written September 9, 1996
The wisps of heat rose from the oven to twist into the tendrils that had escaped from the rag tied about her head. Wet strands, swimming on her face where rivulets of water streamed down her temples and rolled off her nose, down the hollow of her throat, between her breasts. She took no notice. Her shirt stuck to her and it would only peel away from the narrow shoulders and curve of her back. The flies buzzed, thick like gauze and would settle on her head, her shoulders. She didn't hear. Her arms were delicate, yet how misleading; they had carried so many white babies, plowed so many fields. They ended in narrow wrists and calloused hands. The biscuits were plumping now, filling themselves with the air that was escaping out of her. A half apron tied about her rake thin waist, the same one that had expanded and contracted three times already though she only saw the two living faces as they were taken away. They had come from the master, the reverend of the town. Where were they? Were they lucky enough to be dead now? Thick, dough, flour air permeated the room. Legs were long, lean. When she was younger she could outrun the reverend but then he broke her so badly it took her three months to heal. She didn't run anymore. Images of another deceptively delicate girl, JoJo, were jumping through her head, scenes of life intertwined with her own. JoJo. She could feel nothing through the soles of her feet, they were tough and gnarled as the maple tree outside. The tops of her feet were the same color. Didn't wear shoes. She didn't own any. JoJo was the only thing she owned, spiritually, lovingly. She had made a mistake and loved her sister. She could see the reverend walking now to her sister's hut. The biscuits began to burn. At each fall of his stride she heard screams rip from the throat of JoJo, inside across the hens yard. Dust kicked up as he walked, deliberate, purposeful, fateful. Plates crashed against the wall. She stood there, nothing she could do. She could do nothing. Burning flour in the air. JoJo was in hysterics now. A fissure had been planted in her mind the first time the reverend came to her and now that fissure was a gorge. Tears began to line the ridges of her eyes. He entered JoJo's hut letting the door slam behind him. She knew this would be the last time. JoJo's mind was broken and the remaining web that held together what was left of it would now dissolve, she was only eleven. There was nothing she could do. Smoke from from the biscuits made her eyes blink the stinging saltiness out, this brought her back and she took the blackened mounds out of the oven.