She stands there in the middle of the door frame without speaking. Her eyes bulge at the sight of her mother’s lifeless body on the cot. I was told her name is Violet.
Her mother came to me just two weeks earlier and the girl was quiet but curious. I could see her looking all around the kitchen taking in the unfamiliar tools of my trade. Her mouth slack as she studied the jars of herbs and spices stacked on shelves near my sink. I am pretty sure I caught her taking in a large breath trying to save the smells for later scrutiny.
Now, she stands as if part of the screen door. I could move her open and closed with the push of my hand on one side of her small shoulders. Her mother’s blood has left dark stains on the baby blue dress she wears and her expensive leather shoes will be salvageable after a good scuffing.
Violet comes from money, but now she is apparently mine and soon to be without. The man did promise me to mail all her clothes before he high-tailed it out of my front yard leaving a dust trail a mile long.
What can I do? I will have to take her; otherwise, I might be in big trouble. Jail can be a cruel place to an old black woman.
Why did her mother ignore the instructions I gave her? I repeated it over and over, “Make tea with my mixture every morning for twelve days and the baby will leave your body naturally.”
She knew what she was doing by drinking all of that mixture in one sitting. She had to have known it would kill her. Why was her life so worthless?
All that Gran-Gran knows of healing and sight she learned from a slave named Polly Shine. She might be able to help Violet with medicines, but her sight is of no use. She touches the little girl’s shoulder and only sees blackness. Her gifts are now lost somewhere in the thick wrinkles of her troubled life.
Born in Laurel, Mississippi, Jonathan Odell writes as if telling a favorite bedtime story. You will be tucked under covers all snug and fighting off sleep to hear every word.
His latest book, The Healing, opens in a cold, 1930’s cook house filled with the notions and potions of pre-Civil War plantation life. Readers experience both Depression Era and Plantation Era life as Odell flows between the two worlds effortlessly.