Saturday, January 05, 2013

500 Days - The Girls Who Would Be Birds

Here is today's installment of 500 Days. Hope you enjoy!
Widow Ricketts Wakes Thinking “What Am I Forgetting?”

            I wake up with that indistinguishable feeling that I have forgotten something.  My first thought (because of so many years of training) is that I have somehow forgotten the wash - I've left it out on the line overnight where it has worn itself free in the wind of night or, I've left a whole load soaking for too many days. But, as soon as I sit up I brush off those worries. I am no longer a washerwoman.  I am an oil baroness.  Ha!  Seems funny even to think it.  We are eight days into our production and already we have too much oil to process.  Jane and Diana were hard at work all afternoon.  You should have seen them, their hair tied up in rags, their skirts tied up to each side to allow themselves the liberty of movement as they wove back and forth from the well to the barrels.  Eight barrels we pulled yesterday and today they will be taken down to Titusville and sold.  In a little over a week I've earned more money than I've earned in my entire life. 

You could see how the lure of this instant wealth is enough to make those boys go insane.  How after a few days of the money pouring in, they suddenly acquire a taste for lobster even though we are about a 1000 miles from the sea and they were starving just like the rest of them just a few days before.  How quickly we forget our past, and those who are living it, when we get plumped up with cash, when we step away from it.  I'm proud to say not me.  I remember what it was like to sell my body and there isn't enough oil in this world to let me ever forget it.  That's why when I found the oil my first thought wasn't of myself if was of Diana.  I knew she was still save-able.  I knew she hadn't yet forgotten her worth.  That she was still alive.  I knew if I could only get her out she could start a new life.  When Diana found Jane down by the creek, with her tiny bird-like frame and her two eyes blackened by a John, what else could I do but take her in, too.  You should see those girls now that they got their freedom back.  It's like the life's been sung back into them.  Every night we sit around the fire and the girls tell stories, or sing.  Last night I even saw Diana giggle.  It was the most wonderful thing in the world to see her eyes light up like that with hope and joy.  I won't forget.  But I hope for their own sakes, they forget the days they've lived up to now. They are both so young. I can see in Jane's eyes the tough path she has walked to get to this place.  But the way the girl's arms are always stitched together I know Diana will take care of her even when they are far gone from here.

As I pull on my clothes and walk out the back door to inspect the well, my mind fills with a song, about morning breaking and though I'm not a church going person my heart fills.  All around the well grow tiny pansies their yellow faces upturned and peering thoughtfully toward the sun.  It's a beautiful sight.  A golden ring around the stone well.  For a second it makes the impossibility of this situation: the dumb luck that has struck us happy, believable.  No, inevitable.

I know the oil will stop.  I know that after it stops we will all separate and move on.  But, I will never forget the metamorphosis that is going on around me.  I will never forget how these girls have changed me.  Have brought me back to life. 

Then, from behind me I hear, "Emmy, you up already?" 

"Yup"  I answer. 

“Well, what are you waiting for?  Let's sit down and have some coffee so that we can plan the rest of our day.  We got oil to sell girl and lots of it!  Jane already got a pot on while you out there looking at them flowers."

I just smile, shake my head, and step back inside to the warmth of the house, to the two girls who are sitting at my table and smiling back at me.

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