So, below you will find my little seedling. Feel free to link yours in my comments too, so I can find you :)
I’d heard whispers about Uncle Jack my whole life. The people in town shook their heads and clicked their tongues, and stopped talking as soon as they saw me or Sister. Old Jerome laughed, dark and wrong, and said we weren’t to know. Aunt Hester glared and pinched her lips and told us to go away.
That probably wasn’t about Uncle Jack though. Aunt Hester hated everybody but Grandad.
Nobody whispered in front of Mama. Uncle Jack was her brother. He should have been Aunt Hester’s brother too, but nobody ever said that, and Grandad got real sharp with me when I tried to ask why once. If somebody thoughtless—Aunt Hester’s husband, Rick—mentioned Uncle Jack in front of Mama she started crying and had to excuse herself from wherever. Usually our dusty farm kitchen.
I never understood why she did that. We only had two rooms, and there was no door. It’s not like everybody couldn’t hear her cry just as easy in the bedroom as they could see her in the kitchen. And I didn’t understand why everybody was always at our house. Granddad and Gram had the old Sod, and it smelled like dirt and grass and it was always full of bugs, but it had a full four rooms, and little windows and everything.
Aunt Hester lived over Rick’s tack-shop in town. Nobody wanted to go there, and we kids wouldn’t have been welcome anyway.
The best I could put together—I was just turning twelve in the summer and a girl, so people shut up quick about secrets when I was around—Uncle Jack had done something stupid and the law had come taken him away. It was the only excuse I could come up with, for ‘he knowed he shouldn’t have done it’ and ‘we all said it weren’t worth the risk.’ Once in a while, if Mama wasn’t around and Aunt Hester couldn’t see us she’s hiss ‘unnatural freak,’ like that explained everything about Uncle Jack.
Aunt Hester thought everything was unnatural though. The new telephone in the general store, and the travelling salesmen who’d come through last month with nifty new light-bulbs, and the Doctor from the next town who preached about bathing every day.
Daddy said Aunt Hester was just close-minded and not to pay her any mind, so we tried.
The day the sky split Daddy raced back from the field and shut the door, pushed the table in front of it. Sister gasped and started crying because the only time Daddy shut the door was when it was gonna storm. We didn’t have windows, not the way other people did, and there weren’t much light in the house.
Daddy looked at us, his salt and pepper hair sticking up from where he kept grabbing it with his hands, eyes wide with something I’d never seen before, and rushed over and shoved the chair out from over the potato cellar.
“Harry…” Mama sounded like she didn’t know what was safe to ask.
He grabbed the blankets off the bed, and a couple of pillows, and threw them down. “Sarah, take your sister down.” He took me by the shoulders and kissed me on the forehead, and pulled sister into his arms. “You’re my big girls, and I need you to listen real well.”
We both nodded, terrified, and Sister grabbed my hand tight with her little fingers.
“You go down, Sarah you light the candles but watch ‘em careful and only burn ‘em when you have to. You stay down there until we tell you to come up, and you keep quiet.”
I opened my mouth, but I wasn’t sure what was gonna spill out. Either a demand to be told what had happened or to insist I was big and didn’t have to go hide in the cellar with Sister…
“Sarah.” Daddy’s voice brooked no argument. “I need you to protect your sister.”
I swallowed and grabbed her hand where it was wrapped around mine. “Yes sir.”
Daddy smiled, shaky and pale, and kissed us both on the forehead again, and helped Sister start down the ladder. I went down after her, and Daddy lowered the cover back, and I heard the chair skid across the floor as he pushed it back into place.
Daddy walked across the floor, and then turned and walked back. “Look out the door.”
Mama’s steps were softer, and I heard the door creak a bit before it slammed back shut. “No.”
They were quiet then, and after a minute or two Sister whimpered, and I made my way down in the dark, and felt around for the little box of strike matches tied to a couple of candles. Daddy hadn’t said not to talk, but I didn’t say anything.
“Shhh.” I reached out in the dark and found her curls, pulled her close. Annie was just six, and she still got scared of the dark and nearly everything else. “I’ll light one so we can set up the blankets.”
“Everything’ll be fine, Annie.” I tried to be calm and sure, the way Daddy usually was. “Remember that big storm that happened last winter?”
I couldn’t see her, but I guessed she nodded.
“Daddy had us wait it out down here then too. I’m sure it’s just something like that.”
Once I got the candle lit, and we settled our blankets and pillows out on the packed dirt floor, Annie huddled against my side and stared at the ladder.
“Can we leave the candles? Just for a bit…”
I nodded and swallowed. A chair scraped across the floor above us, and Daddy walked across the floor, and back. The pots and pans made gentle clanking sounds, and I closed my eyes and pictured Mama starting dinner.
Daddy always said his favorite thing about Mama was the way she could pretend nothing was wrong.
Also, it's entirely possible someday I will finish my own, where I think it was going, and post that two, once the rest of this is done.
Anyway. Come on peeps. Jump in with me.