Lizzy V

Three weeks later Lamb Chop knew that her worst fear had come true. She carried the child of her rapist in her womb. This caused many emotions to stir in the young woman. This animal had gotten his last bit of revenge on her. Still she knew that something was growing and alive in her. She now knew that the following summer she would give birth.

At first, this caused great anger and much depression. Soon Mother Nature took over and there was only room in her for the future. The past was in yesterday. There wasn’t anything that could be done.

Indian summer turned to winter that year. Fall seemed to have been completely forgotten. It was now November and soon the plantation, as well as, the town people would be celebrating Thanksgiving.

The Wednesday before the big day Mrs. Thornhill and Robert Gentry came to visit. It had been two long months since Lamb Chop had seen her baby. She had plenty of hugs and kisses for him and he seemed awful happy to see her. The three sat down for an overdue visit.

This didn’t take long to bore Robert Gentry and soon he was out side exploring. He was now seven going on eight and there was much to be investigated in the swamp. Both women warned him not to get far from the house and not to touch any things that he wasn’t familiar with. This of course was ignored.

After the boy cleared the front porch Mrs. Thornhill turned to the Lamb Chop and said, “Now, that Robert is gone I want you to tell me what is the matter with you and don’t stare at the floor and say nothing.”

“Yes Ma’am.” Mrs. Thornhill at that point realized whatever it was must be serious. In all the time, she had known Lamb Chop she had to be threatened to say, Ma’am.

Lamb Chop told her of the night of the harvest moon in the swamp. She didn’t leave one detail out except the cooking of the heart. She knew this white woman would never understand the capturing of your assailant’s spirit. At the end of the story, Lamb Chop was in the arms of the older woman where she found much compassion and no judgments.

Mrs. Thornhill sat Lamb Chop up and told her to pack her bags. She instructed the young woman that she was going home to Maria until the baby came.

Lamb Chop smiled, “Now Mrs. Thornhill I done told you I am home. This is where I live and this is where that baby is going to be born.

“I know you are only trying to be nice to me and I appreciate it but you must understand that no matter what happens to me I belong here.”

Mrs. Thornhill squinted her eyes together and gave the young woman a motherly look, “Well, I just wonder why that doesn’t surprise me. I just really wonder about you sometimes young lady.” Unfortunately for her, she wasn’t able to finish her speech before Robert Gentry came blasting back into the room.

He could tell by the look on their faces they had been in a serious conversation about something. He asked what they had been talking about when Lamb Chop asked him to step over toward her.

“Sweetie, Lamb Chop needs to share something with her most favorite fellow in the whole world.”

The story was told to him in terms that he could understand. He didn’t seem to have a problem at all that Lamb Chop had a baby growing in her and it would be born the next summer. Robert Gentry was still young but he had spent his entire life on a working farm. He may not have understood all the details but he had figured out where babies came from. It was still hazy how they got there.

“Your belly isn’t very big.”

“The next time you sees’ me it will be.”

The day before Christmas Eve, Robert Gentry and his mother again visited. This time his father and an older sister came along, with a hand from the farm. They brought extra food and blankets and a few Christmas presents. The Thornhill’s were still struggling to keep their heads above water.

If the following crop wasn’t a success, they would lose the plantation. After the presents were opened, the women stayed inside and visited while the men checked for cracks and piled the firewood high for the coming winter.

They returned on New Years Eve. This time it was Mr. and Mrs. Thornhill and little Robert Gentry. After talking awhile, the conversation turned to the winter weather ahead. Lamb Chop spoke to her old master and told him that there was going to be one of the wettest winters any one had seen in these parts before. She even predicted that the swamp would rise so high that she wouldn’t be able to receive company until the first of May.

She then said, ”Mr. Thornhill hear these words your Lamb Chop is speaking to you. Come March you will say that I knew what I was talking about.

“Now come spring when everybody thinks it is over they are going to plant. You wait two more weeks no matter how tempted you be’ to get the seed in the ground. Cause as sure as I’m sitting here it ain’t going to be over.

“When everybody thinks it is over and the fields begin to dry there is going to be a rare spring flood. If you have seed in the ground you going to lose them.” Mr. Thornhill listened intently even if he didn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Why you do you think such a thing Lamb Chop?’

“ I have watched the animals that dig holes for the winter and the way the trees were settling in. It is written on the face of nature even if people refuse to read it.”

The next day the Mrs. Thornhill and Robert returned with a driver. On this trip, they brought along some things that a pregnant mother might need. Before they left that afternoon, it began a slow cold drizzle. By the time they arrived at Maria it was raining hard and they were both soaked. They met Mr. Thornhill standing on the front porch staring into the yard.

When they asked why he had such a puzzled look on his face his answer was, “You could have never made me believe it was going to rain today.”

It rained that day and almost every day for the rest of January. Then came February and the rains turned to ice. A great ice storm lasted almost a week.

February was one of the rainiest in history. March came and so did the next round of rain. The fields had as much as three feet of water in them at times, some of the water had been there since January. Day after day Mr. Thornhill sat on the front porch puffing on his pipe wondering if the rains would ever stop. Often Lamb Chop’s words rang in his ears. When she had lived on the farm, she had often predicted rain by lunch when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

April arrived and more rain was dumped on the already soaked black dirt ground that the delta folks called gumbo. This was traditionally a wet month and this April was true to tradition. Then one day in late April the rains stopped and soon the fields started draining. As it got closer to planting time, there hadn’t been any rain in over three weeks. Everybody was rejoicing and double checking there planters. The seed would get in the ground on time after all.

As Mr. Thornhill’s neighbors planted, he sat on his front porch. He was a queer site sitting there without the slightest intent of planting. When people asked what was wrong with him he simply would say, “I am just not ready yet.” When pressed he would tell them that he thought there was going to be another flood and he was going to wait.

This caused many to laugh. Their laughing didn’t last long. The first week May there came a rare flood. It destroyed the fresh plowed fields and destroyed most of the new-planted seed.

A few days later the road that led to Lamb Chop’s home was above water again and late that May Mrs. Thornhill, Robert Gentry and an old Midwife made their way into the swamp. This time they took baby supplies and enough clothes to stay until Lamb Chop delivered.

Mr. Thornhill thought this rather foolish and said, “Blackies, don’t need no help having babies. It is a natural thing for them.” Yet, down deep he was glad that Lamb Chop wouldn’t be there alone. Not only did he have a lot of affection for her he also was very grateful for the advice that very well may have saved the farm.

On July the fourth, Lamb Chop gave birth to a very wrinkled little girl that could only be compared to a prune. When the midwife slapped the baby across the butt, she let out such a loud cry that all the creatures in the swamp ran for cover. Baby Jesse had just taken her place in the swamp as a creature to be reckoned with.

She was a strong baby and soon an even stronger toddler. As time passed she explored and learned the language of the swamp. Her mother taught her how to read the signs that nature painted in the trees and on the horizons. Her pets were rabbits and raccoons. Her front yard was the giant cypress trees that grew so tall in the waters and along the edge. Her backyard was the swamp itself.

Just like her mother and generations before her, she was one with nature. She knew little of the outside world except from the visits of Mrs. Thornhill and Robert Gentry. As time moved forward, Mrs. Thornhill grew weaker from age and arthritis.

Robert Gentry was fourteen and able to make the trip alone. He seldom missed a week that he didn’t come to the swamp. Even in the rainy season, he kept a boat tied near the road. Age had not taken any love he had for Lamb Chop and now with Jesse growing into childhood he found himself feeling as if he had a young cousin.

The little girl looked up to him and followed him everywhere when he made his visits. This seemed to satisfy Lamb Chop to no end. She actually fanned the flames of their friendship.

Robert Gentry’s family had recovered from the war torn years and his brothers and sisters had all married and had set up farms of their own. It was an accepted fact that someday Robert Gentry would take over the plantation and become master of Maria when the time came for his father to turn over the reins.

Shortly after Robert Gentry’s twenty-first birthday he was summoned to Lamb Chop’s small cabin. Upon his arrival, he found his dearest friend unable to climb out of her own bed. He sat by her side for the next two days and night. On the eve of the third night, Lamb Chop asked Robert Gentry to bend close to her.

“Robert Gentry, baby I ain’t going to see sunrise again. Promise me you will always check on Jesse and make sure no one ever takes her from her.”

The young man sat crying, holding the hand of his most precious friend, and that night swore on everything that he held sacred in the world that he would look after Jesse. She took her now weak hand and covered the mouth of the only white person in the world she truly loved.

“Baby, don’t cry for me. Just keep your promise. Now go outside and get Jesse I need a few minutes alone with her.”

He did as he had been instructed and found Jesse on the front porch. He took her place sitting on the overlapping boards while the teenage girl went to be with her mother for one of the last times.

When she sat down on the edge of the bed Lamb Chop told her of the promise Robert Gentry had just made.

“Still, remember this. Sometimes promises die with the person that they were told to.”

She then went on to give her young blossoming daughter the last instructions on how to make sure that Robert Gentry would always remember her promise. With this said she called for Robert Gentry to return. There with her two most beloved children by her side she shut her eyes and softly gave way to return to be with her ancestors.

The following morning the two took her to her favorite place, a small island deep in the swamp. There they buried her. Robert Gentry stayed two more days then his duties on the plantation forced him to return home.

Jesse, like her mother before her, refused to come back with him, even for a short visit.

Robert Gentry’s own father was close to death and the responsibility of running the plantation was strictly on his young shoulders now. Within weeks of Lamb Chop’s death, Robert Gentry had to bury his own father. That winter would be burned into his memory for the rest of his life.

The following spring Robert Gentry was looking at five thousand acres of land that had to be plowed and planted. This spring he would not have the wisdom of his father to rely on. He was now the head of the plantation. Overseers and hands were waiting for his orders. It was now up to him if the plantation grew or died.

Spring and the season’s planting were over. Somewhere in mid summer he felt as if he might have the upper hand on the forever-growing grass, and decided it was time to take a few days off.

He sat on the front porch the first morning looking at, but not truly seeing the blossoming magnolias. Out of no where a young black boy appeared. It would have been hard to say who startled whom the worse. Robert did not recognize the boy as being from any of the families on the place.

“What’s your business here boy?”

“Mister, Miss Jes…Jesse done sent me here, sur’.”

Robert hearing this cleared his chair and in one leap was on the ground by the stuttering boy. “Is she okay boy, is she sick? I say, is she?”

The child gained enough courage to say, “Na’, no Sur’, she ain’t sick sir. She says for you to come see her now. The summer is taking care of the crops and brings with you a feed sack of your Mama’s green apples. That is all sur’, she ain’t sick, she just be wanting for you and a sack of apples that is all sur’.”

Robert Gentry then grabbed the boy gently by the arm, “Before you leave here, are you sure that is all she said?” The boy shook his head in a way to say no and then found the power to continue.

He stuttered, “No sur’ that ain’t quite all sur’. She done told me if I ran all the way you would give me a nickel, Sur’. I done run like the devil himself been chasing me. Now that is all.” Robert laughed knowing that sounded just like Jesse.

“Here is a dime go around back and tell the cook I said to feed you and you head back and tell Jesse to set two plates for breakfast in the morning.”

Before the boy could get started, the white man stopped him once more. This time Robert Gentry said, “And tell her I will be spending the day. Do you hear me boy?” The boy nodded that he had heard him, yet this wasn’t good enough for Robert Gentry he told the child to repeat it back.

“Tell her I will be coming early and will be staying the day and, and here is a dime and, and go around back and get you something to eat.”

Robert Gentry laughed aloud, “Son I think you did get it. Now get on around back and tell that cook you ran a long way and don’t be skimpy with you.” With this said the boy vanished around the corner before the message could get any longer.

As Robert Gentry sat, back down to find where he had left his thought he heard a door squeak open behind him and his mother asked, “Son what did that boy want that was out here?”

“He was a messenger from Jesse. She wants me to come for a visit and bring some green apples. Suppose she is going to make a pie.” This seemed enough explanation to her without saying another word she shut the screen door and returned to the parlor.

Robert Gentry had trouble sleeping that night. He tumbled and thought first of Lamb Chop and then of his recently deceased father. When he seemed to clear these thoughts from his mind his mother and her age and illness seemed to haunt him.

He tried to remember an age when death was in someone else’s family and not his own. He remembered his grandfather saying that when you knew as many dead people as you did living ones than you were old yourself. It crossed his mind that even he would some day die. He wondered what he would leave to show that he had lived. Now the farm was still running off his father’s past experience

He didn’t have a wife or any children. Finally, the midsummer heat seemed to give in some, and with an early morning breeze coming through the window, he drifted into a real nap at last.
to be continued

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One Comment on “Lizzy V”

  1. Then hop on over to the Christmas Blog for more festival holiday suggestions. Christmas Gift Ideas

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