Yesterday, I had a bit of an a-ha moment in regards to my story. For the past year and a half, as I've been working on this hybrid manuscript, I've been trying to figure out what is missing. But yesterday when a friend asked me why I didn't have any sections in the voices of the male characters I realized what it was. The men. I need to add in the back stories of Ben, Pastor Steadman, Crocus. I even thought of adding a chorus (Greek style, not Broadway style) of the hollow boys - a lyric voice of the young boys who work in the derricks. It was a wonderful, inspiring inspiration. Today though, you are hearing from a woman. In this section, Widow Ricketts continues the story. She's just awoken from her reoccuring nightmare where she recalls her husband's death. Hope you enjoy!
Widow Ricketts – Aubade
This morning, dawn struck the sky dumb with amazing colors. I was so startled when I walked outside in the dawn light that I almost forgot the nightmare I’d just been immersed in. The one that I can’t ever shake – the one where Henry kisses me one last time on the lips then walks across the street to the dock, steps gingerly into his wooden boat and pushes off into the grey deep that will be his grave.
Each time I dream it, I know at the second our lips touch that he will die, but something happens to me: my legs freeze, or they feel glued to the floor. Or, a glass wall descends and holds me back so my screams of stop, don’t get in the boat, or you’ll die, never carry across. Or, a ghost descends, a tattered grey of a shade that billows around me holding my wrists and ankles, covering my mouth with the cool grey gauze of its form so that my words become nothing but lost air.
But today the stain of dawn washes away that grey dream, the gray waters that would wash him farther and farther away. The dawn washes it away with the hope of the sight of the well directly in front of me. A well that has become a fountain of oil. What luck! Who would have ever believed that was possible.
I step back inside and look into the front room where the girls are curled up on pallets on the floor. Diana, her hair swept out around her head like a golden wave of fire, her face pinched in worry that never seems to wash away even with sleep. Then, right next to her, the new girl Jane, who sleeps tightly bound like a field mouse. Her brown hair pulled tight into a braid down her back. They are floating in their own worlds now. Worlds that are tangled in a web of stories I’ll never know. In a few minutes, I’ll wake them and their faces will melt into the daily masks they wear. No trace of history will pass across. Only the face of the daily, the everyday. I know it is only a survival, as mine is, but how I wish we could all just open our mouths and let our stories pour out, like clear, clean water.
The pink begins to fade from the sky and a sort of yellow glow starts to grow. The shift in color reminds me that we got a lot to do today. Yesterday afternoon the girls and I sat at my round oak table and made our plans. We gonna get as much oil out of that well as we can. We worked out shifts and a system for selling our oil in town. Then, we made ourselves a pact. At the end of all of this we are going to ride this big dark wave of oil and leave. We are going to leave this dust and these hollow boys. We are going to get in my wagon and ride all the way down the hill to Oil City where we'll catch trains out of here. I don't know where the girls are going, don't even imagine they'll be telling me, our friendship here is just too tied up in their awful present. A present I don't reckon they want to go telling their families and friends about. No, I'm not going to be anything but the lady who helped get them out of this place.
Me, I don't know yet where I will go, somewhere green and lush, somewhere far away from here. My sister lives up in Maine. I haven't seen her in so many years, but she writes me letters every few months about the ocean and the way the air smells heavy with salt. The way she describes it, Maine sounds like a clean place. It sounds like a good place for a fresh start. Hell, I was only in Franklin because of Henry. Now, what good is it to stay around here? Especially, now that all has changed. Especially, now that this dark black wave is going to wash under us and carry us out of this place.
I put the coffee on, then I walk over to the girls to wake them up. I give Diana's shoulder a shake. Then, Jane’s. “Time to rise and shine,” I say.
And they awaken. Diana flutters awake like a small bird. Jane sits bolt upright, a look of terror across her face.