4 comments

American Coming of Age Historical Fiction

I ain’t never forgave my Ma for selling my pony; like she ain’t never forgiven me for not telling her sooner bout’ my brother’s injury. I hate to say this, but I’m missing that pony more than my little brother, but Pawpaw said it just ain’t right to feel that way.


By the way, my name is Abigail Holts; I go by Abby. I’m twelve years old, and I now live on my Pawpaw’s Hereford Cattle Ranch thirty miles east of Wild Horse, Colorado. If you don’t know, that’s pretty much close to nowhere and HELL. Pardon my French; Pawpaw doesn’t like me saying HELL, nor writing it either.

Pawpaw tells me every day, “This ain’t no HELL. You ought to feel fortunate to end up here after what you did, girl. Ain’t nobody wants you but me.”


I knew nothin’ bout’ intuition in 1933, especially livin’ on the plains of Colorado like we was. ‘Intuition’ is a new word from my grandfather Pawpaw. He said God was talking to me through it, spooky-like, just in my mind. God told me I didn’t make good choices and things through strange feelings and stomach pangs. I wish I would have considered listening to the stomach pangs I had after my brother’s accident and told my parents bout’ it. It would have been a whole lot easier cause’ a year later, and I still miss my pony and friends from Lamar rightful bad.


My folks lost their place over in Lamar because the bank took it last year when the dust storms came around. If you include the trauma of my little brother getting the lockjaw and us losing everything, it’s hard to figure how I lived through it all. But I did.


My brother Jacob and I loved livin’ in Lamar.

I never put two and two together in figuring how Jacob getting real sick and us losing our house would ever connect. But they did. Ma said he was sick enough to die; my gut feelin’ said she was right; intuition, I guess.


Like I said, I ain’t never forgave my Ma for selling Fred. I loved that black pony more than anything. I ain’t never told nobody this, but I named him Fred after a boy in school that I liked. My pa taught me how to ride him; bought me a used saddle, halter, bridle, riding crop, and reins off a girl that was selling ‘em’ cheap cause her pony died by getting itself hit by a car. My intuition was at work about buying that stuff, and then knowing it was one year to that date, May 1st 1932, my brother would cut his foot. God gave me pangs on both dates, but I didn’t listen to neither. I don’t listen well to anyone anyway.


There is not much to do around Wild Horse besides doin’ chores and chewing tobacco. I stole me some from Pawpaw’s stash because I like to chew a whole lot more than smoke cigarettes. It’s easier to hide, and you can be assured you won’t burn down the barn. Pawpaw caught me once when that hired man Dick told on me.

“Get your ass over here, girl, and take your whippin’,” Pawpaw said, and then to humiliate me, he used my old riding crop my Pa bought me to beat my ass until it bled.


Shit, I couldn’t sit down for three days, and all it made me do is want to burn down his barn by taking up smokin’ instead. That whole incident made me remember when my brother Jacob cut his foot.


Jacob was sittin’ in the garden just a diggin’ in the dirt. He was playing with his little kid shovel by Ma’s rhubarb plants. The boy liked to dig with his shovel so much that the point’s edge became sharp and rusted. He was barefoot, and he had no shirt on either, being it was hot as HELL in Lamar even though it was only May. I was feeding my pony Fred one of Ma’s carrots I pulled up from the garden. She told me not to touch them carrots as they was for supper on Sunday, but I did it anyhows’. Like I told ya’, I don’t listen.


Somehow, my gut is still hurtin’ me. It’s tellin’ me that’s why Jacob hurt himself so terrible; cause’ I stole that old carrot, and I am wishin’ now that I didn’t even consider it. 


When Jacob tried to push on that old shovel with his right barefoot, the edge of that shovel cut into him so bad that I heard the ripping sound of his flesh opening. The gash in that kid’s foot was about a hand across; four inches is a damn big cut on a small kid’s foot. I should have told our parents; I know that now, and I’ve been beating myself up over it royal good.


Jacob was afraid I would tell Ma, and then she was goin’ to be mad at him for digging up her garden. The wound was deep and bleeding profuse when he asked me to help him. I took some of the batting out of my jacket and wrapped it up. I told him to put on some socks and wear his galoshes to make room for that awkward bandage. We didn’t tell Ma or Pa until I had to.


Three mornings later, about five, I noticed Jacob couldn’t get out of bed. He couldn’t sit up cause’ all his four-year-old muscles seized up, and he was talking funny. Jacob was trying but couldn’t open his mouth. I heard him tossing and turning all night, and he was trying to say his neck hurt by grabbin’ his throat. In that house, Jacob and I shared a trundle in a small bedroom. All through the night, he was sweating like a pig, and his head near burned my hand when I touched it.


His blond hair looked brown cause’ it was wet and stuck to his head. I got Ma when Jacob started to arch his back and shake all over. I saw our cat do that after she got attacked by a dog, and things didn’t go so well for that cat. Ma flew out of bed and put on her robe. Pa was still sleeping when Ma screamed for him.


You should have seen Jacob when I came back into our room. He had white and red foam coming out of his mouth and was shaking all over. The red on the foam was blood from nearly biting his tongue in half. I thought the devil had got ahold of him. Ma told me to get some ice and the pitcher of drinking water out of the icebox. I did.

She yelled, “hurry up, Abby; he is burning up with a fever.”


When I returned from fetchin’ the ice and water, I thought Jacob would be lying there lookin’ like a pile of ashes; but he wasn’t, thank the Lord. Ma had stripped him naked. That’s when she saw the makeshift bandage; I put on his foot out in the garden.


She couldn’t pull off the bandage easily cause’ it was sticking to the bloody pus. That’s when Pa came in. He grabbed up naked Jacob and put him in the bathtub. He poured all the water and ice I brought in all over him. I was crying when he threw the pitcher at me and demanded I get him some more. I forgive him for throwing things at me cause’ that’s when Jacob could hardly breathe, and we was all in a state of panic.


I was in my nighties, and Pa screamed at me to fetch our neighbor man, Mr. Blea. I had to run a half-mile barefoot, dressed in not much more than my skivvies to get Elmer Blea. He was a medic in WW1, and he had terrible hearing loss due to shell shock from fighting over in Europe. I was glad as HELL, pardon my French, that he heard me banging on his wood screen door.


Mr. Blea drove me back home in his red Ford pickup truck. He was in his long johns, and it only took a few seconds to put on his overalls. Elmer Blea kept himself a medic bag from his time in the Army. I’m not sure if he stole it, but it was filled with bandages, antiseptic stuff, and even needles in case you might need stitches. The old leather case had a big white cross on it, but not like the one over at the church. We ran into the house.


As soon as Mr. Blea looked at the wound on Jacob’s foot and saw it had turned black and green, he wrinkled up his forehead and told my Father he would need to drive the boy as fast as he could up to a hospital in Denver. Then he made up a fancy cleaning solution for the wound. He said it needed stitches, but too much time had gone by, and the ‘gang of green’ had set in. The damaged foot was severely infected, and the Hospital might have to amputate his leg. He showed my Father how the veins were turning black all the way up to Jacob’s knee.


I never heard my Pa cuss before that day. He cussed at me, and then he cursed at God. I think I like swearing now because it is in honor of my Father. He threw my Mother’s pretty little figurine she kept on the hallway table clean into the kitchen. The figurine was fine porcelain of a pretty blond girl in a blue party dress holding her hand out to show you her diamond ring. It had been sitting on that table since I was born in 1921. I always fancied the figurine looked like me. Now it was unrecognizable, lying in a million pieces on my Mother’s linoleum floor. I was crying so hard I could barely see it. Somehow, I have always felt that shattered figurine was me.


Elmer Blea grabbed my Father by the shoulders, shook him a bit, and told him to get himself together. Mr. Blea told Pa that my brother probably had the onset of tetanus from getting cut by that shovel and not adequately cared for properly. I never saw Pa like that before. It was the beginning of the stress that would eventually kill my Pa. It began on that day, and it was my fault.


Pa was a-runnin' around like one of Ma’s chickens without its head. Ma always killed one of her older layin’ hens to eat for Sunday supper. She even killed Beatrice, a hen I liked a lot. Ma made me pluck and gut that chicken and I ain’t never forgiven’ Ma for that either. 


Pa told Elmer that the bank wanted their thousand dollars today, or they would take our house. Father would have to decide to use that money to save our home or my brother. He chose Jacob. Times were awful, but as terrible as they were, none of us had no idea how much worse it would get. The bank did take our house, just like the Hospital took Jacob’s leg and Pa’s hard earned dollars.


Mr. Blea did us a big favor that day. He had bought that Ford TT in 1918, right after he came home from the war. He didn’t have any family; that truck was it. It was his pride and joy. He let my Pa drive Ma and my brother up to Denver in that truck and even packed them up a bag full of sandwiches. Ma and Pa stayed with Jacob in the big Denver hospital until the stress got the best of my Pa. I stayed with Mr. Blea until my blame took over me.


Jacob lay without his right leg in that hospital bed for days in what Ma told me was something called a coma. I think it took an entire week for Jacob to die; however, my perspective of time is all off as a child. On the final day, Pa took off in Mr. Blea’s shiny red truck to buy himself a pistol that he would use to kill himself. Ma cried when Jacob died but didn’t for Pa, which is unforgivable in my eyes.


I miss my home, brother Jacob, and Pa, but I don’t miss my Ma much. She made sure Mr. Blea got back his truck and then sold everything we had left, including my pony Fred, and moved to California. She sent me to live here with Pawpaw, her Father.


You know what? I miss Mr. Blea and wish Pawpaw had a neighbor man like him. Pawpaw ain’t got no neighbors at all.


All we got is that stupid hired man Dick, and sometimes I wish Dick would cut himself on a rusty shovel and die too, intuition or not.

January 07, 2022 22:19

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

4 comments

Lyndsey La Van
19:40 Jan 14, 2022

Well done. Enjoyed the dialect and tone.

Reply

Connie Elstun
22:41 Jan 16, 2022

Thanks very much.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Alexis W.
21:53 Jan 12, 2022

Hi Connie! I love the stylized narration of this piece :) I think you could emphasize it even more if you added more dialogue, but it works really well as you have it now, because it reads just like someone telling a story to a friend. Great job!

Reply

Connie Elstun
02:48 Jan 14, 2022

Thanks Alexis. I did want to incorporate more dialogue, however I finally decided not to as I wanted the overall feeling for Abigail to be loneliness.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply