I love bouncing on Mama’s bed; the chenille bedspread draped perfectly beneath me. The peacock makes me smile. I love the colors, purple, red, gold, and green and the little bumps around the feathers. Papa bought it for Mama when he got the new bedroom furniture. He broke all of the old furniture the night he smashed Mama’s face into the dressing table mirror.
I was so afraid. I hid in the closet and wrapped up in Mama’s soft blue robe singing Jesus Loves Me under my breath until I finally went to sleep there on the floor.
Everyone says Papa is a good man, but he scares me. He hurts Mama and sometimes me too. Yesterday Mama was at work, so Papa was watching me. I love watching the big yellow bus full of kids pass by every day. I want to go to school too. So I rush to my closet and find my brand new black patent leather, Mary Jane’s.
I hurry to the mailbox and stand so still and straight. My feet firmly planted in a puddle. Water slowly seeping into my new shoes, soaking my white socks, and making my feet so cold. Papa found me there. Grabbing me up I hear the zip of his belt coming out of his jeans. I scream, “Please no.” I felt the sting of the leather against my bare legs. And then I wake up in a cold tub my legs covered in bloody streaks and Mama softly crying.
In the morning, I found Mama, dressed in her new Jiffy Jump-in jumpsuit and white Keds. She was hurrying around the kitchen, gathering utensils. Her old sneakers squeaking as she moved from table to countertop to stove and then the sink. It made me giggle to see her little toes sticking out of one sneaker, the daring red polish shining against the dirty white canvas. Even on canning day, Mama was beautiful. Papa would always smile a little brighter when he watched her work in the kitchen. Mama said they had a rare kind of love.
Mama groaned a bit as she pulled open the storage drawer under the oven side of the stove. It was heavy with her butchering supplies. Glass jars and lids boiled noisily in the large cast iron pressure cooker on the Rich’s cooktop stove. Boxes of Mason jars and lids lined the wall next to the sink. The wooden handled Lehman’s hacksaw glistened like new as Mama laid it out on the counter.
Next, the aprons came out three of them. First out was the rubber apron that squeaked when Mama pulled it over her bouffant hairstyle, bouncing the curls ever so slightly as it fell into place. Then the metallic clink of Mama’s metal apron. It was made of all kinds of tiny chains linked together. Mama said it protected her when she was cutting tough meat with her sharp knives. And finally, the pretty apron came out of the drawer. It was all red and white checks and had pockets everywhere. It tied in a huge bow at the small part of Mama’s back like it was resting on the top of her butt. Papa said it was like gift-wrapping a special package he couldn’t wait to open. But today Papa wasn’t here.
Everything seemed like a butchering day. Mama had on all her butchering clothes, but the big pot just off the back porch did not have a fire burning under it or a pig hanging from the come-a-long in the tree. But nobody was here. Butchering day was always a party day. Grammy and PopPop would come early to help with breakfast. The kids would play tag in the backyard while the grown-ups watched the water boil. It was always such a grand time.
“Mama, where is everybody? Are we having a butchering day today?” I asked quietly from my post by the kitchen door. I did not dare go inside the kitchen. That was ‘no place for a child,” Mama had told me so many times before.
“No, baby, Mama is just doing a little canning today. I can manage on my own.” Mama wiped her damp forehead with a gingham dish towel. “You run along now and watch your programs.”
Mama stepped out the back door to the freezer in the storeroom. Clutching the Lehman’s hacksaw in her right hand, she pushed the left side lid up to expose the gleaming white tub of the old Philco chest freezer. And there stuffed unceremoniously into the tight space was Papa, chilling perfectly. She had brought this man into their lives and now she would take him out of it just as easily.