|It was decided. They would run away. No other solution existed; Amelia could not live in a house filled with such injustice. The Supreme Court even acknowledged women should be treated as equal. My gosh, they had even been given the right to vote! How could her parents in good conscience have such different rules for her and her brother?
Amelia’s mind raced with anger and frustration as she gathered the provisions they needed for their voyage. The Bible, playing cards, sandwiches, orange soda, and her brother’s stuffed animal bunny filled the pillow case. In her opinion, six-years-old was too old to need a comfort object, but knowing Joey wouldn’t be able to sleep at night without it, she gave in to his childish needs. She pushed her bright red curls out of her face as she double checked the pillowcase sack. Satisfied that she had everything needed to sustain life, she hefted the sack into the rusty red wagon.
“Amelia?” her brother’s voice squeaked as he tapped her shoulder.
“Joey, did ya get your shoes on?” she asked not even waiting to find out what he wanted. They had to get on the road quickly, or they would meet Daddy coming home from work.
“Yep,” he replied, trying uselessly to tie them. “Tell me again why we're runnin’ away.”
Exasperation could be read all over Amelia’s freckled face. “Because we have to stand up for what’s right. And we are not being treated right! Joey, we have been over and over this. They treat us different because you are a boy and I’m a girl.”
“Okay,” was his simple reply, but she could tell by the way his blue eyes squinted that he didn’t get it. For a moment Amelia almost felt guilty for dragging him into this, but she couldn’t leave him behind. She convinced herself she was protecting him from possible future injustice that might be focused on him in her absence. Truth be told, she wanted him with her, needed him. It wasn’t his fault their parents treated him better, especially their mother. If she had to listen to the lecture on the importance of acting like a lady one more time, they would have to put her in that special hospital Grandma Milly lived in.
“Joey, how can ya not understand?” she begged while beginning to tie his tattered shoelaces.
“I know it’s about when we was catchin’ grasshoppers.”
“Yes, Jojo, that’s one example. Think about it. When you got hot what did ya do?”
“I took off my shirt,” he replied, proud that he knew the answer.
“And what did Mama do when I took off my shirt?” Amelia inquired looking up at him as she double knotted the shoes.
“She spanked ya, and told you eight-year-old young ladies couldn’t take off their shirts outside.” She could hear the sadness in his voice. Joey hated it when she got in trouble. Often she had wondered about this, because she had to admit that when he got in trouble it sometimes brought her unexpressed joy.
“Wasn’t I just as hot as you, Joey? 'Course, I was. We gots the same thing under our shirts. Why should you be allowed to cool off and not me?”
“Sorry.” He looked away from her pleading eyes and began to pet their bird dog, Buddy. It seemed to him if cooling off was that important they could have just gone inside and stood in front of the fan for a bit. But, Amelia knew best. She got the good grades in school and read the books without pictures. He trusted her blindly. “Can I ask ya one more thing, ‘melia?”
“Yeah, but put Buddy in the wagon while you do it. We gotta get going before Mama notices the missin’ soda pop.”
“Why’d you pop my hoppity-hop with the pin?” he asked nonchalantly as he began to struggle with the dog that was half his size.
She glanced over at him, but he was busy with Buddy and missed the guilt in her eyes. Those hoppity-hops were the best presents they had ever gotten. Their cousins called them space balls, but hoppity-hops seemed a better name. They would hop on those oversized balloons for hours. Sometimes just hopping and talking about life, but most of the time there was some sort of competition. Who could jump the highest, the furthest, the fastest? It was Olympics on the farm.
“I was protestin’, Joey. And I was mad.” That was all Amelia could think to say. Her actions seemed inexplicable even to her. She didn’t want to hurt Joey, but at the time it seemed so clearly the right thing to do.
“What’d Mama say when she took you to the barn?” He moved the pillowcase to make more room so maybe Buddy would jump in the wagon willingly.
“Somethin’ about the temper of red heads and that I was givin’ you my hoppity-hop.”
“I don’t want no purple hoppity-hop!” he replied with disgust. “You keep it. I’ll jus’ watch you hop and measure how far you go an’ stuff.”
He really does have a heart of gold, Amelia thought as she watched him try unsuccessfully to lure Buddy into the wagon. Buddy just sat thumping his tail with saliva dripping from his outstretched tongue.
“Amelia, I can’t get Buddy in the dern wagon,” Joey grumbled, frustration and weariness prevalent in his voice. “We can’t leave him behind. It’s our chore to feed him.”
Amelia looked from Joey to Buddy and back to Joey’s sweaty blonde hair. “But what about equal rights? Jojo, you know it ain’t fair.” Her voice quavered with uncertainty while her mind searched for an answer.
“What if . . .,” Joey began and then stopped.
“What if what? Joey, I’m sorry, but I can’t ignore it. I won’t live where women are given less privileges.”
“Well, I was just gonna say,” he paused looking up into her eyes unsure of her reaction to his idea. “What if I jus’ left my shirt on outside.”
Amelia’s eyes gleamed like they did when she discovered something new to show him. “Joey, you would do that?” She was both excited and nervous that he would take it back.
“Sure. The grass makes me itchy, anyways.”
She reached for his grimy hand. She wanted to hug him, but eight-year-old young ladies were much too old for such displays of affection with little brothers. His brilliance and sacrifice filled her heart with admiration that overtook the previous anger and frustration.
They began unpacking without a word. Buddy jumped into the wagon as they were sneaking in the back door to replace the soda. Both children began to laugh and continued on their expedition to the kitchen. Running away would have to wait for another time. It was decided.
WC - 1136