Saltville and 1 Pumpkin Seed

Pumpkin Seed

Edna’s Arm

Inbox X

show details May 3 (5 days ago)
When Edna Hopple turned three, her mother baked a simple cake. It was her brother’s birthday, as well. Edna and Erwin were only dimly aware that the day held special significance for them. At three, that dim awareness was the scent of applesauce cake in the very early morning. It was a smell they vaguely recognized, but could not identify. They recalled that it was the smell of cake only when they saw their two older brothers, the five year olds, Jack and John (for the Hopple’s were not the sort who favored fancy names) crossing the frost-bitten yard toward the hen house, both carrying buckets of warm water.It was a Dogwood Winter. This is what they’d heard the Pastor Remington tell their mother the previous Sunday as he sat at the table and seemed to talk forever. “Well, I reckon I’d best get down the road to bring blessing to the Wakes.”

Jedson Wake and his wife Nita Ann did favor fancy names and their children were called after birds. They were the Hopple’s closest neighbor and lived far across the back field. In the summer, you could hear Mrs. Wake calling them into supper from the tobacco. “A foolish crop” – Edna recalled her Father saying one August, when the wind carried Sparrow’s name to them as they collected the wilted leaves of the squash plants on the back acre.

Edna was good in the field, good at close work. She simply sat down and dragged her weak leg behind her in the dirt. Mr. Hopple had given her the task of cutting away the leaves that powdery mildew had shriveled and dusted, spattered with white like something called snow. She was reaching again and again into the prickly and humid stalks of squash – her arms were so itchy!

Her father stood behind her with a burlap sack and lowered it for her to toss the leaves into. She didn’t have to rinse her arms with witch hazel the way she’d done last time. The fungus was on every plant now. She was glad; the witch hazel rag burned.

This was where they were when Edna heard her neighbors and learned they were foolish. This is what she remembers.

Her brother’s were walking out to the hens and the water was steaming out of the buckets and leaving little dark splashes on the smooth frosted ground. They were of different heights, just like her and Erwin were and this was how she could tell them apart, even from half-way across the yard, even their plaid coats on. Jack was smaller and so his coat was longer. He was walking on the left.

The morning was grey and she looked for the dogwoods that were supposed to somehow be with this small winter that had come so unexpectedly to their yard. It had been warm enough to plant squash last week, she knew because she planted it. She and Erwin both. With rags tied round their knees so as not to get ringworm. Edna kept having to adjust her rags, her way of scooting and dragging tended to pull them loose under her pants and she was itchy, but not so itchy as when she cut the squash leaves. Squash seeds are very small and very pale and very smooth. They are not prickly like squash at all.

She saw her brothers walking to water the hens and she remembered that the smell she was smelling meant cake. She thought that it must be the day of their birth. Jack’s and John’s, not her’s and Erwin’s . That it was her birthday was either something that she didn’t not know or that she had forgotten when she saw her older brothers.

She only remembered that she thought it was their birthday and that she needed to tell them.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

show details May 5 (3 days ago)

She didn’t even bother to put on her shoes, just ran in that jackknifed skipping way of hers – out to the porch and down the the three wooden steps and out across the yard toward her brothers.
“Jack! John!” Her voice came out much more clear and high pitched than she’d intended it to and her brothers turned around with their faces slack and scared.
Edna stopped her careening, scared still herself by the look on their faces.

show details May 6 (2 days ago)


“What happened?” Jack asked, his voice a child’s version of their father’s brusque style of inquiry.

Edna called across the yard to them: “It’s your birthday!” And then she began running again as the twins looked at eachother, confused and then laughing.

“Goose,” this is what they called her sometimes, for the honking type wail she would, as a toddler with a leg to drag behind her, let loose if her brothers got too far ahead of her in the rows of corn, the long, lined fields.

They looked at her, “It’s your birthday! You and Erwin’s.”

The thought that it was her own birthday didn’t seem to delight her as much as the notion that she would be the one to get to tell her older brothers of their occasion. She doesn’t recall any reckoning that they may had already known. Only that she ran to tell them and the sun had just hit the battered grey boards and buckled tin roof of the chicken house and the whole thing had begun to steam. The chickens themselves, those few hens who were quick to rouse themselves for pecking the cold, still ground – well, they were steaming, too.

“You may as well come get the eggs, since you already dirtied your socks.” John stepped aside so she could climb the steps and enter the dark, musty warmth of the henhouse.

show details 6:09 PM (28 minutes ago)

She remembers the rolling sound of the eggs she had already collected as the wobbled off of the roosting shelves and onto the straw-scattered floor.

She remembers the scrabbling sensation of small claws and the strange velvet warmth of the rat’s underbelly across the back of her hand and she remembers how it clung to the sleeve of her nightgown and how the course flannel was pulled into valleys by the brown rat’s efforts to grasp her arm.

“It’s holding on! It’s holding on!” She shrieked. As Jack grabbed at the angry – why was it so angry? – rat, it hissed an awful sour hiss and bit deeply into the soft pad of Edna’s hand, just above the thumb.

Is there really anything to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s