I know Lady Luck must have gone and struck a deal with me. Maybe it was the soul of that sweet baby I didn’t get to keep that ran right up to heaven and started demanding luck for his lost Momma, because no sooner than I let him go, then luck start pouring over my head. And to think only a day before the world had been so different. I ain’t far from my home. My momma and I used to live over in Grove City. If I were to take the stage back home it would only take me a day or two to reach her. But, even though she is close, each day that has passed, has made her memory wash farther and farther away. She wouldn’t even recognize me if I walked in the door of our little cabin on Wolf Creek and I showed myself to her. I’ve only been gone less than a year, but so much inside me has changed I barely recognize me.
When we lived on the creek, we lived to survive. We had been there three years when I left. Three dark winters where we burned more and more wood that I dragged from the swamps and dried. Three winters where the cold seeped through the cracks of our cabin into our bones. Then, three springs where the skunk grass erupted from the creeks’ banks screaming in green, waxy leaves. It was just the two of us. We trapped game. We gathered wood. In the summers I’d collect wild strawberries and roots that we’d dry for the winter seasons. Like I said, we survived. Then, one winter, Mama started talking to herself. At first, I think nothing of it. I think, she tired. She need her rest. Or, I think she talking to the ghosts she’s left behind. There’s her babies she lost, her own mama, and pa, and then there is him. The man she never even got to marry. My Pa. He been like a wil-o-wisp in her life so long, I’m used to his memory rising up from the swamp. But that winter he haunts her. She begin to see him walking in the cabin. She have whole conversations with him then she get mad when I tell her to stop talking to the air, when I tell her that there ain’t nobody there.
“You just jealous.” She say. “Cuz he visiting me and not you.” Then, she’d get real mad, rocking back and forth in her wooden rocker.
One day, I went out into the swamp. It was deep winter so there ain’t much to find, but our stores are getting low so I set up some snares near the water. When I go out to check them I tell her I’ll be right back and I ask her if she could please keep the fire going. She say, yes of course she will. Then, I walk out the door, down the snowy bank and down to the snares. I couldn’t have been gone more than half an hour before I heard the gunshot. It rang through the whole valley. It frightened a whole flock of birds into the air. It echoed in my mind. I dropped the handful of rabbits I’d snared and ran as fast as I could to the house.
But, by the time I got there I was too late. She was on the floor, smiling. Her head half gone. Her body swimming in pool of blood that bloomed and bloomed around her. There was so much blood. I felt as if my whole body had turned to ice in that moment. I don’t know how long I stood there, the blood blossoming around her, the cold air pouring into the room before I understood what had happened, before I feel to my knees into that pool of my Momma’s blood and wept and wept.
After she died. I couldn’t stay. I couldn’t listen to the creek whispering to me about what I could of done to save her. And then, there was the complications about where we lived, about finding money enough to bury her. So, one day, after I packed up our things, I walked to town and found a sheet of paper stuck to the side of the salon.
Looking for work? It read. We need strong young girls to work in the hotel trade. If interested send word to Ben, Pithole PA. Work begins right away.
Well, I couldn’t even wait to reply. I sold off what little we had and the few rabbits I’d managed to snare and I bought a ticket on the first wagon going east. I found myself in Franklin by nightfall. The next day, I took a stage up the hill to Pithole and knocked on the door of the Dew Drop Inn.
That’s the day I lost my freedom. Or, that’s the day I lost the freedom of my body. My minds been trapped in that cabin with mama ever since that day the gun shot echoed through the valley.
But now, I’m hoping luck will ease me out of that steel trap. Perhaps, somewhere in that wooden place joy still exists? I’ve got to believe it does. Diana’s been such a dear friend. She’s the first person I’ve trusted in a long time. She hides it, but I can see she’s been to some dark places too. We understand each other.