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Authors: Caroline Rose

May B. (7 page)

BOOK: May B.
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      I whisper the words,

      go through the letter several times,

      and I understand.

      Mrs. Oblinger’s gone.

      The biscuits.

      She planned to make this look like a simple ride,

      but she prepared ahead of time.

      
Mr. Oblinger works;

      the floor is almost done,

      for her.

      I hand him the message.

      “The missus left this.”

      He walks outside to read in the light.

      I pull farther back in.

      This is his business,

      not mine.

41

      I busy my hands with sweeping

      the almost-finished floor.

      “I need to get to town,” he says.

      “She probably don’t remember the way.”

      He reaches for his hat

      and in his haste

      almost trips over the scattered wood.

      “Don’t worry about supper,”

      he says.

      “I could be gone some time.”

      He hitches the other horse to the wagon,

      lays his rifle across his knees,

      and drives,

      fast as lightning sparks fire,

      quick as flames consume the prairie.

42

      Even at home,

      if Pa and Ma drive into town,

      I’ve got Hiram for company.

      And there’s Bessie in the barn and the laying hens.

      Here,

      there is no cow yet,

      no chickens roosting.

      I watch the wagon

      until I see nothing on the open plain.

      For the first time ever,

      I am alone.

      Fear flashes inside me.

      Pa never left Hiram and me without protection.

      All around me there is nothing

      but the prairie and the sky.

      “Silly girl,” I tell myself.

      “There’s no reason to worry.”

      But it takes a time for my heart to slow.

      I stretch out on the grass;

      sweet sunshine warms my face.

      I stay like this all afternoon.

      My chores can wait.

43

      I wake

      to evening shadow,

      confused.

      The wagon is still gone.

      Inside I pick an apple from the barrel,

      light a candle,

      work numbers on my slate.

44

      When I sit up,

      my slate falls to the floor.

      The candle’s burned out.

      Morning light filters through the papered window.

      The other bed is empty.

      The missus must have made it far

      if they stayed in town overnight.

      I have to fetch the water,

      gather fuel for the stove.

      Some string beans might be ready to pick.

      They’ll need a good meal

      when they return.

45

      I weed the garden

      and watch toward town.

      Nothing moves against the horizon.

      For a time I sit on my heels,

      the soddy at my back,

      the open prairie before me,

      waiting.

      There is still no sign of the Oblingers

      by the time I’ve reached the last garden row.

      I stand and wipe the dirt

      from the front of my dress.

      Surely

      they’ll be back

      for supper.

46

      The beans have cooked so long

      they are like lumpy corn mush.

      I sit in the rocker

      with the door open wide.

      Maybe something has happened to them.

      

      I dread the blackness

      growing stronger outside.

47

      In bed

      I hear

      the sounds

      I miss

      when

      others

      sleep nearby.

      The breeze

      rattles

      at the papered window

      and pushes

      at the door.

      Burrowed

      in the quilt,

      I hug my knees,

      try

      not

      to listen.

      I know there’s

      something

      moving

      near the stove.

      
A mouse,

      not

      a footstep,

      I tell myself.

      I would have heard

      the wagon

      and the welcome sound

      of voices.

      Gooseflesh ripples

      up my arms.

      I squeeze my knees tighter.

      When

      will morning

      come?

48
BOOK: May B.
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