Sunday, February 10, 2013
Mother Is the Name For God
**A short short story exercise based off of a popular photographic image. The photograph was taken by Dorothea Lange, and is titled "Migrant Mother".**
It is the year 1930, and it is summertime, in the heart of the Dust Bowl of America. My husband’s gone, he hit the rails and we haven’t seen hide nor hair of him since. That bastard left me with three children to tend to on my own, and I can’t find work to save my life. It’s hot, and there’s just not enough water in this damnable place. We don’t none of us complain, though. Better the hot than the cold we know’s coming. That cold will kill us all.
My children, they’re good enough. Lucy does what she can to help her poor Mama, though it ain’t much, her not more’n five years now. Thomas, well, he’s only three, and he don’t talk anymore. Johnny’s my baby, and he’s only nine months. He don’t make a sound, hardly even opens his eyes anymore. I feel his spirit slippin’ through my fingers, there’s naught I can do about it. I can’t feed him, I have no milk, and we have no food.
This raggedy little tent shelters us from the worst of the sun and the wind, but it smells to high heaven. My babies, their clothes is too small, and they look like little ragamuffins, they’re so dirty. Another man come by today on his big truck, pickin’ people out for work on his land. He didn’t give me so much as a second glance, with my babies hanging on me. What work can I do?
I can work, by God. I can work. But no one wants to give me work. I’m not afraid of pickin’ cotton, cleaning up a house, or doing whatever I must to see to my children. But no one wants to give me work. I hear their words, I’m too old. Got them babies. Got an uppity look, that one does, she won’t do. But I’ll do, that’s what they don’t know. I’ll do, because of these babies. That bastard left us, but I won’t leave them.
When the sun goes down, it gets colder. I have just the one blanket, and I tuck my babies in close in that smelly old tent, tell them not to fear the flapping of the canvas what sounds like demon wings. There’s no demons here, my babies. I sing to them, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.” I try not to weep as I remember our home, with their bed and the food and animals we had till our country hit her knees and that bastard lit out.
I’ll watch them sleep, keep the bad dreams away. Tomorrow, I’ll find work. Tomorrow’s the day. I hug my little Johnny, cold and still now, to my breast and I stare out at the moon. Tomorrow’s the day, I whisper to myself. I don’t even feel the hunger anymore. Don’t feel anything but the determination to see my babies safe. There’s nothin’ so important as that.