In the cold damp room, soft moans came from the young woman lying on the bed; she was a live skeleton covered with pale flesh; beneath her, a cornhusk mattress covered with a collection of old newspapers and worn out sheets made from bleached flour sacks waiting for the reality of the coming birth. Her strength gone, she looked out the window at the moon, it appeared to be hanging on an invisible thread in the darkness, she prayed to who she thought may be holding the moon in place; another invisible person…GOD. In the waning March moonlight, she did not hear the baby crying, tears fell from the corner of her eyes the pain unbearable, the birth was over; she looked at the motionless baby at the foot of the iron bed; maybe it would die soon. She heard no crying.
“Missus Ruth you have a baby girl,” Allimay Schumaker their neighbor and a mid-wife whispered softly as she tried to place the baby in her mother’s arms.
“Get it away from me”, the sound came between clenched teeth, like a caged angry wild animal but it was only a whisper.
Mrs. Schumaker tried again to place the baby in her mothers’ arms, “She so tiny Missus Ruth, I doubt she will live don’t you want to hold her”.
“I told you to get it away from me”.
After cleaning up the bed and throwing everything including the remains of the baby’s lifeline to its mother into a burning barrel, Allimay walked across the open breezeway of the two-pen split log house that separated the sleeping room from the cooking room, and at one time served as Burleson slave quarters. She paused for a moment pulling back the cover from the baby’s face, two dark blue almost black eyes stared back at her; long dark hair curled around the baby’s shoulders. She gave a sigh and walked through the door.
Roy ___name?____ sat on a homemade chair in front of their fieldstone fireplace in the cooking room. He worried about his wife, and his baby; his biggest fear, losing one or both of them. He had sat there for hours, he heard no moaning or cries of pain, the silence between the two rooms was still like a frozen fog. He did not hear anything; perhaps both his baby and his wife were dead. Quietly Allimay came into the room, so softly that not one board creaked from the weight of her colossal body, she smiled, holding out the tiny bundle.
“Mr. Roy, you have a little Indian baby, black hair just like you” she gently laid the baby in his rough work worn hands. He laughed pulling back the covers from the tiny bundle so small it fit in his hand.
“Mr. Roy you need to get ready to lose this little one, she is so small, Missus Ruth doesn’t want her and she doesn’t have any milk”. She dabbed at her eyes.
“Well Mr. Roy she is all cleaned up and you need to call out Missus Ruth’s Uncle; that doctor from Hartselle.” She repeated herself dabbing at her eyes. “She shore don’t want this baby. I have to go now, if you need me ring the big bell on the porch somebody will hear it. I have to go take care of my own family now, but I will keep Miss Billie for a few days”.
Allimay Schumaker had nine children of her own, one more would not matter; she glanced in one more time at the lifeless woman, closed the door gently and walked slowly up the narrow rutted road.
“Thank you very much Missus Schumaker, I’ll be lying in a cord of wood for you helping Ruth”, Roy then sat for a moment staring at the tiny life he held in his hands no more than twelve inches long and maybe two pounds.
Roy shook his head bringing himself back to reality; Ruth had gotten rid of the baby bed years ago, announcing that she did not want any more children. He lay the baby down on the fireplace hearth, going into the other room to search for a box. He found a box, returning to the baby never looking at his wife. He knew that Ruth chose starvation trying to lose the baby. She knew that if she starved so would the baby. There was a possibility that her method would not work, he was not one to pray; but he did when he saw what she was doing. Now, he stood looking down at the result of her starvation.
Ruth lay still on the bed, pretending to be asleep so she would not have to look at Roy all the while wishing the crying that sounded more like a kitten mewing instead of a human baby coming from the other room would stop. She turned on her side watching the watery blue liquid dropping on the sheet from her breast; she knew that she had no milk.
Roy weighed the baby with a two-pound cotton pee and the baby could not pull it down to measure, it was less than two pounds. Cotton pees, was meant to weigh cotton, a bell like object with a hook made of solid steel. A measuring bar would have a sack of cotton on one end and a pee of various weights put on the other to measure the cottons weight; this time the scale did not budge his baby was too small to pull the weight down.
William Schumaker owned his land, Roy worked for Mr. Burleson for a wage, $20.dollars a month, they all tried to survive in the miserable days of the depression. Mr. Burleson, was one of the wealthiest men in Morgan County, Alabama; the land that the old log house stood on was Burleson land and at one time housed slaves that worked the land. They used the same well, the same chicken house and stanchion for the cow; the only difference in the house was floors that had been put in several years ago. Roy believed that Mr. Burleson respected him, he was a hard worker, and the land he worked yielded more than most who sharecropped. Time had not taken away the horror brought upon those long ago tenants; from the top to the lowest of people in the south, in 1939 people continued to believe Indians and Negro’s were lower than the animals on the land. Roy was known as the “Half-Breed”. His mother was one-half Native American, his daddy a white man whom he had not seen since he was twelve-years-old.
Roy stoked at the fire his thoughts wandered toward the time when he first met Ruth. She was at a local Roadhouse in Flint, Alabama with her sister Emma Sue. Emma was out on the dance floor having a good time; Ruth sat at a table in the back of the room hoping no one would see her. She and Emma Sue had slipped out after their parents were asleep; Emma Sue had a boyfriend; they met them at the road below Burleson Mountain. If they were caught, it would be Ruth that got beat. She would be told that she should know better, not Emma Sue. She did not look like she wanted any company. Roy had known of the place for years, it was one of his stops when he was running whisky from South Birmingham, Alabama to Chicago, Illinois. No one could have told him then that he would have a wife and two daughters a few years later on that early March morning.
He had come to Morgan County because of Ma, his grandmother. His last run was a bad one, his car had been riddled with bullets by Tennessee law enforcement, and he had barely got away from them. He was known by the local law enforcement but the people who hired him to run whiskey, except them ole boys in Tennessee, paid them off, they did not take bribes! He drove through Tennessee; his speed would surpass the power of any car and put the needle on his dash out of sight. He would laugh every time he told that story. Ma was right he needed to lay low for a while; it had been his dream to return to Birmingham to play baseball for the Birmingham Black Bears, a minor team. No one knew that it was Roy driving the car, few knew his name. That was all gone now, playing baseball lay dead in his past he had responsibilities now!
Billie, their first child, was the only child that Ruth wanted. She had nine brothers and sisters, she help deliver most of them and raised them until the day her daddy kicked her out. She lay crying thinking that maybe her strength would return so she could take care of herself and Billie, for days she still held onto the idea that this baby would die. Ruth had hope to stop at giving birth to one child, she was tired of being poor; she wanted to make a better life by going to work.
Ruth had always hated Vina and the fact that her husband’s half sister lived well; a beautician that owned her own shop in Birmingham, Alabama. Vina’s husband Wesley worked for the steel mill and brought home good money, Ruth was envious.
Actually, Vina had always thought she had not planned Billie either. Vina believed that Ruth found herself pregnant after a few roadhouse visits with her sister, meeting Roy. When she told Roy, he married her; he was just that kind of man. Billie had been born eight months and two weeks after they married. Roy had not planned a child either. His dream did not lie in the cotton fields of Northern Alabama. Nevertheless, he was a decent man, and he thought this was the thing to do.
Ruth appeared disappointed that the baby had survived such a difficult birth. She was very ill herself, both physically and mentally; unhappy that she had another child, one she did not want. She rolled over falling into a fretful sleep; maybe when she woke she would have a funeral to attend.
Old Doc White, Ruth’s Uncle came after the baby was born; her mother’s brother lived and had his practice in Hartselle, Alabama, he said the baby was too small but seem healthy and Ruth was despondent as many mothers are after delivering a baby. He said only time could help his niece or the baby. He left saying he would register the baby’s birth when he returned to Hartselle.
Ruth chose not to have anything to do with the baby; she left it up to Roy to care for her. Their oldest daughter, Billie came back home and she did help all she could, but the ability to care for a sick baby and mother was not possible for the six-year-old, it is said that Billie had a hard life. Roy could see that it was impossible to leave Ruth, Billie and a baby to work the fields. He walked a few days later to the Schumaker’s and called his sister Vina.
She came that night to stay with him for a few days. Vina had given birth to a baby, girl born only weeks before and the baby was stillborn. She and her husband Wesley had two boys, Everett and Jimmy. She was in mourning, but she loved her brother and he needed help. Vina knew that Ruth did not care for her but she always tried to overlook Ruth’s actions.
When she arrived, she found Ruth despondent and Roy worried, both were at odds with each other. Ruth had refused to try nursing or care for her baby. Now she was upset that Vina was there, within days, Roy agreed that the baby could return to Birmingham with Vina. Vina, left with the baby in a shoebox stuffed with cotton from the nearby field and covered with flour sacks for a blanket. Before she left her daddy named her __?_______ and Vina called her __?_, it was never known but most believed that she would have called her stillborn baby _?__. So ____?______ born on ___?___, 1939, a beautiful month in Northern Alabama. The buttercups, lilac and forsythia bushes would have been blooming around the Two-Pen cabin Roy, and Ruth called home. Kudzu vines would have covered the makeshift chicken house and the “Outhouse”. Beyond, a small barn surrounded by razor sharp Johnson grass bordered acres of freshly plowed ground waiting to nurture the seeds of what the south called white gold … cotton. The family would move from this shack in the middle of a cotton field and _?__ as Vina called her would not see it until twelve years after her birth.
Vina cared for the baby girl for two years, she gave her everything a baby would need including a Nanny to take care of her while Vina returned to work. Roy tried to get to Birmingham once a month to see his baby, Ruth stayed behind with the only child she would ever want.
Continue with draft #2 – No Choice
This book of poetry “Passage into Madness”has been ten years in the making; my daughter passed suddenly in 2010; my mourning has been hidden within these pages… of life my pain constant. I found myself in a place of inner darkness, the threat of madness crouched above me; and it does not go away. I was in a fervor to put the words down; what begin as writing an accounting of me, turned quickly into “Poetry”. I felt like my spirit wanted the accounting, an apocalyptic writing begin; an it closed with shocking revelations into my personal life
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