlands of theTennesee mountains in the year 1891 as narrated by a nine year old little girl named Sarah.

"
Mama jus sits there….sorta slumped down in’er ole scarred rocker.
It scares the bejesus outa me.
She don’t never,  EVER jus’ sit down and do nuthin’.
Makin’ me thaink thaings ah don‘ wanna thaink.
Makin’ me worry ‘bout thaings thet ah niver had ta worry ‘bout.

"Mama? …..mama?"
Oh Gawd…..why won’ she answer me?
Ah knowd she heered me, ‘cuz  ‘er eyelids fluttered.

When thet docterman left yisterdee
ah knowed they wuz sumpthin gonna change...
an change big.
But ah niver thought 'bout it bein' Mama thet would do th' changin'.
Ah jes kep' on thainkin' 'bout how it wuz a-gonna be from now on 'roun' here...
without are sweet lil' ole Junior a runnin' 'roun' here...
without a hearin' him an' Beenie scufflin' and a rasslin' 'roun' all over Mama's hard swep' cabin floor.
without a hearin' him jus' a gigglin' an' laughin' the whole while they wuz a playin' like they all'ays did.

I cain't hardly look at Mama's eyes.
It gives me a real queer feelin' deep down in mah belly.

An' it ain't jus' thet ah ain't et nuthin' since supper th' day afore yistidee.......naw...ah've been a-hungry afore.
Lak thet time Paw was down sick las' winter an' we'd run plumb outa food.
Thet's the firs' time I 'member seein' Mama cry. I 'member it 'cuz it was kinda lak
the same feelin' I's ahavin' now, but they wuzn't thet there nervus kinda fluttery feelin' lak they is now.
Uh feelin' lak ah cain't git mah breath sometimes
...lak ah cain't breathe deep anuff er sumpthin'.

But back then, Mama made everthaing  awright. She bundled Junior an' me up real good and tight 'till we
thought we wuzn't gonna be able ta move an she took us out to th' ole barn and she he'pped me ta git up thar on  Paw's ole mare Snap, then handed me up Junior an' had me put 'im down betwixt mah laigs so's he
couldn't fall off if he wuz to try ta act up any. But he didn' even move one muscle all the whole trip down
the mountain. It wuz lak he jus' sorta knowed thet he hadta  be good an' quiet an' stay still.

I 'member lookin' back oncet  ta see if Beenie was a trottin' after us, an'  seein'  Mama watchin' us leave. An' I saw thet she was a cryin'.  I 'member how I turned back 'round real fast, 'cuz it wuz like I know'ed she wouldn'ta wanted me ta see 'er lak thet. I 'member how thet scared me real bad. I 'member how then I commenced ta cryin' mahsef, until I saw thet ah'd made Junior begin  ta whimper, too. I quit ma cryin'  an kinda give a little squeeze ta Junior an' commenced ta saingin' thet little ditty he laked ta hear Mama saing to 'im at night afore he went off ta sleep.
An' thet shut 'im up nice an quick-lak. I looked down at the scrap a paper Mama'd put in mah hand raight afore she slapped old Snap on 'is haunch ta make 'im head off. Mama'd learnt me mah letters so's ah wouldn't be ignerant, she'd tole me, so ah could read it, an it said, just simple as ya please:

"NO FOOD"

I'd ast Mama whur old Snap wuz gonna take us to an' she said he'd go d'rekly down the trail to old man
Jenkins' place. When ah ast  'er how come she knowed thet he'd go thar, she said thet old Snap usedta b'long ta old man Jenkins an' thet ever time ole Snap got loose, Paw would all'ays know whur ta go ta find 'im.

I  wondered why Mama wuz a'cryin' so hard when we commenced to go down the mountain, when she knowed thet Snap would take us rahght on down ta  old man Jenkins. But when we got down thar, I overheered  old man and Missus Jenkins talkin' 'bout how lucky we wuz thet  thet ole hungry painter whut had been tryin' all winter ta git ta all the neighbor's livestock, didn't have us fer supper. I reckoned I under-stood why Mama wuz  a cryin' then....but when ah ast  Mrs. Jenkins why are mama woulda took a chanct on
me an' Junior gittin' et by thet ole mean painter, Mrs. Jenkins tole me thet my mama didn' have no choice.
She couldnta  left Paw with us in thet cabin for the time it'da took fer her ta ride ole Snap hersef to go git old man Jenkins an' the next day it'd take fer her ta git back up thet mountain 'cuz Paw woulda just died without her anursin' him lak she had to.

She 'splained ta me thet, if Mama had kep' us all in thet cabin..we'da all jes' starved ta death., and then whut
would we adone?

While Missus Jenkins fixed up somethin' good and warm fer me and Junior ta eat,  old man Jenkins wuz a saddlin' up. He came back in an' took down 'is gun , an tole Missus Jenkins thet he'd probly be gone a few days, an' not ta worry none. He wuz gonna hunt up some food fer my mama and paw afore he got thar so's they'd have somthin' to eat when he got up thar to 'em.  Said he'd lay in 'nuff meat fer all us  ta be ok 'till Paw got back up on 'his feet.

I 'member me and Junior had a right nice time with Missus Jenkins while we wuz thar. She is surenuf a real nice lady. I 'member bein' sorta sad when Mr. Jenkins finally got back ta take us back home ta Mama, even though I was missin' my Mama and Paw somthin' fierce.

Anyway, this feelin' in mah gut isn't lak thet hunger feelin'. Naw....it's somthin' lots worser.

It's somthin' thet hain't got nary a thaing ta do with bein' hungry.  It's somthin' thet happens to yer insides when real bad thaings a-happen to yer fambly. It's somthin' ah don' niver hope nobody ta feel, 'cuz it ain' no picnic, lemme tell ya.

Jes' thainkin' on how Junior quieted down whilst ah wuz a-saingin' to 'im on ole Snap's back thet day is makin' me wanna cry real bad. An ah don' wanna cry. Ah don' want Mama ta hear me cryin'. Ah know she shore don' need ta hear  me, her only chile left, cryin'. 'Side's, ah know ah's too big now. Too big ta cry.

Thet's whut Paw's been tellin' me fer a year er so now, lak thet time when ah fell an' cut ma knee an' it bled an' bled an' sceered me so bad ah'd run ta Paw jes' a-squallin' somthin' awful. He jes' hadta look at me one time an' say, "Hesh-up, now,  Saree! You hesh up with thet thar hollerin'. Ain' gonna make thet blood quit a runnin' down yer laig. An' it ainta gonna make the hurt go way, neither. Yer gittin' too big ta cry lak thet, girl! You hesh now. Come on with me an' we'll go warsh yer laig off an' see whut needs ta be done with it."
an then Paw picked me up...me with mah long gangly laigs jes' a haingin'  haf'way down ta the ground. Ah 'member thainkin' an' bein' sorely glad thet at least Paw didn't thaink ah wuz too big fer him ta pack aroun' still. Thet jus' felt real good. Good 'nuff thet ah fergot mah hurtin' an' didn't even feel lak cryin' no more.

Thainkin' on Paw has made me 'member thet he won' probly be back fer awhile. An' thinkin' thet is makin' me feel real skeert. Mos' times, when Paw's gone a-huntin',  it don' seem ta affeck me much, 'cuz Mama's all'ays taken keer o' thaings while he wuz gone off. But, this time it'll be diff'rent. It IS diff'rent. They jes'
don' seem lak they is nobody here in this ole cabin but me, an' ah ain' niver been all completely by mah sef.
An thainkin' 'bout me bein' all by mah sef.....thet is makin' me 'member thet poor ole Junior wuz all by hissef, too, when it happened. But at leas' ahm righchere in are safe cabinhouse.  Poor lil ole Junior wuz out
thar in the woods, all alone, wifout me, wifout his Mama, wifout his Paw. Only comfert he had was little ole Beenie, who all'ays went everwhar Junior went. Ole Beenie jes loved are Junior, somthin' fierce. An thainkin' 'bout Beenie...who musta tried ta tear right inta thet ole painter...a-tryin' 'is bestus to perteck  Junior, thet jes makes mah throat hurt ta keep frm cryin'. An thainkin' 'bout poor little baby boy Junior an' how scairt he musta been when he heered thet old painter screamin' out behind him on th' trail.....thet has set th' tears ta rollin'. Ah cain't hep it. They's jes' a comin' whether ah wan' 'em to er not.

When ah went ta sleep thet  night, ah 'member thet Junior wuzn't goin' ta sleep good, lak he usually did.
Me an Junior's pallet wuz th' closest to the farplace, so's we'd not git too chilled in th' night. Ah kep' on a-whisperin' to 'im ta "Be STILL, Junior! Go ta sleep, now!" 'till finally, ah wuz jus' too tuckered ta say it anymore. Ah musta jus' went off on ta sleep an lef' little Junior still awake next ta me on are pallet.

Th' next mornin', I woke up by hearin' Mama a'hollerin' mah name an' it didn' even soun' lak Mama's voice.
"SAREE! Where is Junior? WHERE is yer lil' brother, Saree?!!"
An' oh, gawd. OH GAWD.....Oh GAWWD!!!! Ah looked 'round everwhar fer Junior ta be sittin' down on th' floor playin' quiet lak he does sometimes, but he wan't nowhere.
"Saree!" Mama wuz hollerin' even louder this time. "What happened ta Junior?! Where IS he? Didn'cha hear 'im las' night? When did he git up, Saree?"
 
All them questions jus' a poundin' ' down on mah ears an' ah couldn't figger out mahself whut had happened to 'im. All ah could do wuz look 'round th room an' look at th' skeert look on Mama's face and tell 'er thet ah didn't know nuthin'! I tole her that "He wuz a-layin' wif me when ah went ta sleep, Mama, but he wuz still awake ah thaink when ah fell ta sleep. Ah fell off ta sleep, Mama,  wif him bein' still awake!" An ah could hear mah own voice gittin' higher an' seemin' ta start ta soun' all screechy-lak. Ah 'member Paw a-comin' over ta the pallet an' a-kneelin' down an' a-puttin' 'is arms all 'round me to settle me down a little. Then he ast me if ah'd heered the latch go up on th' cabin door any time an' ifn ah did, was hit gittin' onta light, er wuz it real dark out still. Thet's when ah commenced ta sorta moanin' and cryin' and shakin' 'cuz ah jes' couldn't 'member one thaing ta hep Paw ta know when Junior might'a slipped on out'n th' door.

I 'member Paw sayin' somthin' to me, an pattin' me as he got up an  went over to th' farplace an retched up ta git his rifle offn the wall over th' mantle. I 'member Mama commencin' ta cry an it sounded lak she was chokin' or stranglin' when ah heered 'er ast 'im ifn he'd heerd that painter last night afore they went ta sleep. An THAT's when I saw that look come over Paw. I cain't explain hit, but ah knew right then and thar whut Paw and Mama were thinkin' mighta happened ta Junior after ah fell off ta sleep an' left mah baby brother  all alone, awake, in are cabinhouse last night.

After Paw left are place on ole Snap at a gallop, ta go git as many men and boys as he could git ta hep search fer little Junior, I watched Mama walk back an' forth acrost th' floor at least a thousand er a million times an by 'bout an hour later, she wuz commencin' ta pray ta Jesus ta deliver are Junior back ta us. All this time, ah niver got offn mah pallet. I jes' laid thar. Listinin' ta Mama prayin' an' cryin' in turns. Fine'ly, she stopped an' looked right at me an' said to me, "Saree. You stay here now, ya hear me? You stay rightchere in this cabin an' no matter whut, don' go outside." An' when ah ast 'er whut she wuz gonna do, she tol' me thet she jus' couldn't stand ta be in here when her baby was somewheres out in thet woods all alone. She jes' hadta go an' look fer 'im, hersef er else she'd go crazy wif th' waitin'.

An as soon as she went out th' door, ah jest laid down on Junior's an' my pallet an' curled up in as tight a ball as ah could an' ah let the tears that'd been a burnin' at th' back o' mah eyes jest come and come and keep a-comin'.

    
Ah don' know how long 'twuz afore I heered  a far off shotgun blast. I didn' make one move, though. Ah jes couldn't. Ah wuz a thinkin' thet ah mighta been paralized...thet maybe ah niver would be able ta move agin. Thet Mama and Paw would come in th' door wif Junior up on Paw's big shoulders, piggyback, an they all would fin' me thar...jes' a layin thar...paralized..ferever an ever.......

Ah must've fell off ta sleep 'cuz when ah woke hit wuz dark out.  Ah looked up an saw thet Mama had come home sometime an was a sittin' in 'er rockin' chair. Ah thought ta mahself, iffn Mama is home, and jes sittin' down, not pacin' back an' forth a prayin' an' cryin', then somebody musta foun' Junior! Ah set up straight an' mah eyes went all 'round the room, jes lak they did this mornin' early. Ah looked...an' looked an ah seed thet Missus Jenkins wuz a settin' at th' table jes' a-lookin' real sad-lak at Paw, who wuz a settin' thar at th' table, too.. An I looked agin, all over the cabinhouse , jes a-thinkin' thet surely my sweet lil brother wuz back an; thet ah'd hear his lil voice any secon' now.......astin' Mama  fer a drink a water, er a piece a bisquit lef' over fr'm supper. But there'd been no supper. An'  there wuz also no Junior.
No Junior.

But there wuz Paw, his back ta me, sittin' down at th' table, with his head bowed down an' his shoulders were sorta jouncin' up an down-lak. An thet's when ah knowed that my Paw wuz a-cryin'.  My big strong Paw  wuz a-cryin'. Not makin' no noise at all, but a-cryin' jes' th' same.


An thet's when ah looked agin over at Mama. An that's when I could see 'er eyes ...thet there wuzn't nothin' in Mama's eyes no more. It wuz lak my Mama hadn't come back from th woods atall. It wuz lak some dead corpse'd crawled inta Mama's body when she wuz in them woods an' it was thet corpse thet wuz a starin' outa Mama's eyes. It shorely wuzn't my Mama in them eyes no more. I didn't wanna look at Mama's eyes agin ifn ah could hep it.
 
Ah begin ta , after a minute er two, see thet thar wuz a few other people standin' 'roun the table, too. An I begin ta hear some of whut they was a-whisperin'. Ah didn't wanna hear 'em. Ah didn't wanna hear whut they waz a whisperin', no more th'n nuthin'. Funny. Mos' other times, when somebody wuz a whisperin'  Ah jus' 'bout broke ma neck tryin' ta hear whut they wuz a-whisperin' 'bout. But not this time. Ah heered Missus Jenkin's voice whisperin', "Well, God only knows why he sometimes calls home the good and the innocent, James. But you've got to have faith that He had a good reason. And you must think of little Sara over there. I'm afraid she's gonna need you more than ever now, if Barbara doesn't......." an 'er voice just sorta trickled off-lak as she looked over at Mama, just sittin' there, not makin' one move, lak she wuzn't even in th' room.

An' ah wanted so bad fer Paw ta git up from his chair an' come over to mine an' Junior's pallet an' jes' lay down aside me 'an put 'is arms 'roun' me so's ah'd know thet ah was forgave. But, he didn'. He did look up an' over at Mama, though...his face turned 'nuff  fer me ta see thet 'is cheeks wuz all shiney an wet thar in th' farlight.

Thet's when ah laid down an' put mah head back down on mah piller an' ,somehow, ah fell ta sleep agin.

Th' next mornin' when ah woke up, everbody wuz gone, 'ceptn  Missus Jenkins, who said she wanted ta stay ta take keer o' me an' Mama fer awhile,... an' Paw. But there wuz a strange man there, thet ah'd not seen th' night afore. Finely, Missus  Jenkins saw thet ah wuz awake and came over ts me an' tole me thet the man was a doctorman, who come here ta check on Mama.  The doctorman was a-gittin' ready ta leave an' so wuz Paw. Ah heered Paw tellin' the doctorman that him an' sev'ral other of th'  neighbors wuz a-goin' back inta them woods ta  track th' painter that one a th' men'd seed th' day afore, an whut had blood on it's muzzle. He tole the doctorman thet they all wuz "a hunert percent sure thet it wuz the same painter whut had kilt are little Junior" an ifn it took th' resta hisn life, he "wuzn't a-gonna rest 'till thet God damned killer cat wuz kilt itsef."
Ah heered th' doctorman tell Paw ta be real careful, "or your only remaining child could very well lose her other parent."  Ah didn' understan' whut he meant. I hadn' lost one a  mah parents. Mama wuz rightchere an he wuz a-talkin' ta mah Paw.

When th' doctorman left outn th' door, Paw come over ta my pallet an' kneeled down ta give me a hug an' tole me he might be gone fer a day er two, but thet he'd be back an' ta take good keer o' Mama whilst he wuz gone. Ah nodded mah head an' wanted ta hang onta Paw so bad. Ah jes wanted ta grab onta 'im an' niver let 'im go, but ah didn'. Ah jes' nodded mah head an' watched mah Paw go outn  th' door ta go off ta kill th' thaing thet kilt Junior..

So now,  ever time Missus Jenkins goes outside to git some water, er when she goes ta th' root cellar, er down ta th' spring house ah try agin. Ah git up ofn me an' Junior's pallet an' go stan' right in front o' Mama an ' lean over so's she cain't  he'p but ta  hear me, an' wifout lookin' inta mama's eyes, ah try agin.

"Mama? …..mama?....please, mama!
Answer me mama!..Oh mama, ahm  sorry!. Ahm
so sorry, Mama! I couldn'  he'p it mama.
Mama? Are ya hearin' me, Mama? Are ya? Ah was jes' so sleepy.........."          THE END











 

 






 





© 2010 Julie Dant



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Added on January 20, 2010
Last Updated on January 20, 2010
Tags: short stories, death, children's deaths, grief, grieving, children's grief, pioneer life, mountain life, Tennesse mountain life, life in the 1800's, Julie Dant

Author

Julie Dant
Julie Dant

Washington, IN



About
I've lived in Southern Indiana almost all of my life. I've written poems most of that time, but I am just beginning to share some. I don't think I am great.. I may not even be good, but it is one out.. more..

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