May B.

May B. by Caroline Rose

Book: May B. by Caroline Rose Read Free Book Online
Authors: Caroline Rose
29

          It’s wet when Mr. Oblinger leaves.
          Already there are patches
          where the muslin ceiling drips.
          I have cleared the breakfast table
          and washed up.
          There is nothing more to keep me busy.
          Mrs. Oblinger sits in her rocker,
          lights a candle to bring sense to the dark.
          I wonder if the same summer storm
          keeps Hiram and Pa inside.
          I sit down at the table,
          start to mend a shirt.
          “I was wrong in trying this,”
          Mrs. Oblinger says,
          “but his letter was so kind.
          I didn’t think through prairie living.”
          She rocks.
          “If my brother hadn’t shown him my photograph,
          I wouldn’t be stuck here.”
          I fiddle with a button and thread.
          She stops the chair.
          Her voice is louder:
          “I’m not one of those mail-order brides,
          if that’s what you’re thinking.”
          I lift my eyes from my sewing.
          “No, ma’am,” I say.
          She rocks again.
          “The quiet out here’s the worst part,
          thunderous as a storm the way
          it hounds you
          inside
          outside
          nighttime
          day.”
          I shift to miss a leaking patch forming overhead,
          hoping she doesn’t expect me to talk.
          Because what can I say?
          The prairie’s hard on some,
          but it’s home to me,
          and Mr. Oblinger has tried.
          “I hate this place,” she whispers.
          Before I think better, I say,
          “He’s left a shade tree out front,
          he’s plastered the walls,
          and he’s putting in a proper floor.”
          “What’d you say?”
          Does she even remember I’m here?
          “Mr. Oblinger’s a good man,” I try again.
          “He wants to make this home for you.”
          She stands over me now.
          “You think plaster makes a difference in this place?
          Look at this.”
          She holds out her mud-caked skirt.
          “It’s filthy in here!
          The ceiling leaks.
          Sometimes snakes get through!”
          The cool sod’s where they like to nest.
          “They help with mice,” I offer.
          She glares.
          I want to know how old she is.
          (Four years,
          maybe five
          ahead of me?)
          I want her to know
          she’ll learn to make a home.
          “When it’s wet outside
          and our roof leaks,
          Ma and I crawl under the table
          and wait for the storm to pass.”
          She glares again,
          but slowly lowers herself to the dry earth.
          I settle next to her.

30

          Under the table
          we sit,
          arms wrapped around our knees,
          while water puddles on the bench.
          It’s possible for a soddy roof to collapse.
          I stick my head out.
          More soil has gathered in fabric folds,
          but the ceiling looks like it will hold.
          “Getting hungry?” I ask.
          Mrs. Oblinger nods.
          I fetch a pot with last night’s beans
          and hand her a spoon.
          We eat in silence,
          listening for the wagon and a change in the rain.

31

          The even rhythm of the rain lessens.
          I pull open the door and step outside.
          It’s good to feel the open space.
          At the creek
          the water rushes
          where before it was calm.

32

          The missus won’t talk to me.
          I’m the one who fed her,
          thought to bring the

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