This should be a story written in conversation. That was my intention but Keiri would not shut up.
You Didn't Hear It From Me…
“I was there when their youngest was born,” Keiri nodded. “Yep, I seen her face when the midwife said it were a boy. She weren’t happy about it. I asked her, that’s why I knowed it to be true. She wanted a girl after all those boys but it weren’t not to be. 'Midwife,' she said, 'there can't be no more childrens.' Shoulda saw the husband’s face when I told him he had a boy, thought he’d be happy at least since he’d have another hand to help out around the place, maybe farm out for field work. But he were sad too since he wanted a girl for his wife. After eight boys, he thought it only fair she have someone to help her with the cooking and such.
"That were a sad day for that young boy. Seems like they rode him harder than they did the others. Couldn’t do nothing right, that child couldn’t. Always talked about him as if he weren’t in the room with them or as if he hadn’t no brains at all. The other boys, they worked harder, jumped higher, chopped more wood, hoed a straighter line and married the prettiest womens.
"Ain’t no wonder that child turned out the way he did. Don’t understand how people can treat their children that way and not even see what they do to them. I tried to make her see what she were doing the one day, tried to...what’s the word them people from the palace use...oh yeah, unfair comparisioning between the other boys and the youngest one, but she didn’t see it, almost took a broom to me she was so mad. It don't make no sense to treat a youngun so.
"And they don’t understand why this boy...so sorry, this man... wants nothing to do with them? I say they had it coming to them. Understand this is only between you and me Myrtle...I don’t want it getting back to them people. Just because they’s sick and getting feebler by the minute don’t mean they still ain’t got the reach. Molly was saying to me the other day...you didn’t hear this from me, of course...as how she had to go over to their place and apologize to them for something she supposedly said. Course she told me...remember not a word to anyone cause everyone knows I don’t likes to gossip...as to how she practically had to bend over and kiss that woman’s sit-upon just to get her name off the gossip list.
"Remember you didn’t hear this from me. Both our sit-upon's will be the worse for wear should anyone find out. I’ve already been on that list too many times and sitting in the square with that lying sign saying as how I’m a gossip and not being able to say anything at all for days, well...I don’t plan to be on it again. Humiliating, I’m telling ya.
"Anyway, where was I? Ah yeah, it’s no wonder that boy turned out the way he did. They called him lazy, stupid, ungrateful and a whole lot more untrue words. I said to his Mama once that they would regret not treating him any better than what they did, that’s when she broomed me, couldn’t believe she’d do that to a friend and said so.... Would you believe she had the gall to tell me we weren’t friends and never been...fine by me. Said I had better things to do than to try to help someone who would treat me that way. Hmmph.
"So, when that boy turns up at our place, scratching at the doorcover, in the middle of winter, me and the mister were more than happy to take that child in. You remember that, how old was he then? Let me think...hmm...seems like he were around nine or ten ifn I’m remembering right. Anyway, he tells us, once we get him warmed up and some food in that skinny frame of his, that he was told to get out when he did something wrong again and he thought to himself that might be the best for all seeing as he probably wouldn’t get missed anyway.
"You know it took them months before they started looking for him. She said they started looking for him right away but me and the mister we knew better. I didn’t say a word to that piss-poor mother of his. I know we all say that we bring them into this world so we have the right to take them back out again, but there’s nothing in there about setting them out in the bitter cold.
"So, we waited to see how long it would take them to come over and reclaim him and it took until time for the spring planting before they remembered they had another set of hands to help at one time. Well, weren’t they surprised when they came to get him and he claimed rite of passage on them. We looked it up in the Councilmen’s books. If a child is cast out and survives the winter, that child, be it male or female, may claim rite of passage. Seems he liked to go to the Council House and read their books to get away from all those people in that small house.
"You remember how he stayed with us all the rest of his growing years and learned how valuable a person he really was. We told him everday how special he was. Taint too many people young or old can survive a blizzard night in the middle of the cold season. That’s what we told him anyways, cause it were the truth anyway.
"So come the day for his assension into manhood, he tells my Uni that he wants him to stand in his father’s place, not his dad. Normally, I woulda said it weren’t right, but I couldn’t give Uni any children, much less a son, so it seemed only right that the man who taught him how to be a man should be at his side right then.
"Ah, you remember how they both looked, my Uni and this handsome young man, it took my breath away, so it did. I remember thinking that it didn’t seem right that Uni should stand up with the young man who isn’t his son. Then I remembered all those two had done together and all the laughing, yelling, and thrashing they gave each other, I thought to myself, ‘Keiri, you know it’s only right,’ and this time I had to agree with myself.
"So, there we all were, the boy almost a man, my Uni, me and half the village and in walks his former parents as if they had any right to be there at all after all they did to him. I remember thinking, though I didn’t say anything, ‘Serves them right if he kicks them out on their situpons.’ I were so disappointed when he didn’t kick them out though they had to sit in the back away from everyone else. I wanted so bad to be able to broom her situpon right out the door like she did to me, but since he was acting so brave and noble and such, I had to behave and pretend like I didn’t care that she tried to take so many years of my love away from him.
"Wasn’t the ceremony just so lovely? I’d brought an extra hanky with me, figured I would need it and was right though Uni kept looking back at me to give me that ‘shut up’ look. You know the one I’m talking about? Yeah that one. When the Councilman proclaimed him a man with all a man’s privileges, we both felt a flash of pride raise our heads a bit more higher. I know it did it to him cause I seen him raise his head a bit just as I did mine.
"His parents, they tried, one more time, to talk with him. They came up front after the rite, elbowing people aside as they went through the people around him. The people in the crowd, well they were all for sending them away, maybe with a new bruise or two themselves but he would have none of it. Not our boy, he wouldn’t. Never seen such a nicer boy. I’m taking a bit of responsible for that myself and for my Uni but anyway this man, well, you seen it and heard it as well since I seen you in the crowd myself. Sorry about that elbow in your back. I thought you was her and well...you know what I did...
"I never in a million years woulda guessed this young man woulda said to them what he did. He lets them get in near him then gathers up me and Uni and says, ‘Congratulate these two people, my mamma and my papa for raising such a fine boy.’ When they start to protest as to how he belonged to them, he reminded them of that cold winter and how they never came to see if he were all right. Even though his mamma didn’t want to kick him out, she shoulda at least come around to find him and make sure he were still alive and in good health.
"They had the nerve to fire me because I didn’t tell him where he were at even though he were living with me and Uni. Why should I tell them anything when I could see they weren’t looking for him anyway. She and me, we were alone many times during the day, not once did she asked me if I knew where he were. Didn't even bother to speak of him at all. Then she had the nerve to claim I were in the wrong for not speaking up.... Seemed to me it weren’t my place to speak up if she didn’t want to know in the first place.
"So he says that to him and they leave. I almost felt sorry for her when he said that. I could see the tears in her eyes and that she were mighty hurt over it but I remembered how much he were hurt that night he scratched on our doorcover. Then I remembered that we might not have heard him scratching had he come any later since we had just gotten into bed for the night’s rest. Uni, he snores so loud.
"She tried going to the Council about it but this time they sided with him about it. Said seeing as how they’d been keeping an eye on him ( the first we’d heard of it) and they’d never heard a word about them looking after him, that we could lawfully claim him as our born son if'n it were right between all three. Oh happiness! The first day we could legally claim him as our son, it were a wonder he didn’t take it back since we took so many opportunities to say ‘son’ to him.
"Yeah, it were such a happy day for all of us. So now, all their men, their boys have moved away from here and say they have no intention to come back to live and they want their youngest back...we thought not! Our son (it still sounds so good to say it...our son) he says to them they didn’t want him to begin with and treated him as such. He wants nothing more to do with them. They been claiming something about seeing siikers in their area but everyone knows there ain't been a siiker sighting in the past twenty years, so they gotta be making the stories up. One squeaking wheel indeed. The way that man snores...there’s no way either one of them could hear anything above that ruckus.
"So now, ah well...there’s Uni calling for me. I’d like to stay and chat some more but it’s getting late. He wants to get as far as, so we can get a place to stay before daylight comes. Yeah, I know there ain't been a sighting in years but my Uni; he doesn’t want to take any chances. He has some kinfolk up there in the East Mountains his own dad used to talk about and he wants to see if he can find them to let them know about their brother, well, if they managed to survive the riots after the city grids went out.
"Stop by soon and I’ll make you a cup of something to drink and we’ll sit and talk. I promise that the next time, you’ll be doing most of the talking.
"See ya later, take care now. Give that little girl of yours a big hug and kiss from her Auntie Keiri."
© Gail Deemer 2009