She always gets me there and brings me home.
December 30, 2014
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A VG Serial: Where It Ended
Fifty years I be working at the Sutton house moss ever day of the year. Since 1938. Six along with my mama, an the rest on my own. That first day I git my ten-year-old self out of the wagon, at the place where Katie now live, my eyes bulging out in wonder. Inside me I feel like this be an adventure, going into a house this fine. That’s all I think it gonna be. Our little wood board house the only thing I seen to that moment. It have two sleeping rooms in the back half, an one big room in the front. The plank floor it shine like it be polished, but it juss be from years of leather-soled shoes scraping along. We used to call it marble wood it shine so. The house already be there when I be born, an when my mama be born. It like that little board wood house come with creation. It always be neat an clean, an it always be chockfull of people. Mama said it love people an that how come. So that first day at the Suttons, I have to tilt my head back an back so I can see the whole face of the house, marvel at its painted wood, stare struck at the porch that sweep round the side of the building, an the white columns that keep the porch inside itself like they be its fence. All this I see for the first time an my eyelids not big enough to go round my eyes they bug out so big.
The town house the Suttons move to be mo’ elegant than the farmhouse, but not by much. They juss be mo’ grass an flowerbeds here an a little white fence with points on it. I remember thinking it gonna be a hard change for Polly an me, those extra miles day in an day out to travel, but it all work out.
Miss Polly be working for a little over twenty-five years now. That’s old for a horse. So she real happy the day she hear we gonna retire. I didn’t have her at the beginning. I still use Mama’s ole horse. But then I git my own. I git Polly. An my mama done tole Polly, the year my daddy give her to me, that she have to take care of me fo’ as long as it take. An juss like me, she obey my mama too. I always like horses as a young girl, an I think my mama know I need a good horse friend fo’ the years ahead of me. An no one know better than my mama what be ahead of me. So Polly be my friend, an no one ever had a more special friend than her. An now after fifty years fo’ me an twenty-five years for Polly, we be done.
April 1, 1988, I tell Miss Suellen I be finished working end of the month, an I not foolin’. I don’ know if’n she thought I’d work there ’til they carried me out dead, but she be real upset to hear I be leaving. I don’ think it ’cause she miss me. I think it juss an inconvenience. But it don’ matter to me what she think. I give her plenty of time to find someun else, an Polly an me count the days. I want to be gone afo’ the heat git bad, for Polly too old to take that anymo’.
I don’ think Miss Suellen even mention it to Tara or Liddie fo’ on my last day, no one seem to know I ain’t coming back. Course Tara could care less, but Miss Suellen mussa fo’git ’cause on that last day she start to tell me what she want done tomorrow.
“Miss Suellen, I won’ be here tomorrow. Remember? This be my last day working here.”
Miss Suellen, she be seventy years old, so she gitting a tad fo’getful. She look at me like she be confused.
“Miss Suellen, did you find someun to take my place?”
“Did you say you’re finished working for us?” Liddie asked from across the room. She got up, dropping her movie magazine on the sofa cushion like the paper suddenly caught fire, an all but run over to where I be standing. “You mean you won’t be here anymore?”
“That right, Miss Liddie. I tole you mama first day of April so she could get someun else. Looks like she fo’git.”
“She never said anything to us. Could you stay an extra week until I find someone?”
“I think if’n you call Sissy Lewis, she could start tomorrow. That who I tole Miss Suellen to call. Sissy kinda waiting on you call. Go call her now an see if’n she can come tomorrow.”
Miss Liddie turn sharply an beeline to the phone. I think the thought of having to take care of the house or cook or wash done panic her, fo’ these three ladies not done a lick of work in they whole lives. Fact, they might starve to death so little they know ’bout the kitchen.
I stand an wait, Miss Suellen showing no sign of paying me any mind. Juss as I beginning to think this not be the clever start of a surprise farewell party, Miss Liddie confirm that. Instead, my fifty years of service end with Miss Liddie coming back from her call to Miss Sissy looking relieved. “She can start tomorrow.”
“Well that be good. An now I be going home. Feels like I leaving family here, we been together so long, but I know you be fine. An Miss Sissy she do real good.” I say all this smiling an nodding my head.
Liddie stand there not moving, staring at the flo’r like whatever gone on in her head take everthing she got to hang on to it. Fifty years, I think. We have enough history together to write a book.
Then like Liddie be dredging up long ago memories she say, mo’ to herself than me, “You made it possible for me to get out of bed in the morning, to face another day here, and safe to lie down at night. Yours is the only bit of love that lived in this house. What am I to do now with the empty space you’ll leave behind?”
As she finished her question, her head slowly tilt back so she finally looking at me. There in her eyes I see the child I first knew, lonely, scared, an starting out world-weary. Nothing much has changed.
“Miss Liddie love is a forever thing. It ain’t leaving with me.”
She smile bravely an swallow hard. “It feels like what it says in those romance novels I read: ‘It’s the end of an age.'” She say it sorta dramatic like a movie star might say her final line. I smile.
I step closer to her an kiss her forehead as one tear spill out over the edge of her eye an track down her cheek. I take my hanky out one lass time an daub it dry. Then as if I talking to that little child, I say with all the love I feel for her, “You be fine, Miss Liddie. You be fine.”
I turn to go out the front do’r for the first time since I be here, fo’ I never be allowed to use that entrance. I juss wanna know what it feel like to come down a sweep of stairs off a colonnaded porch like a Southern lady. Each stair I take I do dignified, feeling how a house can tell you ’bout youself. At the last step, I turn to wave to Miss Liddie. What I see be the little six-year-old with black pigtails an big ears who look me up an down that first day I come here to work on my own, an then shrug. She never say a word to me then, not even a hello. I could be her big sister we be so close in age, but somehow I manage to be the adult. An here we be forty-four years later, an she cain’t say goodbye either. I blow her a kiss an go hook up Polly for her last run. I have to start out ever so slow these days as she real stiff at the get go. But she always get me there an bring me home.
Episodes of Where It Ended by Christina Carson will be published every Tuesday.